The 4-12-1 finish for the Indianapolis Colts revealed a lot about the team’s roster last season. It may have affirmed something else about the franchise too.
At least that’s what one Colts player seemed to be implying when he spoke to ESPN’s Stephen Holder on January 31.
“Three years ago, they said we were a quarterback away,” one prominent Colts player said according to Holder. “I’ve been hearing that for three years now.”
The Colts posted a 37-28 record from 2018-21 despite having four different starting quarterbacks. But the 4-12-1 mark they registered in 2022 was their worst record since 2011.
Were the Colts Ever a QB Away?
The Colts went 11-5 with Philip Rivers in 2020 and then 9-8 with Carson Wentz during 2021. They added each of those signal callers before the season, and coming out of those campaigns, the narrative was the Colts just needed a different quarterback to make a deep run at the Super Bowl.
Arguably, that’s what emboldened the Colts to jump on the veteran quarterback carousel multiple years in a row. But Holder argued on January 31 that maybe the Colts were never actually a quarterback away.
“It’s been years since the Colts have won anything meaningful, their last AFC South title coming in 2014,” Holder wrote. “Yet, every year Irsay gives in to the same impulses, talking about the idea of winning additional Super Bowls (yes, plural), even while the team is trying to find a viable path at quarterback.
“Is it possible the owner’s stated expectations had something to do with the team’s tendency to make moves that kept it in the mix but didn’t necessarily address its long-term needs? The yearly quarterback carousel — from Jacoby Brissett to Rivers to Wentz to Ryan in four seasons — has produced no postseason victories and could be viewed as an example of the Colts convincing themselves they were closer to a championship than they actually were.”
Ryan obviously didn’t work out with the Colts. He had nearly as many interceptions (13) as touchdown passes (14) in 12 starts. He led the NFL in giveaways before losing his job for a second time in December.
But the offensive line did Ryan no favors, failing to provide Ryan (and the other Colts quarterbacks) adequate protection or blocking for a running game. At the end of the season, the Colts defense fell apart too under interim head coach Jeff Saturday.
A team just a quarterback away doesn’t win only four games and lose seven straight to end a season.
Colts to Target QB at No. 4 in NFL Draft?
There’s still almost three months until the NFL draft, but in early mock drafts, the Colts have targeted a quarterback with their first overall pick at No. 4.
ESPN’s consensus draft rankings have three quarterbacks rated among the Top 15 players in the 2023 class. All three of those signal callers could possibly go in the Top 5.
The Colts have landed all three of those quarterbacks — Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis — in different mock drafts. It’s too early to tell for sure who the Colts might actually be interested in.
Committing to a young signal caller, getting off the quarterback carousel, could be a step in the right direction for the Colts. But that doesn’t change the fact NFL insiders, and even Colts players, don’t still believe Indianapolis is a quarterback away.
The Colts brass would benefit from beginning to operate under that assumption as well.