The Indianapolis Colts apparently like the direction the team is going. They have locked up their leadership, rewarding head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard with extensions through the 2026 season.
Despite dealing with numerous injuries and curveballs in recent years, like the sudden retirement of franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, Ballard and Reich have combined to form a culture within the organization that has the Colts on the path to success.
Ballard has been incredible
Since taking over as general manager in the middle of the 2016 playoffs, Ballard has been masterful. He worked to rebuild the team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. In 2018, he drafted two franchise pillars by selecting guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darrius Leonard, who was just given a new contract, making him the highest paid linebacker in NFL history.
Nelson will be right behind him.
Leonard and Nelson were the first rookie teammates to be named to the AP All-Pro First Team since 1965, and were only the second duo in league history to do so.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, Ballard added star running back Jonathan Taylor. He also made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to acquire defensive tackle DeForrest Buckner. He brought in veteran quarterback Philip Rivers for the 2020 season, and the team went 11-5, making the playoffs.
This offseason, Ballard made a splash by trading for former-Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, reuniting him with head coach Frank Reich.
He has done a stellar job.
Reich and Ballard have set a tone within the team
Reich started his coaching career as an offensive coaching staff assistant in 2008, then moving up to the role of quarterbacks coach in 2009-2010 before serving as the wide receivers coach in 2011. He got his first offensive coordinator job with the San Diego Chargers in 2013 after a year with the Arizona Cardinals, and then took over as offensive coordinator in Philadelphia in 2016-17.
He then was hired as the head coach, making his return to Indianapolis, in 2018. It seems like he has found a home.
“Quality and substance,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said, according to the IndyStar. “You talk about two quality men, from inside out, and then you talk about the substance, what they bring to the table in terms of their functional intelligence in their job. And then the ability to come together personality-wise for the good of the team. You’ve seen that time in and time out.”
They’ve proven to work wonderfully together while handling adversity of varying kinds. They have given the Colts a stable leadership at the top of the organization that trickles down to everyone else.
The Colts should compete in the AFC South this year
The Colts and the Tennessee Titans were both in a race to the finish in the AFC South last year, and it should shape up in a similar fashion in 2021. With the Houston Texans looking like contenders to own the first overall pick in next year’s draft, and with the Jacksonville Jaguars starting their rebuild around rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the Colts and the Titans will both be fighting for the division crown.
Tennessee is no slouch. Alongside last year’s rushing king Derrick Henry, who rushed for 2,057 yards last season on his way to history, the Titans have young superstar wide receiver AJ Brown, and also added future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones to the mix.
What the Colts do possess that the Titans do not, however, is a strong defense. Indianapolis will match up nicely with Tennessee in their division, and with Ballard and Reich at the helm, they should make a run it.