A long off-season is upon us and while Chris Ballard and the Colts front office has plenty of time to work on rounding out the 2020 roster, Stampede Blue would like to take a pretty in-depth look at each position group and assign them letter grades.
The purpose of this exercise is to identify where the team stands at each position, based upon who is currently under contract. Re-signing in-house free agents could have a big impact on numerous grades but until that happens, we know what we know.
With that in mind, let’s dive in and discuss ways the team might move forward and share thoughts about what course of action makes the most sense.
While I have little doubt that Jacoby Brissett was never the same after injuring his knee, I have the same level of doubt that he isn’t the long-term answer for the Colts at quarterback. Between Brissett and Brian Hoyer, Indianapolis has a pretty nice group of experienced NFL back-up caliber options at the position. Even Chad Kelly is an interesting prospect that is already in house who showed some chops playing against third-stringers in preseason play.
Under Contract 2020: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
Possible Free Agent Options: Eli Manning, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston
Draft Prospects: Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts, Jacob Eason
Chris Ballard faces his greatest challenge. When he came to Indianapolis he inherited an uncertain future at quarterback, with one of the top players in the game recovering from shoulder surgery. Most anticipated a return in 2017 but when that didn’t happen during training camp and preseason, Ballard was left to make a last minute move to grab someone, anyone who could potentially salvage his first season as General Manager.
Ballard chose to trade wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to the New England Patriots for their third-fourth string quarterback. Jacoby Brissett took over quickly in his first season in Indianapolis and was clearly the best option on the roster to bridge the gap to Andrew Luck’s healthy return.
Only, that return never happened.
Brissett showed enough in his first season to inspire confident that the Colts had a long-term backup on the roster. He could do enough to win games and limited his mistakes allowing the play-makers around him to do much of the heavy lifting. He was very strong in the pocket, difficult to bring down, and showed incredible toughness while he took a beating in the pocket. He also showed some of his primary weaknesses, the inability to move through his progressions, to throw receivers open, and to push the ball downfield accurately and consistently.
No matter, Luck’s return in 2018 paid off as the Colts returned to the playoffs and even won a playoff game before getting routed in Kansas City in the divisional round. Little did Ballard or Colts fans know then, that would be the last time Luck took the football field. Looking back now, it is strange to believe that my wife and I drove through a blizzard to get to the game and watch the end of Andrew Luck’s football career and the beginning of the end of the GOAT Adam Vinatieri.
There is no way Ballard or anyone in the Colts front office could have anticipated what was coming just one week before the season opener for the 2019 NFL season. When Luck surprised the world by retiring in his prime, the Colts were left again to scramble for an answer. This time, Ballard already had his man after a full off-season working with the first team, a full training camp and preseason, Jacoby Brissett had his chance to put a stamp on the franchise and earn his spot as a legitimate NFL starting quarterback.
Sadly, things didn’t go as hoped. A strong start went to pieces as Brissett struggled to establish a rapport with an increasingly injured group of pass-catchers. He also suffered a knee injury of his own that may have impacted his throwing mechanics. Despite these obstacles, Brissett showed the same weaknesses he did in 2017. To be fair, he made some exciting plays with his legs and a couple of really exciting passes but he never got into a groove.
For Colts fans hoping for a miracle return by Andrew Luck, I strongly encourage you to not get your hopes up. Allow yourself to be as surprised by any announcement of a return to football as you were surprised by his retirement. In the meantime, Ballard will have to put his stamp on the position and either find an long-term solution in the draft (where the odds are not great) or add a short-term stop-gap solution while he waits on a young prospect to develop.
He could choose to stay with Brissett but barring some pretty considerable signs of development or a complete overhaul of the offense to mask some of his weaknesses, this seems like a pretty unpopular choice for season ticket holders.
Stay tuned as the Stampede Blue staff takes a closer look at the numerous options ahead.