Indianapolis Colts: New Year, New QB?

Steve Ovenden (@HappyHapySteve) takes a look at the quarterback situation in Indianapolis and where the Colts could go from here

The Quarterback, the heart of an American Football franchise, the playmaker, the man the team turn to in their hour of need.  Having the right man for the job is essential to every team in the NFL. With Free Agency and the Draft fast approaching it is the time of year that these decisions need to be made in preparation for the new season.  Do teams go for new blood from the Draft or Free Agency or will they stick with who they have. For some the decision makes itself, but for others they have some choosing to do and none more so than the Indianapolis Colts. 

No Luck Here

For the Colts, the season got off to an awful start.  After so many years of injuries, Andrew Luck saw it as time to hang up his cleats as he announced his retirement from football.  The news rocked the NFL and the news was shocking as it was surprising, especially with the timing of his announcement. The bombshell was dropped during the pre-season run of games, which is unfortunate as preparations up until then would have been centred around Luck being the starter.  This immediately set Indy off on the back foot, but you can empathise with him and why he did it. He had one injury after another and spent most of his time on and off the field in pain. At the time of the announcement he had picked up another injury, this time in his ankle and it must have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  When he stepped up to the podium to break his news it was visible that he was tired. Not only tired of the physical pain but probably tired of the effect it was having on his mental health. The constant thinking about surgeries, recovery times, missing playing football and making the decision to actually go through with retirement must have really taken its toll.  It was a great loss for Indy and a great loss to the sport.

But has Andrew Luck really gone for good?  Realistically, yes, he has. Owner Jim Irsay has stated that he will always leave the door open for Andrew, but attention really does need to turn to sorting a long-term replacement.  He was and still is the right fit for the Colts, but a return is highly unlikely. It is time for the owner, GM, coaches, players and fans to start focusing on the future and moving on from the Luck era.

Jacoby or Not Jacoby?

With no Luck in the picture, the Colts turned to his backup, Jacoby Brissett.  With Brissett under centre, Indy went on to have a 7-9 season. Not a great first season for him but it could have been worse.  Be fair to Jacoby, he missed a few games because of a knee injury he picked in a game against Pittsburgh. When he was playing, he had injuries with his team mates to contend with, T.Y Hilton being one of those injured for a good portion of the season and a Special Teams unit who had a massively poor season by their standards.  Although these were things he didn’t necessarily have any control over, responsibility for games will always fall on his and Frank Reichs shoulders because of the positions they hold.

Can Jacoby Brissett be the starter for the 2020 season?  It seems like it could be a very plausible option. The Colts could see him as a suitable ready-made option as they try to focus on other team needs this off-season.  All things considered, he probably wasn’t expecting to play a lot in 2019 but for a QB having his first season as starter, 7-9 is not a bad record. Irsay and the Colts organisation do believe that he has the potential to grow and that he has not reached the ceiling of his abilities yet.  Maybe this will mean he is going to get at least another season as the starting quarterback, as another season could be what it takes before he starts reaching his peak. The 2020 season will be one where he needs to prove to everybody that he is up to the job.

Rivers Flowing Toward Indy

Free Agency approaches and it is no secret that the Colts have one of the highest of cap spaces in the league.  With some big names available, the Colts have options. Brady, Brees, Prescott and Bridgewater are some of the names hitting the market.  Indy are unlikely to sign any of these but there is a quarterback they have been heavily linked with and that is Phillip Rivers. The Chargers have confirmed that he will not return for the 2020 season, this means the veteran QB is looking for a new home.  Admittedly his 2019 season wasn’t the greatest and he isn’t getting any younger, but Indianapolis could be the perfect landing spot for him. Quarterbacks are generally becoming a lot more mobile and provide teams with dual threat options, making the gunslingers like Rivers, become a dying breed.  This doesn’t mean that he can’t still do a job for the Colts. If he were to come, he has advantages that will work in his favour. For starters he has worked with Reich before, when he was a quarterback coach with the Chargers. He has one of the best offensive lines in the league in front of him, meaning he should get more time with the ball.  An improving run game, especially as Marlon Mack posted over a thousand yards last year. At least eight games in a climate controlled indoor stadium next season. All he would be missing at this moment is some more receiving options, but this issue is going to be addressed during the next couple of months.

If the Colts take Rivers, what else could he bring to the organisation? The answer, experience and lots of it.  With the Draft only two months away, what an opportunity for a recruit to learn about life in the league. Rivers would bring sixteen years to the table to help develop a new QB, which wouldn’t only benefit the player but the Indianapolis Colts as well.  Under the tutelage of Rivers, it could be the first step for the Colts finding a long term solution in the quarterback position.

Its not going to be easy for Indy, who have the 13th overall pick, to recruit one of the top rated QB’s coming out of college.  Unless of course they want to trade up to a higher draft position, but with the options they already have, it seems unlikely.  Teams such as Cincinnati, Miami and Carolina are in front of them and are all looking for a new face of the franchise. This will potentially mean that Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, the favourites to be picked first of the QB’s, will likely be out of reach for the Colts.  The next favourite in line and a guy strongly linked with Indy, is Jordan Love.

Love, a product of Utah State, is opting out of his last year of college to participate in this year’s draft.  His 2019 not being as good as his 2018, he is still very highly rated. This does not mean that he had a poor season, he put up some solid numbers, he was just overshadowed slightly by Burrow and company.  His style of play has also been likened somewhat to that of Patrick Mahomes, which could very well mean he is not available by the time Indy get to pick.  

Decisions

With the possibility of none of these quarterbacks being available, the Colts may be happy to pick a quarterback in a lower round or even just settling with Rivers and Brissett for a year.  With a middle of the league pick and strong cap space, Frank Reich and Chris Ballard might just look to strengthen other areas such as Wide Receiver or Tight End in the early rounds.  

The situation that they find themselves in this year could both be a blessing and a curse.  Being blessed with the freedom to choose, rather than have it forced on them what they need but it could be a curse on the other hand as too much choice may bring indecision.  Having said that, it is down to Irsay, Ballard and Reich to make the decision and for the sake of the fans lets hope they make the right one.

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