As teams get mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs, we’ll give you a jump on their offseason by examining what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change before next season.
The Colts’ season was over before it started. Andrew Luck had offseason shoulder surgery and never got healthy enough to play. Few teams rely on their quarterback more than the Colts rely on Luck, and the results were predictable. But give the Colts credit, they have battled all season. The Colts were blown out twice by the Jaguars, once each by the Seahawks and Rams, and have been in just about every other game.
What went right: Trading draft bust Phillip Dorsett for Jacoby Brissett allowed the Colts to stay somewhat competitive. Brissett has done fairly well for himself, considering the circumstances. There’s value in having a good backup quarterback, especially behind such a terrible offensive line, and the Colts should feel they have one (and they hope that Brissett is, in fact, their backup going forward). The Patriots always seem to win trades, but they lost this one in a big way. Also, let’s give a hat tip to Frank Gore, who keeps adding to his legend by plugging along at age 34.
What went wrong: The whole Andrew Luck issue is first and foremost, of course. That doesn’t account for why the Colts are again one of the worst defenses in the NFL (though there are some signs that it is getting better). Safety and first-round pick Malik Hooker looked like a bright spot, then he tore his ACL. It’s not like the Colts have had a ton of young players emerge in this lost season.
Will the coach be back?: It doesn’t look like it. It’s not like enough things have gone right that you can excuse Chuck Pagano for not having his quarterback this season. The Colts were probably heading toward firing Pagano anyway, but a mistake in Week 14 that cost them a chance to win the game — Pagano strangely settled for a long field goal at the end of regulation in a Buffalo blizzard rather than running more plays, and he didn’t get the ball on Adam Vinatieri’s preferred hashmark for a kick he missed — was a reminder that there’s really no need to bring back Pagano at this point.
Do they have a quarterback?: Hopefully? The game is better when quarterbacks like Andrew Luck are healthy. It’s troubling that he had to sit out all season with a shoulder issue. Luck has been in Europe to get treatment, and that’s unusual. There have been plenty of guesses about Luck’s level of happiness with the Colts and whether the Colts would consider trading him. The Colts wouldn’t be better off without Luck, so they need to stick it out and pray he gets healthy and is back for 2018.
Quick free agent fix: The Colts have some glaring needs, and three really stand out: Cornerback, pass rusher and offensive line (if you wanted to argue that this should include running back, inside linebacker or a few other spots, I wouldn’t object). Since the market for offensive linemen keeps going up and standout pass rushers rarely hit free agency, finding a solid cornerback is the most realistic fix. The Colts should absolutely inquire about top cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Malcolm Butler, then pivot if the price tags get too high.
Quick draft fix: The Colts will have a very good first-round pick and it would be wise to use it on a pass rusher like Arden Key or Bradley Chubb. Then try to get help for the offensive line with later picks.
Give it to me straight, can my team make the playoffs in 2018?: If Andrew Luck returns as good as ever, you can’t rule it out. But this roster has significant issues, and if Luck doesn’t return or isn’t the same the answer is a clear “no.” A lot would have to go right for the Colts to be a playoff team next season.
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