Remember when making the playoffs was almost a foregone conclusion for the Indianapolis Colts as long as they had quarterback Andrew Luck on the field? That seems like ages ago now that the Colts have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Simply having Luck is no longer good enough for the Colts. They need more than the 2012 No. 1 overall pick.
If you want to look at a bigger picture, the Colts are the furthest they’ve been from being Super Bowl contenders since Luck’s rookie season in 2012.
That’s how far they’ve fallen.
The Colts made the playoffs in each of Luck’s first three seasons, including the AFC Championship Game in 2014. They made moves they thought would get them to the Super Bowl in 2015, only to have Luck get injured, the majority of their high-profile moves that offseason (Andre Johnson, Trent Cole and Todd Herremans) not pay off and the Chuck Pagano-Ryan Grigson drama was like a soap opera. In 2016, Luck played in 15 of 16 games and not only did the Colts miss the playoffs for the second straight season, they finished in third place in the AFC South.
New general manager Chris Ballard basically has a big piece of clay that he’s trying to mold into his own when it comes to putting together his roster. It's a roster that Ballard wants to fill with as many of his draft picks as possible.
The Colts should be just as good or even better than they were on offense last season (8th in scoring at 25.7 points) in 2017 as long as Luck comes back healthy. The issue is fixing a defense that finished 30th in the NFL last season. Ballard has cut or decided against re-signing some notable veterans like D’Qwell Jackson, Mike Adams, Erik Walden and Trent Cole. The Colts want to transform their defense into a fast, physical and aggressive unit. That’s why they’ve signed six defensive players through the first week of free agency.
The days of the Colts being the clear-cut favorites in the AFC South exist no longer. Tennessee continues to add pieces around quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Houston Texans swept the Colts with Brock Osweiler as their quarterback last season.
And if the Colts manage to make the playoffs next season, Tom Brady is still in the AFC and the New England Patriots are showing no signs of slowing down as they continue to load up for another Super Bowl run.
Ballard is determined to build the Colts the proper way. Unfortunately, the process could take some time.