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What happened to the red-hot Indianapolis Colts in 2021?

Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) rushes with the ball during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts entered the 2021 season with serious health concerns coming out of training camp and limped to a 1-4 start after an overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5. It wasn’t enough to completely derail their season, as they pulled off enough quality upsets in the second half of the regular season to position themselves with a realistic chance for a wild card berth. They entered Week 18 with over a 90% win expectation and needed to emerge victorious as 14.5-point road favorites against the worst team in the NFL to secure their playoff berth. 


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By now, everyone knows the result. Indianapolis completely fell apart when it mattered most and found itself on the outside looking in at the playoff picture yet again. 

An epic collapse leads to more questions than answers, but let’s try to make sense of not only what happened to the Colts, but also what is their path forward given the current state of the franchise.

WHY ARE WE HERE?

Any discussion about the current state of the Colts must start with outlining how they arrived in this position. Getting the quarterback position correct is the one thing that guarantees success year in and year out in the NFL, and Indianapolis was an enviable position after selecting Andrew Luck first overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. They squandered the early seasons of his career, as the Colts never surrounded Luck with the right core to keep him free from injury. 

In Frank Reich’s first season as head coach, the Colts finally has some success, as they tallied an upset win in the wild-card round before being bounced from the playoffs in the divisional round of the 2018 season. It seemed like a season to build off of, but unfortunately, Luck's reoccurring cycle of injuries forced him to retire prematurely. 

The fallout has forced Reich to deal with a revolving door at quarterback —first Jacoby Brisset, then Philip Rivers and now Carson Wentz

QUARTERBACK

Going into 2021, something had to be done at the quarterback position after Reich was left with a retired quarterback for the second time in three seasons. His familiarity with Wentz gave the Colts enough confidence to exchange a first-round pick for his services. Some quarterbacks have been successful after switching teams, but the majority have underwhelmed in a new environment. In the past decade, 17 quarterbacks have played 250 snaps the previous three seasons before switching teams and playing at least 250 snaps for a new team.  

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