Ballard told Indianapolis media that “the jury is still out” on Brissett as the team’s starter in 2020.
Ballard added that he thinks Brissett will be the team's starting quarterback in Week 1 of next season. The fact that Ballard didn’t rule out the possibility of that changing is notable.
The Colts signed Brissett to a two-year, $30 million deal in September, and with a $12.5 million dead-cap figure for 2020 it’s a darned good bet he’s on the roster next season. That doesn’t mean the Colts can’t make moves this offseason to buttress the position and give Brissett competition.
The Colts started the season 5-2, with Brissett leading the way with solid play. But a knee injury knocked him out of the lineup briefly, and what followed was inconsistency. Brissett finished the season with an 18-6 TD-INT ratio, but in his final seven games that figure was 4-3 with an average of 184.7 passing yards in those games.
Brissett was a smart addition for Ballard. He kept the team competitive in the wake of Andrew Luck’s injury, followed by his offseason retirement. The cost for Brissett was a relative pittance. In the end, his contract extension wasn’t that rich. That doesn’t mean the Colts can’t — and shouldn’t — try to upgrade this winter and spring.
How will the Colts approach the offseason?
There could be a fairly robust free-agent market at quarterback, depending on which veterans hit the market, and the draft also could provide some options. Ballard, people have told Yahoo Sports this season, combed the draft options with multiple scouting visits to games featuring 2020-eligible prospects.
The Colts currently pick No. 13 overall in Round 1. They also have two second-round choices, including No. 34 (via the Washington Redskins) as well as their own pick at No. 44. The Colts also have a pair of sixth-rounders to play with and can move up and down the board to target another passer.
Indianapolis also currently leads the NFL with nearly $100 million in salary-cap space. Point blank: They have the ammo and resources needed to add another QB for 2020. Two, perhaps.
Ballard might not dislike Brissett, per se. He’s certainly not married to him. This appears to spell that out quite clearly.
Very telling quote from Chris Ballard on weighing his QB position:
"One of the biggest mistakes teams make is they force it. You talk yourself into a guy. You set yourself back, four or five years (if you pick the wrong guys)."
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) January 2, 2020
What makes Ballard smart is that he’s willing to admit mistakes. His thinking on Brissett appears to have changed; one could guess that the ceiling isn’t as high as imagined, and Brissett’s floor might even be a little lower than hoped.
If you took Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace at face value with his comments on Mitchell Trubisky, you might assume that Pace is suffering from delusion over what he has with his current starting quarterback. Pace might soon come to the realization — if he hasn’t already — that doubling down on a mistake can have a drastic effect on a franchise.
Assuming the Colts attack the position in multiple ways, they could give Brissett some veteran competition and also add a draft pick who might not be ready right away but could develop into a starter down the road.
Bet on the draft being the primary route for hope. Ballard has gone three drafts and not yet selected a QB. There’s a strong suspicion that will change in 2020. The number of picks suggests one of them should be earmarked for a passer.
And we’ve heard that Ballard has seen Utah State QB Jordan Love multiple times in person. That’s an example of a quarterback who could fit the Colts’ template: major potential but in need of work. If Ballard believes in the teaching prowess of head coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and QBs coach Marcus Brady, Love could be the perfect developmental investment.
But what about a veteran QB?
Or the Colts could tack course and go for the instant upgrade. With Luck seemingly not an option to return — “Look, he’s retired,” Ballard said Thursday — there still might be veteran options worth exploring who could be immediate upgrades and short-term bridge options.
Sirianni coached Philip Rivers for two years in San Diego, as did Reich for one year there, so there might be a connection — if Rivers is willing to be apart from (or uproot) his family for a year or two. Rivers appears to be at the end of the line, or at least close to it, with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Other options might include Marcus Mariota, who is familiar with the Colts and vice versa; Teddy Bridgewater, who fits the Ballard mold of being smart, tough and competitive; or Nick Foles, who has history with Reich in Philadelphia and who completed 33 of 47 passes (70.2 percent) for 296 yards, two TDs and one INT against this Colts this season.
The problem is that free agency comes before the draft. Ideally, Ballard might want to know which project QBs he might have a shot at drafting before committing to a veteran in free agency or via trade. But that’s not how the NFL calendar works unfortunately.
Brissett is very much on trial now. One way or another, or perhaps in multiple ways, he should be facing some competition in 2020.
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