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Colts Mailbag: Coaching Search, Quarterback Outlook, Offensive Line

The Colts Mailbag returns with questions on how the team is conducting its coaching search, what the plan at quarterback may be in 2023 and if the offensive line can improve going forward. 

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The Colts Mailbag is back! readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Meredith Robinson, Cicero, Ind.: We didn't do well during the regular season. What's the plan going into offseason? More Jeff Saturday? New coach? New QB? Draft prospects? What are we dealing with here? Us Colts fans deserve a winning team. We're loyal fans.

JJ Stankevitz: I know we all want to jump ahead to May, when the Colts will have answers to all your questions. But we're still in the early stages of this critically important offseason: General manager Chris Ballard laughed when he was asked his thoughts on this year's quarterback draft class – intense evaluation of those guys hasn't begun yet, and the Colts collectively are still post-morteming their 2022 season.

But whatever the plan is, it may look different than it has in years past.

"I've got to grow," Ballard said. "Like, I'm very stubborn and dogmatic sometimes. I do believe you have to be great up front. That will be on my grave. You've got to be good up front and we weren't good enough this year. We showed signs and I do think there's potential going forward but at the end of the day we weren't good enough, and that's on me. In terms of how we build the rest of the roster, that's an area that we'll examine hard and move forward and grow."

So we'll see how things shake out in the coming months. But Colts fans are loyal – you all brought incredible energy to Lucas Oil Stadium this year. Ballard, during his press conference on Tuesday, talked about his appreciation for Colts fans, too.

"It sucks and I love them," Ballard said. "They're great. Even when they're pissed and they boo and the criticism, that means they care, that means they're invested, they care. I would rather have that than apathetic people that didn't care.

"I handle that well. I'm still going to show up and I'm still going to show up in public and when they make a comment to me, that's OK. I handle it well. I get emails, calls, you have no idea. I do everything I can to return all of them and they deserve that. Our fans deserve better. They deserve better. I'm thankful for them, thankful for their passion. I'd rather them be passionate than apathetic and I want to do good for them and I'm sorry I let them down."

David DeBruler, Greenwood, Ind.: Is Jeff Saturday being considered as the new head coach? Or are the Colts looking elsewhere?

JJ Stankevitz: Ballard said Tuesday Saturday will be interviewed for the Colts' permanent head coaching position. The interview process is still in its nascent stages – as of Friday morning, the Colts have completed interviews with:

Here's what Ballard said about Saturday during his press conference on Tuesday:

"Here's what I know about Jeff and being around him, he is smart, he is a good teammate and he is a leader," Ballard said. "Those things are real. Now we need to find out – like you can't do wholesale changes when you come in Week (10). That stuff starts in April – your vision and everything you want to do, that starts in April and that's built over time and over years. So, it will be interesting to hear. He'll go through the process just like everybody else. It will be interesting to hear his vision, how he wants to build it. I mean he'll go through the whole interview process."

The process to find the Colts' next permanent head coach will be thorough, consistent and deliberate. There's no timeline the Colts need to follow, and whatever decision is made will not be rushed.

Ballard also highlighted the importance of going into the search with a completely open mind, and not starting the process with an end result in mind.

"A lot of times what happens is you get a vision of what you want before – you've made your mind up and then you might ignore somebody that's really freaking good right in front of your face," Ballard said. "We've got a very detailed process put together on the traits and attributes we're looking for in the head coach. Don't care which side of the ball. And then to be patient and take your time and make sure we have a thorough interview with everybody. Consistent, thorough – I don't care if it takes until mid-February to hire the head coach. It's about getting it right."

Greg Coburn, Dubois, Penn.: What's the outlook for the quarterback situation?

JJ Stankevitz: There were two notable things we heard from Ballard this week on this question.

First, if he'd be surprised if the Colts didn't draft a young quarterback this year: "No, I wouldn't be surprised. It's the fourth pick of the draft. We earned that. I don't like earning it, but we did. I've said this before and I think history proves me right, I can take one. We can take one as an organization and y'all are going to celebrate it and say, 'We have got the savior for the Colts.' And then if he doesn't play well, 'Why did you take that guy?'

"You've got to be right. We've got to be right. We understand the magnitude of where we're at in the draft and we understand the importance of the position. To get one that actually you can win with and to be right is the most important thing. Not, if we take one or not – being right."

And second, on if he would trade up in the draft – the Colts have the No. 4 overall pick – to go get someone he and the organization believe is the guy: "Yes, I'd do whatever it takes. If we thought there's a player that we're driven to get that makes the franchise and the team better that's what we would do."

One other thing – Matt Ryan said this week he hadn't yet contemplated his future. And Ballard said the Colts haven't got through evaluating the roster yet – that'll happen eventually, but the priority for the organization is on finding the next year coach. The evaluation of Ryan and his 2022 season will happen in the coming weeks and months.

"Matt Ryan is as professional a guy, player that I've ever been around," Ballard said. "I still think he's got something left in his body to play. He's smart, knows how to play the game."

John Frasure, Horseshoe Bay, Texas: I could go in several different directions for my question, coaching search, draft, FA, QB. I decided to ask about the offensive line. This was, not too long ago, the strength of our team. We have one of the highest paid O-lines in the league and was near the top of sacks given up and middle of the road in rushing. Do we need new coaching, are we still looking for our left tackle? Why did this unit not look like they were working as one as they have in the past?

JJ Stankevitz: Good question, John. I wrote a little about it this week – the answer isn't necessarily as cut-and-dry or obvious as some may think.

Ballard admitted he underestimated the impact of inserting a new left tackle and new right guard into the offensive line would have on its continuity early in the season, and the Colts' offense struggled to recover from those issues in September and October. But the offensive line also played better in the second half of the season, with rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann a bright spot even in the midst of a seven-game losing streak.

As for the why here – I'll be interested to hear from Ballard as the offseason rolls on, and when he has a clearer evaluation of a group for which there will still be high expectations in 2023.

Tom Oestreich, Carmel, Ind.: Was Rodney Thomas II the steal of the entire 2022 draft?

JJ Stankevitz: This is a fun question. Usually, we look at a draft "steal" as a late Day 3 pick who becomes a productive starter in the NFL.

Thomas was a seventh-round selection and the No. 239 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft; he finished his rookie year with a team-high four interceptions. That would certainly seem to fit the description.

But adding some context: Thomas became the first seventh-round pick since 1986 to have at least four interceptions as a rookie. And he became the first player drafted No. 200 overall or later to have four or more interceptions since 1992, when the NFL Draft lasted 12 rounds.

There were certainly some other successful late-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft – the Seahawks' Tariq Woolen (fifth round) had five interceptions and the Lions' James Houston (sixth round) had 8 1/2 sacks. And, of course, Mr. Irrelevant – San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy – was fantastic in relief of an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, and will lead his team into the playoffs this weekend as the NFC No. 2 seed.

At the least, Thomas is absolutely in the conversation as a "steal" in last year's draft.

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