Colts paying price for GM's stubbornness during free agency

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard was steadfast, you can even say stubborn, in not wanting to spend money in free agency to get some veteran players in their prime in an attempt to speed up their rebuilding process. Ballard's eyes were set on building the roster through the draft and letting the young players develop.

His gamble has been more failure than success six games into the season. His doggedness has the second-year general manager staring at a team that still can't catch, a defense that couldn't get off the field Sunday and, more importantly, a team that doesn't know how to win.

The Colts fell to 1-5 with a 42-34 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

"They are all tough to swallow," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "They are all tough to swallow, they all hurt, and certainly as the head coach it hurts the most because you ultimately have the ultimate responsibility for what goes on out there."

Receiver was a position of need for the Colts in the offseason, and the Colts had more than $50 million in salary-cap space to provide T.Y. Hilton with some help.

Ballard signed Ryan Grant only after the Baltimore Ravens said the receiver failed his physical. You probably have a decent receiving group when Grant is your third or fourth receiver. You probably don't have a good group when he's your best receiver. That's been the case with Hilton out the past two games because of a hamstring injury.

The receiving group has been an embarrassment the past three games. The Colts had six more drops after having a total of nine over the previous two games.

That's what happens when you're depending on the likes of Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson and Chester Rogers to catch the football because the general manager didn't want to spend money on players at that position.

Don't expect Andrew Luck to snap or go on an expletive-filled rant about his receivers killing drives with drops -- or in running back Marlon Mack's case, dropping the second pass of the game and having it returned for a touchdown. Luck is too nice to publicly call out his teammates, even if two of his three interceptions were because of their inability to catch the ball.

"I'll be concerned about drops when I throw the perfect ball every time I drop back," said Luck, again shying away from criticizing. "I certainly do not do that. Those guys are going to keep grinding. I'm proud of them."

The receivers aren't the only ones to blame. It wasn't until Mack rushed for 89 yards Sunday that the Colts looked serviceable in the run game, because rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins haven't had much of an impact in the backfield. The defense, which starts four rookies or second-year players, didn't force a punt in the second half Sunday.

"There's a lot of young guys on the team, but it's Week 6 of the NFL," center Ryan Kelly said. "You're not so young anymore. The leadership in this room and on this team is not going to allow that. That's how the NFL rolls. You can be 1-5 and you never know what the season is going to hold. There's still a long way to go. We've had our opportunities."

You could play the what-if game with the Colts' poor record.

What would their record be if they weren’t missing so many key players like Hilton, left tackle Anthony Castonzo and tight end Jack Doyle?

They could be at least 3-3 or possibly 4-2 after some close losses. But it's been the same thing over and over again with them. Fall behind early, scrap to make things interesting in the fourth quarter -- the Colts have been in a one-possession game in the final quarter in all five of their losses.

Good teams know how to win those games. The Colts are not a good team. They're not even an average team right now. They're among the worst teams in the NFL and they're relying on way too many young players who are making mistakes way too often. The Colts are 1-5 and facing the stark reality that they could miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

"Everybody is worried about everything else and we're not doing our job," Colts tight end Eric Ebron said. "We lose sight of doing our job. I call it the 1/11th. All you have to do is your job. ... We're just doing too much. Offensively we're giving up too many points, we're making it easy for the defense. Defensively, I don't expect any kicker to kick seven field goals and make all seven of them. Goodnight. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. Once we do that we'll be into games, games will be more exciting and we'll have a lot more fun because we'll win them."