Indianapolis Colts February Scouting Report
Well….that took a turn.
The most celebrated hiring of the NFL offseason was the uniting of offensive guru Josh McDaniels with QB Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. After several dysfunctional years and a 5-week wait throughout the playoffs, Tuesday was supposed to be the day that the return to glory began. But a funny thing happened on the way to the podium, as McDaniels suddenly made An about-face and returned to New England as their O.C. After all of the expected "WTF" responses around central Indiana and then the subsequent crucifixion of McDaniels on both local and national sports shows, the feeling generally settled into an uneasy state of confusion as the football fan wondered what was the next move for this once-proud program.
The few defenders of McDaniels have stated that he is properly prioritizing family first, and made the right decision for himself. No one really has a problem with the decision….but rather how and when he made it and communicated it (or didn’t). To hang a franchise on the line for 5 weeks with the assumption you are coming – even hiring numerous assistant coaches and talking to many others – to suddenly back out without so much as calling those coaches was bush league. The Colts didn’t really look foolish from this, but do look like the victim of a bad decision. Many feel they dodged a bullet (although as one local reporter noted, it was a bullet they themselves had fired LOL) by avoiding the personality and issues of a half-hearted coach with control issues.
As he left the podium, Ballard did subtly imply that he might buy into some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Patriots’ organization – that they deliberately arranged this series of events to smack the Colts as revenge for Deflategate. He said "The rivalry is back on," and smirked as he stepped away from the podium, making those the only angry-sounding words he uttered in his entire press conference. Several NFL insiders have also leaked such tidbits and statements as well, but even the most venomous anti-Patriots guy around (ahem…me) might struggle with believing that they could sink to this level of d****e-baggery. The timing and the immediate return to New England are curious though… I know that the Patriots are lucky that the game vs. Indy this season is in Foxborough, or else Josh might need to wear a helmet on the sidelines or coach from the press box for his own safety.
Nonetheless, the real deal that you care about here is what impact this will have on the Colts from a fantasy perspective. The first thing is that the upswell in the projected fantasy fortunes of Luck and any other offensive personnel is now deflated back down. Everyone assumed that McDaniels’ influence on the offense would make Luck a solid #1 guy immediately. Now the team does not have an offensive coordinator or philosophy in place and all the big names and top hires have found other gigs due to the timing. Likewise, the defensive side of the ball is in flux. There was already a belief that there would be massive changes to personnel after the 3-4 system was set to be returned to the 4-3 favored by new DC Matt Eberflus (former Cowboys linebacker coach). He is considered an up-and-comer as a coordinator and is a good hire if he will stay. The other two position coaches (Mike Phair on the D-line and Dave DeGugielmo on the O-line) that had been hired are also going to be retained if they want to stay. I don’t anticipate that the new head coach will have an issue with those hires, but there will be some growing pains with the changes anyway on that side of the ball. I think the personnel might be a better fit on the defensive side of the ball, so I am less concerned with the head coach hire being an issue there.
Gut feeling….the Colts are going to target Philly offensive coordinator Frank Reich as their top target. There are a few experienced guys that have been released out there like Jack Del Rio or the more veteran John Fox; I suspect that those would not be the sort of guys that Ballard would target as he looks for a guy to grow the franchise with him over the long haul. Del Rio would be about the only recently fired veteran coach that I would like to consider here, as he is young enough and motivational enough to take a young team forward. They need to focus on this quick as the combine is here in Indy in just a few weeks time and they need to start recruiting and scouting some college players that will fit the scheme of the new coaches. And they need to identify those coaches to do this the most efficiently.
On the field, the speculation also arose that perhaps McDaniels was gun shy about some new unspoken news regarding the health of Luck. GM Chris Ballard was very clear that there was no change and that everything looks positive right now. Until I see him throwing a football consistently over a few weeks’ time, I will remain skeptical….but all reports look like he is on track . Then again, they said that same thing just a few weeks before they shut him down last season!
Finally, and most importantly, the team did lose a valuable contributor as 27-year old LB Edwin Jackson was killed on the morning of the Superbowl after being run over on the highway by an intoxicated driver with a checkered criminal past. Unfortunately, the focus in the media and social media has been only on the criminal instead of the loss of a young vibrant life and another innocent person, his Uber driver 58-year old family man Jeffrey Moore. Rest in peace, gentlemen and our thoughts and prayers go out to your families in this difficult time.
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