INDIANAPOLIS – It’s the inevitable day for 31 of 32 NFL teams.
The sudden acceptance that you are cleaning out your locker, having fallen short of the ultimate goal.
That was the case for the Colts on Sunday, following their 27-24 Wild Card loss in Buffalo. Players will now disperse to their homes in various parts of Indianapolis and around the country for the offseason. The group won’t gather again until the offseason program in April (which could be virtual again in 2021).
What did we learn from locker room cleanout?
- As you’d expect, Frank Reich was asked several questions about Philip Rivers and the 2021 quarterback for the Colts. Reich’s answer? “As I sit here right now, yes, I want Philip Rivers to be my starting quarterback next year,” Reich said on Sunday. On the very next question, when asked if that answer could change after conversations with Chris Ballard and Jim Irsay, Reich acknowledged that it very well could. With the caveat of ‘right now’ in Reich’s answer, it’s a reminder that Rivers returning to the Colts in 2021 is not a slam dunk. While Rivers has his own personal decision to make, the Colts have their own decision to make, too. Reich said he had an emotional, lengthy talk with Rivers on Saturday night. While the emotions are real, Reich believes both parties have the maturity to put those aside when making the best decision.
- Reich was steadfast on Sunday in stating that he thinks this football team can go to another level with Rivers, who turns 40 in December, as its quarterback. Having said that, Reich said the Colts are looking for that long-term QB answer and it will be something that must be discussed this offseason.
- Reich will always be on the stronger side of the aggressive approach to coaching and he touched on that in his end-of-the-year presser. “This is what I think it takes to be a World Champion,” the head coach said. “I’ve been there multiple times and it’s that mindset I think it takes. Can I get better at it? Yes, I can get better at it. I need to maintain cutting-edge thinking, with old school experience. As a friend told me, ‘I need to be on the low side of the (golf) hole (less aggressive) every now and again. You don’t always have to be on the high side (more aggressive).’ I liked that analogy, and it was a fair reminder.”
- On Sunday, Reich said he had a brief conversation with Anthony Castonzo, but nothing definitive, one way or the other, on the possibility of the veteran left tackle retiring. Reich said he hopes that conversation happens soon. Castonzo, 32, has one more year on his contract. So, with the long-term left tackle question (or possibly the left tackle in 2021) up in the air, Reich said that he and Chris Ballard have discussed Quenton Nelson in that role. “If AC chooses to hang it up, I think discussing Quenton as an option out there is certainly a realistic option. Maybe that’s a real option. But I’ll let Chris (Ballard) go into more detail when he talks on Thursday…Yeah, that would certainly be an option. But like every other decision you have to look at all options and consider all factors,” Reich said.
- It’s a long list of notable free agents for the Colts in 2021, with one of the most important being Xavier Rhodes. What did Rhodes, 30, mean to the Colts? “Just competing every day and taking the ball away,” Kenny Moore said of his fellow starting corner.” He uplifted that whole standard I feel like. He uplifted my game, more than he’ll ever know. Xavier Rhodes did a lot for the corners room, for this defense, lifting the confidence in us to do the things that we are supposed to do. He didn’t take anything away from us as far as pulling the torch out of my hand as far as trying to lead the room, but he was a guy who led the room with me. It was great having a guy like that take charger. To see his work and what he brought to the game and each day in practice, his film study and the way he approaches every day was pretty great for us.”
- Matt Eberflus interviewed with the Jets for their head coach opening on Sunday, with a reported interview with the Chargers coming on Monday. On more than one occasion Sunday, Colts defenders gushed about Eberflus: “He’s meant more than just a coach,” Kenny Moore said. “As a man, he has taught us a lot about life and be intentional to the relationships we have around here.” The Eberflus/head coaching possibility will be a big domino that could fall on Chris Ballard/Frank Reich’s lap this offseason, after the team has kept their trio of coordinators intact for three straight years (which is rare in today’s NFL).
- Kenny Moore is a leader on this team and was very blunt in stating he wants more in the month of January: “The Wild Card is not good enough…Where we made it this year, where we made it in the 2018 season, is just not good enough.” The Colts have not had the same postseason success as many NFL teams in the last handful of years. They haven’t had a home playoff game (meaning wining the AFC South) since 2014. And they’ve won just 1 playoff game in the last 6 years. More than half of the NFL have achieved both of those things since the Colts last did.
- One of the more unsung Colts, Khari Willis battled several injuries in 2020: Quad, back, shoulder, broken ribs, concussion. Willis gutted it out to play in 14 of 16 games. Willis said on Sunday that he’s 100 percent now, as he heads to his third NFL season. After what we’ve seen from Willis early in his NFL career, he looks like a definite building piece for the Colts and is headed for a second contract here in Indianapolis.
- Free agent linebacker Anthony Walker continued to start games for the Colts in 2020, but his play time really decreased, with Bobby Okereke seeing more and more time next to Darius Leonard. Walker said on Sunday that having the chance to start, and play consistently, will be a huge factor in deciding his next stop. With Leonard and Okereke in place for the foreseeable future, that might not be as easy to find in Indianapolis, compared to other places.
- A restricted free agent in 2021, tight end Mo Alie-Cox says he needs to gain more confidence in his route running to earn more play time. Alie-Cox, 27, said he had a chondral defect in his right knee and battled through it during the middle of the season. Like we saw against Buffalo, Alie-Cox can be a unique option for the Colts and is the tight end with the most long-term potential.