Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Jim Irsay faces criticism in Jacksonville for the Colts’ failure

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In the first 24 hours after the Indianapolis Colts’ embarrassing 24-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2, media outlets put Head Coach Frank Reich and General Manager Chris Ballad in the hot seat. Other writers have called for quarterback Matt Ryan to be benched.

Given that these high-ranking members of the Colts organization are under scrutiny, it’s not surprising that Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay is also coming under criticism.

On Kevin & question, which airs on 93.5 The Fan in Indianapolis, radio host Kevin Bowen blamed Reich and Ballard for the Colts’ current status. But he also argued that it was Irsay’s fault for trying to sell the Indianapolis fanbase what could end up being rotten eggs.

“This is an owner of Down [issue]. Jim Irsay treated Chris Ballard and Frank Reich like they were the best GM/head coach pairing the NFL has ever seen,” Bowen said the morning after the Jacksonville blowout. “He gave them contract extensions that weren’t justified at all for the start of last season. And the owner extending that leash and pretending they have those decorated resumes that statues next to Peyton Manning outside of Lucas Oil Stadium deserve has created this perception that everything is fine and dandy in his organization.

“And yet, those performances that end last season and it’s all at stake going into the postseason and now starting this year with two of your, on paper, easier games that you’ve had all season will have. To have these kinds of performances is a shame.”

Bowen also repeatedly described the debacle in Jacksonville as “not a one-time thing” but rather as a trend. It’s hard to disagree after the Colts have gone 0-3-1 in their last 4 games since defeating the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas Day.

Three of those 4 games came against teams that had a top 3 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Two of the losses were double-digit losses in Jacksonville.

Bowen’s co-host Jake Query pointed to the team’s off-season unanswered question marks as the most troubling thing about the Colts’ recent loss to the Jaguars. Early in the season, fans and media alike questioned whether Indianapolis added enough depth at wide receiver and had a viable replacement for Eric Fisher at left tackle.

The Colts answered both of those concerns with a resounding no in Week 2. Left tackle Matt Pryor struggled mightily as Indianapolis allowed Jacksonville to record 5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits.

Without Michael Pittman Jr. at receiver, the Colts wideouts combined for 8 catches and 126 yards against the Jaguars. Pittman had 9 receptions and 121 reception yards in week 1 alone.

Anyway, after 2 weeks, it looks like Ballard hasn’t done enough to shore up left tackle and wide receiver. And Reich hasn’t done enough to maximize what the Colts have on their roster. Ballard praised running back Nyheim Hines’ weapon for being used in the team’s passing game this season, but only in one game without Pittman, Hines played 15 snapshots.

Nothing Irsay can say now will convince Colts loyalists that all is well within the organization. Not while the team is on a 4-game win streak and has been topped 44-3 this season, excluding the fourth quarter in Week 1.

But as Reich said after the Sept. 18 loss, the Colts need to “get off the mat” and react — sooner rather than later. The Colts will host the Kansas City Chiefs in their Week 3 home opener.

Indianapolis will have an injury update on Pittman later in the week. But Reich can hardly hope that his returning top receiver will answer all of Indianapolis’ offensive concerns from Week 2.

Reich needs to come up with a better game plan to fuel the Colts’ offense. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Ballard to scour the free-agent market for wide receivers, either.

If what Irsay sold the fandom is true, then Reich and Ballard have the tools to solve these problems. But don’t count Bowen among the believers that it will happen.

If what Irsay sold the fandom is true, then Reich and Ballard have the tools to solve these problems. But don’t count Bowen among the believers that it will happen.

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