Assessing the Colts during the offseason: Quarterbacks

Andrew Luck #12 throws a pass during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 1, 2017. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – By any standard, the Indianapolis Colts weren’t good enough in 2016.

The only bottom line that matters: finishing 8-8 (again) and missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.

“We understand that 8-8 in not good enough and that’s on me,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said. “This is a winning culture, it is a winning organization and we didn’t achieve the goal and we all know that.’’

It’s going to take significant personnel changes during the offseason if the Colts are going to return to relevancy. That includes prudent investments in veteran free agency, which begins March 9, and further bolstering a flawed roster through the April 27-29 draft.

Before we consider outside solutions, we’ll take a position-by-position look at the Colts.

Today: Quarterbacks

  • Under contract: Andrew Luck, Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris.
  • Pending free agents: None.
  • Looking back: In a bounce-back season, Luck did precisely that. The franchise’s irreplaceable player put an injury-plagued, mistake-prone 2015 season behind him by posting career-bests in completion percentage (63.5) and yards-per-attempt (7.8). His 96.5 passer rating was a tick behind his personal best (96.5 in ’14) and he countered 13 interceptions with 31 TDs. All of that was done with his receivers dropping 25 passes, fifth-most in the league, and while absorbing 41 sacks, marching his career high. Luck was also hit more than 75 additional times while throwing.
    “I think he has played great,’’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. “I’ve been a ton of improvement. You look at his decision-making . . . his efficiency, his accuracy, his fundamentals, his footwork. All those things have improved.
    “I can’t be more pleased. I can’t imagine there is another guy in this league that is as valuable to their team as Andrew.’’
    Perhaps most impressive was Luck cutting down on his “bonehead’’ mistakes. There still were some poor decisions – the second-quarter end-zone interception at Oakland, a couple of errant fourth-quarter passes at Houston come to mind – and on occasion he held onto the ball too long, which exacerbated spotty protection. There were a couple of lackluster games – at Denver, home against Kansas City – but they were offset by stretches of brilliance.
    In the end, Luck shouldered the blame for the Colts missing the postseason.
    “I feel like I could have done better and maybe have helped this team end with a different record,’’ he said, “but the reality is we didn’t.
    “There are certainly some games I feel like I could have played better and you go around the locker room and everybody is going to say that.’’
  • Looking ahead: There’s every reason to believe the arrow is pointing up. Luck, Tolzien and Morris should benefit from a second offseason in Chudzinski’s offense. Tolzien proved himself a competent backup when a concussion forced Luck to miss the week 12 game against Pittsburgh. In a 28-7 loss, he passed for 217 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Tolzien wasn’t the problem in the latest lopsided loss to Pittsburgh.
    The primary objective for Luck is to take time off and recover from another season of general body trauma. He would be limited (19) or miss practice entirely (5) as often as he was a full participant (24) while dealing with injuries to his right shoulder, right elbow and right thumb, left ankle and the concussion.
    Luck insisted there was no reason for anyone to worry about his shoulder.
    “No, I do not think so,’’ he said, adding he was in as good a shape as could be expected “after however many games we played.’’
  • Offseason priority: Low