Will Colts GM Chris Ballard and HC Frank Reich be in trouble if the team falls short of expectations in 2020?
When NFL schedule-makers slated the Indianapolis Colts to open their 2020 campaign against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team seemed perfectly poised to snap their six-game losing streak in season openers.
However, the extended skid (which started back in 2014) managed to continue, as the Colts delivered an indefensible performance en route to a humbling 27-20 loss. This was hardly the result fans were expecting after the seemingly endless buzz surrounding Indianapolis throughout the offseason and into training camp.
We normally hate overreacting to just one loss, but it’s really difficult not to after one as demoralizing as this. As much of a fluke as it might have been, the Colts losing to Jacksonville proves that letdown performances loom in their future, and Marlon Mack isn’t hobbling back through that door.
In his latest piece for The Athletic, reporter Stephen Holder (who covers Indy) brought up some interesting questions about the future of general manger Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich if the team falls short of expectations in 2020.
“Ballard’s team is no longer in a rebuild,” wrote Holder. “It was an unsightly mess when he was hired, and it’s hard to hold that 4-12 record from his first season against him. It was a season played without Andrew Luck and with a roster intentionally torn down to the studs. But major upgrades in 2018, ’19 and ’20 were made in the pursuit of results.”
“The results, at least from Sunday, included the defense forcing only a lone incompletion from Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew and a team that lost its second consecutive game to the AFC South cellar dwellers in as many outings (dating back to Week 17 of last season),” he continued.
Holder makes a great point there in insinuating that Indianapolis’ undeniably talented roster needs to start showing it’s capable of winning together. A string of high-profile offseason additions, including trading for DeForest Buckner and signing the likes of Philip Rivers and Xavier Rhodes, coupled with a stellar showing in the NFL Draft over the last three years, has put Ballard and Reich under the most pressure since their respective tenures started.
Those are the moves of a team with playoff ambitions, and losing to the Jaguars, who are widely projected to finish with one of (if not the) worst records in the NFL, doesn’t bode well for their ceiling moving forward this season.
We understand the Colts didn’t have a preseason to shake off the cobwebs from a longer than expected offseason due to the pandemic, but no team is using that as an excuse.
It also isn’t Ballard and Reich’s fault that Indy’s stars didn’t perform up to their standards in a favorable matchup. However, talent on paper means nothing if you aren’t consistently churning out wins. If the Colts fail to take a step forward in 2020, it will reflect poorly on those who run the team.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.