Our AFC South Favorites, Despite the Questions Around Carson Wentz
It's worth pointing out that while the Colts struggled to become everything they hoped that they would be in 2020, they are a team that is still trying to overcome the surprise Andrew Luck retirement in 2019. There's not really a "sorry your franchise quarterback instantly disappeared" gift basket to bail out teams in this situation. There are many, many teams who have lost a star quarterback and immediately crumbled. That the Colts were able to reload as quickly as they did under general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich to compete for a division championship is laudable.
The problem is that Luck's retirement has inadvertently placed the Colts in a situation where they have to be hopeful about quarterbacks because they are simply too well-constructed to have a passer slide anywhere near where they pick in the draft. At the same time, the Colts are skittish of giving up a first-round pick in a trade and also are good enough that they aren't accumulating much extra draft capital from trading, say, their equivalent of a Laremy Tunsil or Jamal Adams. They managed to make some hay off trading Sam Darnold's pick to the Jets. But when it came time to compete for the quarterback falling in the draft (this time played by Justin Fields) or the best quarterback on the market (this time played by Matthew Stafford), the Colts seemed reluctant to pay the price from a team-building perspective. That isn't to say that they never will—the DeForest Buckner trade clearly marked a willingness to deal first-round picks for proven production. But clearly they didn't value the top of the available market the same way that other teams did.
After Philip Rivers' retirement was announced, Ballard met the media in January and gave a well-considered statement: "Go back and look at first-round quarterbacks drafted over the past 10 years. Everyone just thinks you take one, and you're going to fix the problem. … Look, taking one will get y'all off my (butt) for a little bit, but the second that guy...