After missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year, this time in even more embarrassing fashion finishing with the worst record since 2012, Ballard’s seat has never been hotter, as we enter a pivotal offseason both for him and the Colts. With the 4th overall pick, a menu of potential franchise quarterbacks available in this year’s draft, and an open head-coaching position, this is an offseason that will potentially decide the outcome of this franchise in the near future, and will surely either make or break Ballard’s regime as the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.
For the quarterback position, it is clear as day that the Colts are done with the “bridge” quarterback approach, and will stop trying to salvage damaged goods from other teams (Rivers, Wentz, Ryan). For the first time since 1998 and 2012 the Colts will most likely be selecting a quarterback with their first round pick, and Ballard’s tenure as the general manager will not be judged by whether he got an All-Pro linebacker in the 2nd round, a Pro Bowl caliber defensive tackle in the 4th, or an MVP caliber running back, but rather by if he was able to get that guy at the quarterback position. There are four clear cut options for the Colts this year: Alabama’s Bryce Young, who has the talent and resume, but not the height and build of an NFL quarterback. Kentucky’s Will Levis, who has the arm, size, and athleticism of a franchise quarterback, but with plenty of inconsistencies and turnover concerns. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, an amazing prospect with all the qualities you look for in a franchise quarterback, and the track record to back it up, but not nearly as mobile and explosive as the other three. And finally Florida’s Anthony Richardson, the closest thing to Lamar Jackson you will ever see. I would honestly be happy with either one of the four, and I have not yet digged into the tape to figure out which one I love the most. The question here is not who is going to be the next quarterback, but who will get the head coaching position.
There are plenty of right answers, and there is a clear wrong one. The Colts so far have interviewed plenty of candidates: STs coach Bubba Ventrone, Kansas City OC Eric Bienemy, Denver’s DC Ejiro Evero, Rams’ DC Raheem Morris, Lions’ OC Ben Johnson, Eagles’ OC Shane Steichen, and have requested interviews with Giants’ OC Mike Kafka, 49ers’ DC DeMeco Ryans, and Giants’ DC Wink Martindale. I like some of the guys mentioned here more than others (Kafka and Ryans are my personal favourites), but I would be happy with anyone on the list. Now who is the wrong answer then, you might be asking yourself. Well look no further than interim head coach Jeff Saturday, who filled in as HC after Frank Reich was fired. Following a 1-7 record, losing the last seven games, blowing the biggest lead in NFL history and failing to show any sort of improvements, I did not expect Saturday to be in the mix at all, but yet it seems that he is. It could be smoke, but hiring Saturday as the permanent head coach would be the worst look for this franchise since Andrew Luck’s early retirement. I have not read a single positive thing about Saturday other than his “leadership” and “accountability”, and those are questionable at the very least. I have not seen him take blame for the collapse in the second half of the season, claiming he inherited an already terrible situation and that he only had “half a staff”. Also, the Colts are way too talented to finish the season on a seven game losing streak, with one of those losses coming against the Houston Texans who finished even worse than us, so I don’t know how to feel about his leadership.
In conclusion, there are two different paths the franchise can follow this offseason, it can either look towards the future and try to build something new, learning from the mistakes they already made, or they can keep insisting with what has already not worked, further alienating the fanbase (who is mostly opposed Jeff Saturday as the HC) and potentially costing the team another season.
“Insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting things to change”