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Why the Colts are poised for a big bounce-back in 2020

Carolina Panthers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

2019 was a big disappointment for the Colts. Indianapolis entered preseason as SB favorites, the team’s franchise quarterback abruptly retired, and the Colts topped it all off by finishing an uninspiring 7-9 — after a 5-2 start. A predictably busy offseason followed as the Colts front office worked to get the Colts get back to the winning form of the early 2000s.

A change at the quarterback position always brings a state of turmoil to an NFL franchise. When the most important position changes, typically the whole team and scheme will change with it.

With this in mind, we take a look at how franchises that underwent quarterback changes over the last 3 seasons performed, and correlate that with how well they drafted to surround a new quarterback with talent.

Adj. A.V per pick / Win %

Team Adj. A.V Per Pick Win Percentage
Team Adj. A.V Per Pick Win Percentage
CHIEFS 17,50 75%
TEXANS 12,46 63%
COLTS 12,30 44%
BILLS 11,90 63%
BEARS 11,06 50%
PANTHERS 10,82 31%
RAVENS 9,95 88%
BROWNS 9,65 38%
JETS 8,51 44%
TITANS 8,23 56%
GIANTS 8,15 25%
49ERS 8,07 81%
JAGUARS 7,91 38%
DOLPHINS 7,85 31%
BRONCOS 7,17 44%
VIKINGS 6,99 63%
CARDINALS 6,67 33%
REDSKINS 6,28 19%
BENGALS 5,44 13%
* I did not take into account 2019 rookies who missed the whole season due to injury (ie. Jonah Williams)
* I did not take into account more than one 7th rounder per Draft, so as to not skew the balance.

(To calculate the Adj. AV per pick I used a weighted average to give more importance to higher round picks. The ratio was 0.45 for first rounders, 0.35 for 2nd/4th rounders and 0.20 to 5th/7th rounders.)

Correlation = 0.513, R-Squared = 0.263

The data shows that teams who changed their franchise quarterback and drafted well consistently won more games than the ones that did not. The outliers are the 49ers, Titans, and Vikings, who got their new quarterbacks through unconventional means. Teams like the Ravens, Chiefs and Texans found their franchise quarterback in the Draft, but also did a very good job of surrounding them with talent.

Where do the Colts fit in all this mess?

General Manager Chris Ballard did an excellent job of getting good players throughout the past 3 Drafts, netting a 12.3 Adj. AV, good for 3rd among teams with a new quarterback and 5th overall in the NFL. The Colts struggles last season can be attributed to two main factors: The abrupt change at the quarterback position, and to a lesser degree, the struggles on special teams.

Both of the issues seem to have been resolved, as veteran Philip Rivers can still play at a high level, and will benefit from a better supporting cast all around him. The special teams problems look solved, as Chase McLaughlin looked the part of a starting NFL kicker, and the Colts finally found a dynamic return man in Nyheim Hines.

The NFL rarely obeys the numbers, as injuries, unexplained struggles, and luck play a part in defining a team’s season. But if everything goes according to plan, don’t be surprised if the Colts take a big leap in 2020, and possibly find themselves in a deep playoff run this season.