INDIANAPOLIS — Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here.
Let's jump right into this week's questions:
John O. (Seattle): "Seriously - not sure this is something that happens around the league, but truly love we get an opportunity to sit in the house of the Colts for a little with these mailbags. The margin of error is so small in this league and to be 7-9 and 10-6 really can come down to 3-4 plays a game that determine how you finish. Thinking back through the season and watching us fall short against the Steelers, Chargers and Dolphins due to penalty or bad kicks and reverse those plays and that's probably enough to get us into the dance. Plus being SO CLOSE in every game speaks volumes. Lastly, having the lead in all but 2 games at halftime (if my memory serves correctly) shows it's youth on learning how to finish. As we begin to build, we can clearly see that Ballard and his team can build within the draft. To see so many players starting and HIGH contributors throughout the season for back to back draft classes is RARE. Plus the ability to see our coaches coach them and develop them is RARE! What seems to stand out to me the most is a player or three that can radically change the outcome of a game. Thinking 53 and 13 are those guys. As I look around the league I can see that Dashon Watson gives the Texans 2-3 more wins every year bc he is so dynamic. While Jacoby is great and I really love rooting for him, there is a very high free agency for QB's. Do you think it would make sense to sign someone like Rivers, Brady, Dalton, (potentially) Carr, would give us a better upper hand? Keep JB as the backup and release/trade Hoyer? Not sure what cap does with Hoyer... but just keep thinking through these scenarios. Or do you surround JB with more talent (ie. bring back funchess) sign a bruiser RB to pair with Mack??"
Walker: Happy to provide hopefully a little insight, John. First off, you're exactly right about three to four plays ultimately deciding the outcome of a game. That's why I was hesitant all year to put the blame all on one person or unit if they didn't come through at the end of a game, because who's to say if the team had executed a play or two better earlier in the contest that it wouldn't have even needed to come down to, for example, a field goal attempt in the final seconds? I equate it to the Major League Baseball season: I think a win or a loss in May is just as important as a win or a loss down the stretch in September; of course you want a team that knows how to close out important games, but you also need to help yourself by winning games earlier in the year, if that makes sense.
And I think your question about the Colts' quarterback situation is exactly what Chris Ballard, Frank Reich and their staffs have been evaluating over the past few weeks since the end of the season. On one hand, you have a quality quarterback in Jacoby Brissett with a full season as a starter in your system under his belt; he had his ups and downs, but you're judging the best you can how much was realistically on Brissett (mechanics, intangibles, etc.), and how much outside factors elsewhere (injuries, execution, etc.) made their mark on the offense. Then you have your pro scouting staff that has evaluated the available options on the open market once free agency begins, as well as possible trade targets on other teams, and you weigh the pros and cons of possibly bringing in one of those guys to play quarterback in Indy. I obviously don't know what the answer is or will be once it's all said and done, but it'll be very interesting to see how it ultimately plays out.
Bill E. (Cambridge, Wis.): "Has GM Chris B. ever discussed with you how he evaluates trade offers? Jimmy Johnson had his "point value" chart for one example while others, I have read, simply use a gut feeling approach. Does Chris have his own method? Thanks in advance!"
Walker: No, Bill, Chris Ballard has not discussed how he evaluates trade offers, but this is a really good question I'll throw his way sometime this offseason. Stay tuned!
Dennis S. (Durham, N.C.): "Will Chad Kelly REALLY be given a chance to compete?"
Walker: Chad Kelly is on the offseason roster, so, yes, he will be given a chance to compete. General manager Chris Ballard had this to say about Kelly when asked about the quarterback recently in an appearance on "The Dan Dakich Show" on 107.5 FM in Indy:
"Let me tell you this: he's got some natural playmaking to him," Ballard said. "I mean, Chad had earned trust. I'm not talking about on the field — we had to trust him off the field. I mean, he had screwed up a few times to where, 'We're your last shot here, son. So we're gonna have some guidelines here about what you have to do, and you've gotta earn trust.' And first time we cut him, he had this look of, 'You're cutting me?' I'm like, 'Damn right I'm cuttin' you. And you're gonna go to the practice squad and you're gonna continue to work, you're gonna continue to do the things we're asking you to do.' Do I think he has a future in the league? Yes. Does he continue to have to earn trust each and every day? Yes."
