Even after franchise quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have walked out the Colts’ door, team owner Jim Irsay’s optimism for building another Super Bowl-winning roster hasn’t waned.
As Irsay told The Athletic this week, the goals have not changed just because the QBs have — again.
“It’s to go and get that next Lombardi Trophy,” Irsay said in his annual state-of-the-franchise chat during training camp. “This is a time to set up another generation of greatness.”
And it’s not as if the Colts don’t suddenly have some measure of cachet at the position now. The Colts traded for Matt Ryan this offseason, presumably giving the team more stability than it has had at QB since Luck suddenly retired in the 2019 preseason.
Indianapolis have started four different quarterbacks the past three seasons, essentially stacking three one-year experiments with Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz as the team’s starters. Now it’s the 37-year-old Ryan’s turn, and the way Irsay is talking, the owner doesn’t see another one-year rental at the position.
“We went through the season with some inconsistency at quarterback that led to massive problems,” Irsay said.
Sure, Irsay wants to win — and win big — for personal reasons and for the team he owns. But he also wants to see Ryan’s redemption story fit into that narrative.
“We’re set up for excellence,” Irsay proclaimed. “Now we just have to do it. And Matt Ryan has that same feeling in his heart. You know that difficult loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl (when Ryan was with the Falcons), he’s here to get his Lombardi. This is the time.
“This is a time to set up another generation of greatness.”
There’s optimism now, sure. But a mere seven months ago, the owner was seething. According to this report, Irsay lashed out at Colts head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard to fix the problems that stemmed from the team’s stunning Week 18 loss to the lowly Jaguars, knocking the Colts from a sure playoff spot.
The Colts have since added Ryan, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and others, including a very solid draft despite lacking a first-rounder thanks to the failed Wentz trade. Irsay likes this team’s current makeup, he said.
“I think (those issues) were addressed probably in an even more exciting way than I had hoped,” he said.
If that team makeup changes down the road, as it always does, Irsay vowed not to allow All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson to be part of it. Nelson is currently playing on his fifth-year option, due to be a free agent next spring. The Colts and Nelson are believed to be negotiating a long-term deal to keep him on the team for the foreseeable future, but those talks remain ongoing.
“I see that (Nelson extension) getting done, I really do,” Irsay said. “It’s just a question of timing, and moving towards an agreement, like I always say, that favors both sides and is good for both sides.
“But you know we’ve never had a problem there when you look at the history of our franchise and our outstanding players going into second contracts, whether it’s been Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison or whoever. So I see that getting done.”
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