INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a fun week when the home team has its own drama at the quarterback position.
After weeks of watching postseason football from home, conducting exit interviews with players and scouting potential draft picks, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard could not say whether he believes in quarterback Carson Wentz.
“I don’t have the direct answer for you. We’re working through it,” Ballard told reporters on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Ultimately, we’ll do what’s best for the Colts.”
Ballard said he met with Wentz for roughly an hour on Tuesday. Earlier in the week, Wentz worked out with some of the Colts’ wide receivers, and it appears the six-year veteran is prepared to run it back with Indianapolis despite being criticized for his inconsistency, tendency to hold the ball too long and the Colts’ 2-5 record in one-possession games.
“Most of (the criticism) is pretty fair,” Ballard said. “It’ll be interesting to see how he grows from this. I think he will.”
Indianapolis wasn’t the only team to be asked about its quarterback situation on Tuesday. Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury also fielded questions about Kyler Murray, who has asked the team for “long-term stability” in the form of an extension through his agent Eric Burkhardt, who’s also Kingsbury’s agent.
Kingsbury said he has not spoken with Murray, the 2019 No. 1 overall pick.
“Our long-term goal is to have Kyler Murray be our quarterback,” Kingsbury said. “He understands that and he understands my view of him and how I feel about him. … It’s all part of the business right now and things we’ll continue to work through.”
“I think it’s an agent doing his job,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said. "You can't get caught up taking things personal. It is a business. You have to be able to separate the business and the personal side of it.”
Why not try a little tenderness — like Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah?
Adofo-Mensah buttered up incumbent quarterback Kirk Cousins (whom the previous brass of coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman was not high on), calling him one of the game’s most consistent passers.
“When the odds are shifted in his favor, he gets the most out of it,” Adofo-Mensah said. “He’s an incredible player, really cerebral. … He’s an incredible person, and I’m excited to work with him.”
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos need an upgrade at quarterback to remain relevant in the AFC West arms race. They currently have Drew Lock and Brett Rypien under contract.
Fortunately for the Broncos, they have 11 draft picks in 2022. They’ll give up some of that draft capital in later years if the right franchise quarterback came along.
“We’re always looking. No stone unturned to find that guy,” Broncos GM George Paton said. “We know we need to play better out of the quarterback position, so we’re going to be aggressive.”
New Denver head coach Nathaniel Hackett said he would be analyzing quarterback workouts this week for a certain “it factor.”
“In the end, it’s about that intelligence to be able to get out there and process quickly because it’s the hardest position in all of sports,” Hackett said.Outgoing Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert also gets the chance to interview quarterback prospects after franchise cornerstone Ben Roethlisberger retired. Even Colbert, who boasts three decades’ worth of scouting experience, said it’s not a hard science finding the leadership and intangibles in a QB prospect during combine-week interviews.
“We’ll reference some things we may have seen during the season — maybe an interaction with a teammate, maybe an interaction with a coach, maybe an action during a game,” Colbert said. “But in all honesty, you won’t know that until that player is on your own team.”
Putting rumors to bed
Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy addressed unfounded online speculation that retired New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton would take his job after the 2022 season.
McCarthy said he addressed the rumors with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
“It’s a narrative I don’t want to be a part of,” McCarthy told reporters. “We laughed about it and moved on.”
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid opened his news conference with a staunch defense of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, after a since-deleted report in February claimed there was a conflict between Bieniemy and both Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the Chiefs’ 2021 playoff run.
“That’s not the case. We all get along good,” Reid said. “I’m glad he’s back with us and rolling. I thought he’d potentially get a head coaching job, which I would’ve been happy with, too, but that’s not how it worked out.”
Speaking of Bieniemy, anothe hiring period passed without a team taking a chance on the Chiefs OC. This time, his name rarely came up in reports tracking head-coaching searches.
The narrative continues of diversity issues in the hiring process. Out of the NFL’s nine head coaching vacancies, only two minority candidates were hired. The Miami Dolphins pried away San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who is biracial, and Lovie Smith was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach by the Houston Texans.
Reid said Bieniemy is a prime head coaching candidate, and he believes most teams look for the leader who will win them the most games possible.
“Somehow, the diversity part has gotten thrown to the side,” Reid said.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians also pushed for his two esteemed coordinators, Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich, to get promotions.
Arians said he prepared for both Bowles and Leftwich to get head coaching jobs. However, selfishly, he was glad they returned.
“I want them to be head coaches, more so than me being comfortable,” Arians said. “It’s going to happen. They’re too good for (it) not to happen.”