Alex H. (Indianapolis): "Dear Mr.Walker, I would really appreciate your input on this. I read everyday about the possible landing spots of Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Tom Brady. Some people have mentioned one of them could possibly come to the Colts. They have been great. there's no doubt about that. But I really don't think we should sign one of them because they are all in the twilight of their career. If we signed one we wouldn't really get a long term answer at QB. We need a franchise QB who can give us a lot of years. Not to mention a lot of people aren't really happy with Jacoby Brisset. Now, all the best QB's in the draft should get picked before we pick so that leaves the FA market. Who do you like? Thanks, Alex DH"
Walker: Alex, you make some great points. And of course the Colts want to find the long-term answer at quarterback to get back to that sustained success the organization enjoyed with guys like Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck under center. But no matter who you bring in as a rookie, it's going to take some time — usually at least a year or two — to develop them into the kind of quarterback that can even approach playing, and leading, at that kind of level. And while the team wants to set itself up to be successful in the future, it also wants to win now, so that's why you make a full evaluation on Jacoby Brissett and try to determine if he can make the improvements needed to help get you back in playoff contention, you continue utilizing free agency and the draft to add talent around the quarterback, and then you also consider outside options at the position that could both win now and possibly provide a natural bridge to the future QB. So we'll start to see what direction the Colts are taking around March 18, when free agency begins, and then again at the end of April, when the draft gets underway.
Brett M. (Bushnell, Fla.): "Long time Colts fan but I'm still learning the intricacies of the 4-3. Particularly what does the three technique mean and why is it so important in the 4-3? "
Walker: Great question, Brett. Basically, the three technique is a defensive tackle that lines up in the B-gap between the guard and the tackle. In the 4-3 system that the Colts utilize, the three technique should be your best interior pass rusher. One of the best to ever do it in this system was Warren Sapp, the Hall of Famer who collected 96.5 career sacks from 1995 to 2007, but had his best years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under head coach Tony Dungy. You always want pressure from your defensive ends, but quarterbacks and offensive lines can sometimes account for edge pressure by moving around in the pocket; but if you have a dominant three technique disrupting things up the middle, the quarterback will have absolutely nowhere to go.
Mario B. (Ontario, Canada): "My Question is why are so many people hard on Jacoby? I'm a huge Colts fan and I liked what I saw at the start of the season from this team when healthy. I just feel the Indy fans are to hard on JB we went 5-2 in our first 7 games we lost a couple close games to the LAC and Steelers mostly by special teams missing some kicks.We also beat three playoff teams out of those Seven games! I think JB is fine and needs time for development. I think we need to bulk up our interior DL and draft another LT or Right tackle allowing Braden smith to slide into the guard position. I think everyone needs to have more faith in Ballard and Co..What are your thoughts on what has been said? Oh and GO COLTS"
Walker: I think when the Colts took a step back and really evaluate Jacoby Brissett's 2019 season, they see a lot of things they liked. He continued to take care of the football, he made good decisions at the line of scrimmage and put the offense in good positions against blitzes and heavy boxes. He also led the team to wins in five of its first seven games, including road victories over the Kansas City Chiefs, the eventual Super Bowl champions, and the Tennessee Titans, the other AFC finalist. And, when all was said and done, Brissett was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate. But, as general manager Chris Ballard alluded to in his end-of-season press conference, there was also a bit of a "tale of two seasons" type theme to Brissett's year. First he suffered a sprained MCL early in the Week 9 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers that would keep him out the following week against the Miami Dolphins; he would then toss just four touchdown passes over the final seven games as the Colts went 2-5 over that stretch and fell out of playoff contention by Week 16 after such a promising start. Not all of that is on Brissett, of course, but the quarterback is typically going to get more praise or blame than he realistically deserves at any given point. So what you have in Brissett heading into 2020 is a quarterback now with 32 career starts to his credit, including a full season in Frank Reich's system; to say he "needs time for development" certainly can be true in some areas, and another offseason of work should help tremendously, but the team as a whole needs to win now. So Ballard, Reich and their staffs are currently trying to figure out what changes they can explore at all positions — not just quarterback — to ensure they're putting themselves in the best position to do just that.
Dennis C. (Warsaw, Ind.): "We have a Darius Leonard jersey we would love for him to sign. Where can we send it to?"
Walker: You can mail an item to a player with a request for an autograph to:
c/o Indianapolis Colts
P.O. Box 535000
Indianapolis, IN 46253
A couple items to note: all items must be sent via mail; they should not be hand delivered. And the team can't guarantee that your item will be returned or signed, though most players will make every attempt to do so.
