On the eve of the 2019 season, the NFL world was rumbled to its very core. Andrew Luck called time on his career after years of multiple struggles. Now, the Colts enter a pivotal period, progression plans will have been discussed at length. There a few different ways they can approach this new dawn. The front office in Indy however have decided to fully commit to Jacoby Brissett (for now), by signing him to a 2-year $30 million extension.
The most important thing for the team to do now is look forward. Brissett is surrounded by some serious talent that will help him thrive. This is the strongest roster the Colts have possessed since their most recent Super Bowl appearance, back in 2009. Perhaps some solace can be found then, despite the disruption and even anger from some pockets of fans.
Led by head coach Frank Reich, the Colts have a great coaching and support staff in place. Reich and GM Chris Ballard have led a roster makeover that looked to be propelling this team back into contention. Even with Andrew Luck now out of the picture, their is faith amongst all corners of staff that all is not lost.
Future of the QB
Speculation shrouding the QB position in Indy was put to bed with Brissett’s extension. So, it seems for at least the next two years, a plan is in place. That is not to say the pressure is off for the 2019 season.
Of course, the new starting QB for the Colts is no Andrew Luck, but he had spent a considerable amount of time working under him. You can imagine that Luck will always be on the end of the phone too, should his wisdom and leadership qualities be required. Within the facility, Brissett will also benefit in a similar way from his active backup, Brian Hoyer. Formerly of the Patriots, he signed a three-year deal with the Colts. Entering his 11th season in the NFL, he will be a valuable asset to the QB room.
All of this tutelage and guidance can count for only so much. Brissett will have to prove to the team he is the right man to replace Luck. We got a preview of this in 2017 when Brissett started all but one game. In this season, the Colts recorded a 4-12 record. Hardly a confidence inspiring stat-line. However, this was a very different regime that Indy was operating under, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The Colts are teetering on the edge of reaching the playoffs. If Luck was under centre, Indy were even in the conversation for a Super Bowl appearance. Now with Brissett at the helm, no one can really say for sure if a playoff run is possible. He has the support network to enable him to be a success, we know this much. The upcoming season will tell all. Have the Colts got a quick answer to finding their next franchise QB?
Path to glory
The retirement of Luck certainly caught the front office by surprise. The consensus was that the Colts were entering a Super Bowl window, a quality veteran signal caller paired with promising young talent, a perfect recipe. With this Plan A now out of the window, it is now time for Plan B(rissett).
TY Hilton will lead the receiving corps once more, in hope of continuing the success achieved with Luck as signal caller. Five-year vet Devin Funchess was added through free agency, an instant red-zone threat. Dion Cain and Parris Campbell, both acquired via the Draft over the past two seasons, are being widely pegged as breakout candidates. The dynamic duo of Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle at tight end will also receive their fair share of targets. Brissett has no shortage of options in the passing game, with this mix of old and new.
In terms of the running game, Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines are entering their third and second years in the league respectively. The pair have combined for 18 TDs over this time. Certainly a dependable double act for this Colts offence. They have been allowed to thrive mainly due to the strong play of Indy’s offensive line, a group highlighted by all-pro guard Quenton Nelson. He was selected #6 overall in the 2018 draft and has proven to be worth every penny.
On the other side of the ball, the talk always leads to Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard. A linebacker out of South Carolina State, full credit must go to Reich et al for bringing this game-changer to the Colts.
Doing things the Reich way
Frank Reich might be one of the best mistakes in the NFL. He was never meant to be head coach of the Colts. After Josh McDaniels performed a spectacular u-turn, again it was a plan B implementation and Reich was given the job. General manager Chris Ballard has not looked back on this hire whatsoever. These two have nailed this roster turnaround, after inheriting a mess from former GM Ryan Grigson.
All was looking perfect until Luck’s decision. But let’s not forget Reich’s success in Philadelphia with Nick Foles. He certainly is capable of taking a perceived backup quarterback and turning it into gold. With his coaching expertise, he has been brilliantly backed up his GM hitting multiple home runs through the draft.
Apart from losing the generational talent at QB, the Colts have been able to retain their veteran stars heading into 2019. Their most recent draft class consisting of Rock Ya-Sin, Ben Banogu, Parris Campbell, Bobby Okereke, Khari Willis, and EJ Speed are all win-now types of player. Add the aforementioned Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson into this group and this is a seriously strong nucleus of young talent.
So if Frank Reich can turn Jacoby Brissett into a consistent NFL starter, this team may not even skip a beat following the loss of Luck.
Likelihood of making the playoffs: Average
The nature of the AFC South means no one team can be ruled out. It’s a truly wide open division and a 9-7 record might be enough to secure playoff football. Once many a pundit’s favourite for even an AFC Championship, this momentum and belief for the Colts has come to an earth shattering halt. They are being written off all too soon. This is still a roster jam-packed with quality on both sides of the ball. Even if Brissett can play to a league average level, it will not be surprising to see Indy in the post season.
It’s fork in the road time for sure. The biggest question mark on this roster is hanging over the league’s most important position. But judging on the past two years, the Colts are possibly one of the few NFL franchises that can survive this seismic change. We wait with baited breath.