Last week, new general manager Chris Ballard hesitated to say that the Colts were rebuilding.
“No,” he said, before clarifying his thoughts, “but I am not going to set some high standard to where I set unrealistic goals. Look, every year is precious. Every year is precious. Every year is an opportunity to win. To me, there is no such thing as rebuilding. Everybody is trying to win and that’s the approach we’ll take.”
While it’s true that in today’s win-now NFL the term rebuilding is a fuzzy term, that’s what the Colts are doing. Regardless of what Ballard wants to call it, the Colts are rebuilding, and they’re doing so in a pretty big way.
Ballard inherited a roster that isn’t overly talented. They have the most important piece in place in the quarterback, but that success is offset by a defense that is devoid of talent across the board. That lack of talent was what contributed to Jim Irsay’s decision to fire Ryan Grigson this offseason, and Chris Ballard was hired to rebuild the Colts.
So far, he’s shown that he plans on doing just that. His first move with the team was to cut D’Qwell Jackson, a team leader who had started at inside linebacker for the last three years. He informed Mike Adams that the team leader and starting safety wouldn’t be re-signed. He reached a deal with tight end Jack Doyle to return on a very reasonable three-year contract, and then today struck a trade with the New England Patriots that sends tight end Dwayne Allen and a sixth round pick to New England in exchange for a fourth round pick.
And then on top of all of that, there’s the fact that the Colts haven’t yet re-signed any other free agents, have stockpiled a lot of high draft picks (they’ll have six of them in the first four rounds), and have been reported to be interested in a number of free agents who will soon hit the market. Plus, there’s the Art Jones situation, as many expect him to be released at some point.
Put it all together, and it’s clear that the Colts are rebuilding. Ballard even hinted at that when he said they’re not going to put unrealistic expectations on the team this year - basically implying that they shouldn’t be viewed as a Super Bowl-or-bust team. Yeah, the goal each year is always the Super Bowl... but the Colts right now are far away from that goal, arguably as far away as they’ve been in the Andrew Luck era.
So Irsay hired Ballard to fix the mess, and he’s already proven that he’s not tied down to players brought in by the previous regime. There’s obviously some untouchables who Ballard won’t move (some guy named Andrew Luck comes to mind), but the release of Jackson, the departure of Adams, and now the trade of Allen sends a message loud and clear: Chris Ballard is in charge, and he’s not messing around. Colts players should take notice of that fact and use it as motivation, because while the team certainly is rebuilding, Chris Ballard is wasting no time in getting that process started.