For the second time in less than two years, the Colts have to react to the sudden and unexpected departure of a key member of the organization. Whether it was coach Josh McDaniels, who never showed up after taking the job, or quarterback Andrew Luck, who abruptly retired while entering his prime, the Colts have absorbed a pair of gut punches from which few teams ever even have to try to recover.
Still, it’s hard not to think the Colts will recover.
While that doesn’t mean they’ll win the multiple championships owner Jim Irsay vowed during Luck’s career, that probably wasn’t going to happen even if Luck didn’t retire, it means they’ll be fine. They’ll be competitive. They’ll have the foundation to contend.
It starts with G.M. Chris Ballard, who has systematically rebuilt the roster, and who will continue to make very good decisions about how to properly configure the team. He has quickly become one of the best at what he does, and he’s going to keep doing it. If anything, Luck retiring will compel Ballard to work even harder to find the best players possible.
It continues with coach Frank Reich. He, not Jim Kelly, orchestrated the most stunning playoff comeback in postseason history, with perhaps the exception of Super Bowl LI. Reich knows what it means to never give up. He learned from Tony Dungy what it means to remain focused and calm amid whatever storm comes his way. And he has shown that he can win with a backup quarterback; Reich was the coordinator of the offense that replaced Carson Wentz with Nick Foles and won it all.
And then there’s the backup quarterback who now becomes the starter. Jacoby Brissett arrived on Labor Day weekend in 2017, with no opportunity to learn the offense or otherwise get comfortable with a new team, new coaches, new city, new everything. He’d start 15 games that year; although the wins weren’t there, Brissett played well enough to convince the Colts to resist any trade offers and to keep him around.
They currently look like geniuses for doing that. And they may look like more than geniuses if they seize on circumstances that have caused the expectations to plummet and that could take the team off the radar screen altogether but still cobble together another playoff run.
Stranger things already have happened. And some of them already have happened to the Colts, since February 2018.