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Life after Luck: How the 2019 Indianapolis Colts move forward

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine that it’s April 27th, 2019 and you’ve just been drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. You’ve accomplished the dream of a lifetime, you have just become an NFL player and everything that comes along with that is going to be coming at you, fast. The reality of the situation hits all at once, the emotions pour in and you celebrate with your family and closest friends accordingly.

Before you know it you’re on a plane to Indianapolis to meet with Jim Irsay, Chris Ballard, Frank Reich and his staff. You start getting texts from your new teammates. In the coming weeks you attend rookie mini camps and you’re training on your own, preparing to head to your first NFL training camp.

The summer flies by and you report to camp. You work hard, stay healthy, Zak Keefer writes an article about you in the Indianapolis Star. This is what you’ve worked your whole life for, this moment. The national media thinks the Colts are Super Bowl contenders, everyone in the locker room thinks so too.

Speaking of the locker room, you’ve made so many new friends and you’ve become close with a handful of guys really fast. The entire team seems to be close. It’s supportive but you keep each other accountable. You don’t know any different because this is your first year but the vets have told you that the comradely this team has is special, it’s uncommon. Even though they have said good things, no one in the media believes that the Colts are Super Bowl contenders as much as the guys in the locker room do.

You’ve played your first two preseason games. Things are going really well, you’ve had some good reps, you’ve made some mistakes, but that’s what preseason is for, right? Today is the third preseason game before the regular season. It’s called the “dress rehearsal” but coach Frank is sitting the starters. No big deal.

The game is going well, you’ve had some good reps but you overheard a couple guys talking about Andrew Luck. “Probably his ankle” you think. Then you hear a couple more guys so you ask them what they’re talking about. They tell you and for a minute you think they’re just messing with you. It’s a prank on the rookies right? It’s not?

The top five quarterback you were excited to play with is... retiring, two weeks before the season? Seriously? What do we do now?

*Upper left hand corner

This could be where a lot of Colts players found themselves last night. The respect that his teammates showed him on social media is telling, these guys loved Andrew Luck. I imagine the emotions and opinions from the guys in the locker room are strong and diverse, but I believe they’re all going to agree that there is only one way forward.

As many of you can probably relate, I spent most of my childhood going to church multiple times per week (this isn’t about religion, keep the comments on topic, boys) and I don’t remember who said it, or even where I heard it but I remember hearing a funny quip all those years ago that’s always stuck with me and it went something like: “I would rather have 5 people ready to storm the gates of Hell with water pistols than 10 people with fire hoses who are afraid to get burned.”

That’s not a criticism of Andrew Luck. I’m sure someone is going to take it that way, but it isn’t. The absolute fact is Andrew Luck isn’t ready to storm the gates of Hell with anything or anyone. Andrew Luck is done. But those gates? Someone has to storm them. We still need volunteers and in a week's time we’re going to know which 53 guys are ready and willing to storm those gates with water pistols. 53 guys who are ready and willing to get burned for each other and for the glory that comes with the job they’re doing.

And that, well that’s the only way forward.

The vast majority of everyone who is knowledgeable about the Indianapolis Colts roster has said for months that it is a very talented one. Just looking at it, we haven’t seen a team this talented since sometime in the middle of the Peyton Manning era. Today, now that the dust has settled some, it’s pretty easy to see, that roster, it’s still there. Those guys, all but one of them, are still there.

I’m not naive and I’m not going to discredit him because he’s gone, I know you can’t just replace a top 5 quarterback (and if you don’t have Andrew Luck in your top 5 you’re either biased, hurt from his retirement or you’re dumb, in three years Andrew Luck could be living in the south of France designing concrete buildings and playing soccer daily with his tri-lingual super-athlete kids and there still won’t be 10 people on the planet who are more capable of playing quarterback in the NFL than Andrew Luck). You can’t replace him, but to win football games you don’t have to. Is it easier? Absolutely. But nothing the Colts have done in the past five years has been easy. We also have a coach that can get everything possible out of a quarterback.

You can’t replace him, but there’s a super talented locker room full of guys that the media just turned on. They went from favorites, to being predicted to finish last in the AFC South, quite literally overnight.

Frank Reich was a backup quarterback for almost his entire career. He led the biggest comeback in NFL history, as a backup. After his playing days he found his way back into coaching and wound up as the offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles 2nd overall pick Carson Wentz, had a great rookie year and was on his way to a potential MVP season, tears his ACL in week 14. Everyone in the football world believed their run was over. Instead the Eagles coaching staff (and in no small part, Reich himself) crafted a series of game-plans that elevated the play of backup quarterback Nick Foles and would lead a very talented Eagles roster on to the most unlikely Super Bowl win of the last decade.

What does that have to do with the 2019 Colts?

Frank Reich- backup head coach

Jacoby Brissett- backup quarterback

The 2019 Indianapolis Colts- counted out

I’m not going to make any predictions. But what I will say is that the 2019 Indianapolis Colts are primed to have the most amazing story in NFL history. If they pull this off, books will be written, movies will be made and fans will always remember the impossible Super Bowl run that Jacoby Brissett led. It’s a story that wouldn’t be believed if someone were to write it and as of today, the only people who believe it’s possible are filling their water pistols on West 56th Street and they can’t wait for those gates to open.

This year, Frank Reich won’t have to write a single motivational speech, Andrew Luck already wrote it for him.