This week, former NFL offensive lineman and SB Nation contributor Geoff Schwartz put out a list of four NFL teams that can turn their fortunes around quickly within this offseason. Among those four teams were the Indianapolis Colts.
Schwartz gave three main reasons why a team can make a quick turnaround between seasons:
- A major player, mostly a quarterback, coming back from injury
- Hiring a new offensive-minded head coach and adding pieces to an already talented roster that underachieved
- A complete rebuild with a new coaching staff (Schwartz admits this isn’t a quick turnaround, but it brings an upswing within two to three years)
Check, check, check.
Those factors ring so many bells for the Colts. Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck is supposed to return this season after spending the last three hurt, missing all of 2017.
Next, the Colts did in fact hire an offensive-minded head coach in former NFL quarterback and Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
In terms of a rebuild, general manager Chris Ballard has basically overturned the whole roster and coaching staff now in his second offseason.
Schwartz’s blurb on the Colts says:
“Under the first category, it feels like the Indianapolis Colts are right there, if Andrew Luck is healthy. Even though he hasn’t played football in over a year, he seems to be on track for training camp this season.
Chris Ballard spent his first two offseasons continuing to churn the roster. He spent his first five draft picks on trench players.
The Colts were leading to start the fourth quarter in nine games last season! Poor play calling and being conservative cost the team. Add in Luck and a new coaching staff led by Frank Reich, who was anything but conservative as the Eagles offensive coordinator, and the Colts will be improved.
You could even make an argument they fit into the hiring a new offensive coach category.”
Even though the Colts are favored in just three games in 2018, and some people somehow have the Colts ranked dead last in the league, Schwartz is right. Those ingredients there are undeniable, and teams that quickly launch to the upper half of the league often do carry the traits he mentioned.
When you have a franchise quarterback, that is one of the ultimate X-factors in sports. Luck has shown before that he can take terrible rosters deep into the playoffs, and this is the most speed and athleticism that the roster has had since Luck was drafted. Whether you think Luck will be physically depleted or not when he returns (he won’t), he’ll still have Andrew Luck’s brain. Remember that Peyton Manning was completely physically depleted and still helped lead the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl victory. It wasn’t all the defense either, as we’ve seen from the offensive struggles they’ve had since Manning retired.
Reich and his staff should also be a big boost to the Colts like we saw last year with Sean McVay in Los Angeles with the Rams. It wouldn’t take much to improve the Colts’ coaching, as it was arguably the main hindrance in recent years outside of a lack of talent. As Schwartz pointed out, the Colts had the lead going into the fourth quarter nine times yet won just four games. It would be hard to imagine Reich’s staff being even half as questionable as Chuck Pagano’s.
Last is just the complete difference in talent that the Colts have now as opposed to a couple of years ago, thanks to Chris Ballard. They now have three first-round picks and a second-rounder on the offensive line, all under 30 years old. I can’t imagine the line won’t be at least adequate moving forward. The Colts have some promising young pass rushers behind a couple of quality veterans, and they have one of the game’s bright, young defensive stars in Malik Hooker. The average age of the roster is down from one of the oldest to one of the youngest. It’s a much more athletic group now. If you held up the pre-draft web graphs of the current players to players from two or three years ago, it would be night and day.
Whether the Colts do actually turn it around and finish above .500 or make the playoffs in 2018, I guarantee that the product on the field and the sideline will be much more promising rather than demoralizing.