With all 32 National Football League teams prepping for the Scouting Combine which begins in a few days, the Indianapolis Colts are in the midst of one of their most important off-seasons in franchise history. The Colts finished the past NFL season with a record of 8-8 as they were far from being a pillar of success; even though they only missed out on the AFC South Title by just one game. Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck only appeared in only seven games this past season as shoulder and kidney injuries limited him. In all the Colts used five different starting quarterbacks while assistant coaches were fired at an alarming rate and head coach Chuck Pagano was unsure of his own job security. But after the Colts were beginning to take on a public relations nightmare as they were set to fire Pagano, team owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson came out in support of their beleaguered head coach which included a contract extension for him. However all is not well in Indianapolis as the Colts cannot simply rest on their laurels in regards to putting their team together for the 2016 NFL season.
In spite of the fact that this is a different regime that is in the Colts front office, the same rules apply as the quarterback is expected to do everything for this team. Since Luck was drafted first overall by the Colts in 2012, he has not only been the face of the franchise, but he has literally been expected to carry the team.
In each of Luck’s first three seasons with the Colts, they went 11-5 with a trip to the postseason. After making the AFC Championship Game in the 2014 National Football League season, the Colts headed into 2015 with expectations to win the Super Bowl. And although that Luck’s injuries did play a role in the Colts struggling this past season, the elephant in the room was the lack of talent around him.
Since Luck entered the National Football League in 2012, he has been sacked 115 times. And whereas a solid running game can be the best friend of a quarterback, the Colts have not produced a running back that has gained 1,000 yards on the ground since Joseph Addai in 2007. Addai was also the last Colts running back to make the Pro Bowl which he did in 2007 as well. Along with that, the Colts have not produced a Pro Bowl offensive lineman since Tarik Glenn in 2006.
Former Colts general manager Bill Polian relied too much on the greatness of quarterback Peyton Manning and it finally caught up to Indianapolis in 2011 when Manning missed the entire season after undergoing neck surgery. Manning’s absence took the Colts from being a perennial Super Bowl contender to the worst record in the National Football League, and rightfully so, Polian lost his job.
But whereas in Grigson’s first year as the Colts general manager, he did draft Luck, along with tight ends Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener, he has failed to consistently put talent around his young quarterback on either side of the football.
In 2013, the Colts used their first-round pick on defensive end Bjoern Werner. In Werner’s last year at Florida State University, he was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year, but he hasn’t been able to match that production in the National Football League and all of the blame doesn’t fall on him. In college, Werner was a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but the Colts have converted him into an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. Werner has never been comfortable and in 38 games as a professional, he only has 6.5 sacks. That same year Grigson traded away the Colts first-round pick for the 2014 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns for running back Trent Richardson. After Richardson gained 950 rushing yards as a rookie in 2012, the Browns front office had a change in philosophy as he was no longer in their long-term plans. But Richardson fizzled out with the Colts as in 29 games with the team, he only gained 977 rushing yards, and he is now out of the league. The jury is still out on the Colts 2015 first-round pick in wide receiver Phillip Dorsett who tallied just 225 receiving yards this past season, but once you factor in that Grigson has also signed washed up players in free agency such as wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore, the question should be raised as to how does Indianapolis expect Luck to succeed?
Since Manning left the Colts in 2012 and joined the Denver Broncos, he has made a pair of Super Bowl appearances along with winning the big game earlier this month which was due to the fact that he had a solid “team” around him and that also included the top defense in the league as he didn’t go to Denver expecting to do everything by himself. In the National Football League it takes all 53 players on the team in order to win as there has never been a quarterback that has simply won the Super Bowl all by his lonesome. And unless the Colts front office changes its philosophy of looking to their quarterback to do everything, they can forget about being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Luck attempted to play through the injuries this past year which only made things worst; especially when you factor the porous offensive line that he played behind.