Christeen M. (Pittsboro, Ind.): "Hi Andrew. Thank you for taking the time to answer questions from the fans! I don't understand why people are so quick to throw Jacoby to the curb! Instead of focusing on all of the negative, maybe people should focus on the POSITIVE! How many sacks did he get out of this year and turn into positive plays?, had he not been able to do that during the TN game we wouldn't have won! I think he will improve and be an amazing QB and all the negative nellies will eat their words! For him to come here initially and start as QB in an offense he didn't know, guys he had never played with and play as well as he did...he was a savior for us then! This year, not expecting to start, he learns right before the start of the regular season that Luck is retiring and now he's the starter & leader! So again he started under stressful circumstances. All the media wanted to talk about was how he played compared to Luck, how hard was it for him to take Luck's place,etc. (on case people didn't watch the after game press conferences on colts.com). When are people going to give Jacoby a break and focus on the positive aspects of the Colts and not the negatives! I'm a season ticket holder and listen to the negatives constantly being pointed out by other fans around me without any of them focusing on the positive things the team does! I'm over that! For the last letter I just read, seriously Rocky a wasted draft pick?! Did you watch him play this year? He was by no means perfect but did some awesome things on the field. He's tough, fast and dedicated, all you have to do is watch him play once to see that! I'm excited to see what next year brings and hope that means Jacoby! GO COLTS! "
Walker: Christeen, thanks for writing in! And, look, you make some great points about Jacoby Brissett — and as we've alluded to in the Mailbag throughout the season, as well as this offseason, Brissett did some really good things in 2019. But here's the thing: when the team was 5-2, Brissett was receiving all sorts of praise for the way he was leading the offense. There was even some chatter that he should be considered a midseason MVP candidate for the way he was able to pick up the pieces after Andrew Luck's sudden retirement and lead the Colts to the top of the AFC South Division standings. Was the Colts' record at that time all because of Brissett? No, of course not, but when things are going well, the quarterback is just naturally going to get a good share of the credit. Then, fast forward to the end of the season: the Colts have lost seven of their final nine games, they're eliminated from postseason contention heading into Week 16 and finish with a disappointing 7-9 overall record. Brissett, who threw 14 touchdown passes over Indy's first six games, threw just four touchdown passes over his final nine games. Was the Colts' second-half performance all because of Brissett? No, of course not, but the same rule applies: he's going to get more than his fair share of the blame because of the position he plays. So it's certainly OK to be frustrated with media reports about Brissett and the team, but just remember: most outlets are just riding the roller coaster and all the ups and downs that come throughout the season. It's the Colts' job to avoid falling in that trap, take a step back and completely evaluate Brissett from start to finish to determine if they think he can continue on as the team's starter moving forward, or if they want to add competition at the position. With free agency coming up starting March 18, we'll soon begin to get an idea which way the team is leaning.
Alan T. (Straughn, Ind.): "What happened to former quarterback prospect Stephen Morris? He was highly regarded by many,including me."
Walker: By the start of the 2020 season, we'll be going on three years since Stephen Morris was on the Colts' roster, and more than two years since he was on an NFL roster of any kind. If you'll recall, Morris had a solid career at the University of Miami and initially joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2014, spending that year on the Jaguars' practice squad. The next year he spent much of the season on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad before being claimed off waivers by the Colts in December 2015. Morris spent most of the 2016 season on Indy's practice squad, and was in the running to start for an injured Andrew Luck heading into the 2017 season, but the team ultimately elected to go with Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett (who was acquired in a trade just before Week 1), and waived Morris. Morris spent the 2018 offseason with the Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans, and then was allocated to the Orlando Apollos of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football for the 2019 season, but would be cut by the team a little more than a week before the Apollos' first regular season game.
Luke S. (Tremont, Ill.): "Do you think that the colts will resign Adam Vinatieri this offseason?"
Walker: I'm not so sure that's the right question to be asking at this point, Luke. I think right now the focus should be on Adam Vinatieri and his rehab work and recovery from the surgery performed on his left plant knee back in December. If after all that work he is feeling good and up to returning for a 25th NFL season in 2020, then I think it's time to begin wondering where he could end up. We do know the Colts typically have carried two kickers on their 90-man offseason roster through training camp and the preseason, and we already know Chase McLaughlin will have one of those two offseason spots after a successful final four games with the team in 2019. So for now we'll just await an update from Vinatieri, and then go from there.