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Indianapolis Colts showed in Week 1 that they still lack the pieces to be a legit contender

Chris Phillips

Fans of the Indianapolis Colts grow increasingly frustrated, annoyed, and angered with their team. This team’s last three games have been absolutely painful to watch. In that time, they are 0-2-1. These kinds of results are not what fans are accustomed to. It’s also not what the franchise wants either. 

However, when examining the roster there are some reasons why the franchise has fallen from prominence. I believe it was Marv Levy who said that if an NFL team has a left tackle, quarterback, and edge rusher they will win. In taking this statement and applying it to teams that have won Super Bowls we can see that it holds true.

We can also see that teams that don’t follow this blueprint struggle to find success. Obviously, this blueprint is not so simple to build. And trying to get all of the correct pieces at the right time is problematic. The most important, and difficult, piece to find is the quarterback. A player who can elevate and make everyone around them better. One who can mask the flaws of the team. 

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It is the hardest position to find. Every NFL team falls into either one of two categories, ones that have a quarterback or ones that don’t. And the ones who don’t do everything that they can to move into the other category. They either draft the next elite quarterback or acquire them via trade or free agency.

Indianapolis Colts don’t meet Levy’s championship crieria

indianapolis colts
Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, this Colts team doesn’t fit the profile. The team’s best players are Shaquille Leonard, Jonathan Taylor, Quenton Nelson, and DeForest Buckner. Not one of them plays left tackle, quarterback, or edge rusher. And as a result, the team has consistently struggled to win games and make the playoffs. Let alone win the division. 

When you look at the past three Super Bowl champions you see that each one checked off the three most important boxes. Not coincidentally that their opponent did not check off all of them. They did, however, check off the most important box.

Colts haven’t had true contender pieces since 2016

The Indianapolis Colts had a 15-year stretch where they were able to check off all three boxes. There was one season where they weren’t able to check off all of the boxes and that was because their quarterback was out with a neck injury. However, from 2002 to 2016 they achieved high success. Going from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck, Tarik Glenn to Anthony Castonzo, and Dwight Freeney to Robert Mathis.

During this time the team went 160-80, averaging 10.7 wins a season, winning the division nine times (five consecutive at one point), and making the playoffs 12 times. During those 12 playoff appearances, the team made it to the Super Bowl twice, winning one of them. Scoring a total of 6,055 points, averaging 403.7 points a season, and 25 points a game. They gave up a total of 5,184 points, averaging 345.6 points a season, and 21.6 points a game. 

What the Colts currently have

indianapolis colts
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Since Luck’s retirement after the 2018 season, the team has started four different quarterbacks. They also lost their left tackle after the 2020 season when Castonzo retired. From 2018 to now, the team has made the playoffs one time. During this stretch the team has gone 27-22-1, averaging 20 points scored and giving up 17.5 points a game.

So, when the results of games like this past Sunday happen it shouldn’t be all that shocking. Again, when your best players are your left guard, linebacker, running back, and defensive tackle, you are going to struggle to win games. 

Colts future does show promise

Right now the team hopes it can put check marks next to all three boxes. They have Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Ryan, and Matt Pryor. Two of the three most can feel confident in checking. It remains to be seen on the left tackle.  If Pryor falters then the team will turn to rookie Bernhard Raimann. And the team also hopes that second-year player Kwity Paye can be the future edge rusher. The next step will be for GM Chris Ballard to finally put the final check mark on the box next to the quarterback.