Whenever I hear Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay speak, one of several things always comes to mind: This man wants the glory days of Peyton Manning & Co. back more than anything.
If you watch or read any news conference or interview that Irsay gives, he almost always references Manning, his former teammates or the era of Colts football when they played.
While those days are long gone, that doesn’t mean that the franchise can’t return to that level of success. Being the winningest regular season team of any singular decade is great, but I guarantee you that the Colts would have been just as happy going 10-6 every year in the 2000s as long as it resulted in more than one Super Bowl victory.
Moving forward, it looks like Irsay may have hired the correct general manager to build this thing and move it in the right direction. Chris Ballard has a solid plan and has built his staff with people who are just as respected around the league as he is.
I fully believe that Ballard and the Colts are on the way back up, so I wanted to put together this project where I see what the Colts can do to get back to Irsay’s favorite era — the Peyton Manning glory days.
I will start by saying that no one can snap their fingers and that this will be completely constructed in just one offseason. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Players take time to develop. It also needs to be appreciated just how special those Peyton-led teams were. They did things that we may never see again, and that’s OK.
What these Colts can do is continue to build a foundation to try and start another quasi-dynasty.
In several different parts, we will walk through what the Colts can do to help them get back to the top of the league. In this installment, we will see what the Colts already have on their roster in order to help them get to the next level.
Keep in mind, just because the Colts have starting-level players at certain positions doesn’t mean that I think they are as good as their glory days counterpart, or even have the same playing style. In some instances, the modern player actually is better, though.
Manning was arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, so you can’t just expect to duplicate that. However, if Andrew Luck returns healthy in 2018, he has proven to be a top-10 signal-caller.
On offense, I think we are all confident that running back Marlon Mack (Donald Brown), wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (Marvin Harrison), tight end Jack Doyle (Dallas Clark), left tackle Anthony Castonzo (Tarik Glenn) and center Ryan Kelly (Jeff Saturday) are worth building around. Many people aren’t big on Castonzo, but the truth is that he is better than they think he is. Also, if he can stay healthy then the Colts might have their next basketball player turned solid tight end in Erik Swoope (Marcus Pollard).
On defense, the modern Colts’ style has been totally different than the Dungy Tampa-2 days, but the Colts definitely still have some players to keep around regardless if they change schemes this offseason. On the line, Henry Anderson (Raheem Brock) and Johnathan Hankins (Anthony “Booger” McFarland) already are established as good players. If the Colts go to a 4-3 defense, then Jabaal Sheard can play with his hand in the dirt and John Simon (David Thornton) can be the SAM linebacker.
In the secondary, obviously you are holding onto Quincy Wilson (Nick Harper) and Nate Hairston at corner, with Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers (Antoine Bethea) at safety. A couple of role players like Matthias Farley and Kenny Moore also are worth keeping.
Something I have tossed around if the Colts do switch to a 4-3 defensive alignment is the possibility of moving Geathers to WILL linebacker. He has a history of lining up at linebacker, and like Cato June before him, Geathers could prove to be a playmaking, Pro Bowl-level outside linebacker after moving down from safety.
On special teams, you can’t bank on the future of 45-year-old free agent kicker Adam Vinatieri. In fact, the Colts losing special teams coordinator Tom McMahon could spell the end of Vinatieri’s time in Indianapolis. The wild thing is that Vinatieri has been here so long that his glory days counterpart is himself.
At other special teams spots, we will say that punter Rigoberto Sanchez is Hunter Smith and Luke Rhodes is Justin Snow. They have both been good (and young) enough to keep.
Here is a look at the Colts’ roster entering the 2018 offseason. The following players are under contract for 2018, and I have removed players who are due to become free agents.
Quarterbacks — Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Brad Kaaya, Phillip Walker
Running Backs — Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson
Wide Receivers — TY Hilton, Chester Rogers, Krishawn Hogan, K.J. Brent, Kolby Listenbee, Dres Anderson, Justice Liggins, James Wright, Seantavius Jones
Tight Ends — Jack Doyle, Darrell Daniels, Ross Travis, Jason Vander Laan, Mo Alie-Cox
Offensive Line — Anthony Castonzo, Denzelle Good, Joe Haeg, Ryan Kelly, Deyshawn Bond, Le’Raven Clark, Tyreek Burwell, Anthony Fabiano, Mark Glowinski, Isaiah Williams
Defensive Line — Johnathan Hankins, Henry Anderson, Al Woods, Margus Hunt, Hassan Ridgeway, Grover Stewart, Joey Mbu, Anthony Johnson, Caraun Reid, Johnathan Calvin
Edge Defenders — Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Tarell Basham, Arthur Miley
Off-ball Linebackers — Antonio Morrison, Anthony Walker, Jeremiah George, Jermaine Grace, Darnell Sankey, Joshua Perry
Cornerbacks — Quincy Wilson, Kenny Moore, Nate Hairston, D.J. White
Safeties — Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers, Matthias Farley, T.J. Green, Ronald Martin
Kicker — None
Punter — Rigoberto Sanchez
Long Snapper — None
OTHERS IN THIS SERIES