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What now? A post-Luck plan for the Colts

Andrew Luck, the man who was supposed to bring the Lombardi back to Indianapolis, has retired due to an extensive injury history.

Wow, just wow.

Like most of us, I just went through a roller coaster of emotions: anger, sadness, regret, and eventually, acceptance. Before we get into the article, I just want to say that Luck is in his full right to walk away now. He stuck with the franchise through thick and thin, surrounded by an incompetent roster formed by an incompetent GM and led by an incompetent head coach. He was the light that shined bright, hiding all the imperfections; but eventually, all those hits started to chip away.

If you think about it from his perspective, he’s got everything to lose. He’s a married man with a child on the way. He’s clearly an individual of great intellectual capabilities as he graduate from Stanford with a degree in architecture. And most importantly, he promised himself that, after 2016, he wasn’t going to do this again.

He wasn’t going to pump himself full of painkillers just to have his body crash on him. He wasn’t going to go through the sleepless nights wondering if he would ever be the same. He wasn’t going to go back to that dark place he was in not so long ago.

With that in mind, the goal of this article is to create a sort of prediction of what I think the Colts can and should do, within the realm of reality (For as much as I would like it, I can’t just write “win the next 10 Super Bowls”).

Jacoby Brissett

Brissett can play. He’s no Luck, but he can get us some wins. Last we saw him was in 2017, when he lead the Colts to a 4-12 record passing for 3,098 yards, 13 TDs, and 7 INTs, while completing 58.8% of his passes.

This doesn’t tell the full story. Brissett was surrounded by waiver-quality talent. He was sacked an NFL high 56 times, and apart from T.Y. Hilton, there were few play-makers around. Even in the worst of situations, Brissett displayed that there was a lot to like about him: his NFL arm, his poise in the face of pressure, his ability to dissect plays and read through his progressions. Sure, there was also some bad, mainly his inability to produce in the red zone and indecision to throw at times. But no player’s perfect.

With one of the most talented rosters from top to bottom, it’s time to reassess Brissett. He wanted an opportunity to start, so here it is. It’s up to him to show to Ballard and the Colts staff if he’s the QB of the future.

The 2019 season

Some people still think the Colts can surge above adversity this season and make a push in the playoffs. I’m not one of those people.

With Luck at the helm, we had a chance against anyone and everyone, but I have to see more from Brissett. In 16 games he only turned the ball over 7 times, but he also only passed for 13 TDs. Our offense is not going to be as bad as it was in 2017, but it surely won’t be as dangerous as it was predicted to be this season.

The defense is going to have to pull the bulk of the weight now. Players like Mack, Hilton, Ebron and Funchess are going to have to work harder than ever to make sure they give their quarterback a chance to succeed.

I went through the 2019 schedule, and lets just say it’s a tough one. I think it’s going to be mostly a rebuild year. Let me show you why:

  • Should lose

Chiefs, Chargers, Steelers, Saints, Falcons, Texans (away)

  • Could go either way

Raiders, Jaguars (2x), Titans (2x), Panthers, Texans (home)

  • Should win

Broncos, Dolphins, Buccaneers

If these projections are correct, our record at the end of the season will most likely be around 6-8 wins. I may be wrong. The Colts defense could take a tremendous step forward and become a top 5 unit in the league, keeping every game close. Maybe Brissett is a revelation and he churns out a 4,500+ yards season with 30+ TDs. Maybe Mack turns out to be an elite back and he proves Mr. Irsay right by producing a 1,500 yards from scrimmage season.

Who knows? That’s what makes football great.

Most fans and pundits are all over the place when it comes to predicting our record. Some are saying the Colts are doomed to go 0-16, others think double digit wins, or at least 9-7, is achievable.

My concern is, would you rather stink a bit for the next two years and be Lombardi bound, or be the next Bengals and be stuck in mediocrity for over a decade? Like stated above, I think the Colts are a 6-8 win team as of right now.

The 2020 NFL draft

There will be multiple options to address the quarterback position next season. The Colts could re-sign Brissett? They could sign a talented young player trying bounce back, like Bridgewater? Maybe a veteran with starting experience, like McCown? Maybe they draft a QB?

I personally think the latter is the most probable as it would allow them to groom a young talent for cheap.

If they do indeed choose to draft a quarterback, they have two options: trade up or stay put. If they were to trade up, they probably would have to package their first rounder, along with another first and a 2nd. The 2020 class is filled to the brim with talented QBs, and many teams in need of a franchise player would most likely be willing to sell everything just to have a chance at their desired prospect. In my eyes, it would go against everything Ballard stands for to jeopardize the future in an attempt to replace Luck instantaneously.

If the Colts stay at number 10, the top 3 QBs would most likely be long gone. So Ballard and Co. would go BPA and draft a player the likes of Raekwon Davis, CeeDee Lamb, Derick Brown, etc. They could also draft an under-the-radar sleeper, Jordan Love. Those who have seen him play are enamored with the touch he puts on the ball, his athleticism and his ability to make big plays. There are some questions about the competition level he played against and his footwork, but overall, he’s an outstanding prospect.

On the other hand, Ballard could decide to take another talented quarterback with one of their 2nd round picks (in this simulation the 40th and 42nd pick, from Washington).

I would take KJ Costello.

I might do a piece on him in the upcoming weeks, but let me tell you, he’s really something. Measuring 6’5’’ and 215 pounds, he’s got size, athleticism, and sneaky fast speed. Last year he passed for 3,540 yards, 29 TDs and 11 INTs while completing 65% of his passes. His mechanics need a little improvement, specially his release, but he can really sling the rock. I want to see if he maintain his numbers now that his primary target, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, is gone. But if he can replicate his success and show signs of improvement, he’s got my vote.

Also, did I say he plays at Stanford?

My last argument for taking Costello is that we would be able to utilize the #10 overall pick to continue building around our quarterback. A speedster like Lamb could do wonders in taking the pressure off a young Costello. Also, a combination of Lamb, Campbell and Hilton would form the fastest wide receiver trio in the NFL.

2020 Season

At this point, the Colts would be entering the 2020 season with Costello at the helm and a seasoned veteran (a McCown/Fitzpatrick caliber player) backing him up and showing him the ropes of what it means to be a starting NFL Quarterback. The 2020 season would not be one of contention, but one of evaluation, as Ballard would be able to see what he’s got at his disposal. If KJ shows the front office that he’s the real deal, we continue to groom him and prepare him to be the face of the franchise whilst simultaneously building around him. If not, we ride him to a top 10 pick and a chance at yet another generational QB.