the Colts have scored 10 touchdowns over the past nine quarters in which the Dolphins don’t have one.
But don’t just put the Colts’ return to the living in the NFL as Luck’s resurgence. That’s the first lesson, sure. But there’s a larger one you’ll miss if that’s all you see.
“Franchises make quarterbacks,’’ Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh used to say, and the Colts are the latest example of that.
If the Colts have an obvious star in Luck, they have a lesser-known one in general manager Chris Ballard. He’s so little known I have to keep looking up his name to assure it’s correct. Let me check again. Yes, it’s Chris Ballard.
Ballard was faced with many similar questions as the Dolphins’ front office was this past offseason. He needed Luck to stay upright, just as the Dolphins did Ryan Tannehill. That meant rebuilding an offensive line in the way the Dolphins try annually.
Ballard traded down from the third overall pick, took guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth pick and right tackle Braden Smith in the second round. The result: Luck, one of the most-sacked quarterbacks his first five years, hasn’t been sacked in five games.
Luck has been sacked just 10 times this year compared to the Dolphins quarterbacks’ 27. One in Cincinnati got Tannehill knocked out for five games he’s just returning from on Sunday. But then if the results are different so was the strategy.
The Dolphins’ revamped by their line by signing 32-year-old Josh Sitton. His deteriorating body couldn’t fully practice. The Dolphins then started to curse a season’s bad luck of injuries when Sitton was lost the first game.
Tight end? The Colts signed free agent Eric Ebron, 25. He has 10 touchdowns. The Dolphins drafted rookie Mike Gesicki, who hasn’t caught a touchdown pass.
At running back, Ballard didn’t bring back Frank Gore, who played three years in Indianapolis. The Dolphins signed him and Gore, 35, has been a fine addition. But where’s the future in that? The Colts’ second-year back, Marlon Mack, and rookie fifth-rounder Jordan Wilkins have combined for seven touchdowns.
The defense has been upgraded with the likes of second-round rookie linebacker Darius Leonard, who leads the league with 104 tackles. But the way the Colts’ 14th-ranked defense has improved the most is by the offense putting up big numbers.
This is the way it’s going in the NFL. The Colts and Dolphins faced similar questions last offseason. Now they enter a Sunday with both quarterbacks starting .
Luck is again a star in the game after his franchise finally decided to protect him accordingly.
Tannehill isn’t a star. At this point, he’s hoping to spark a quiet offense, get a win and keep his job.
Everything changes quickly in the NFL. The Dolphins hope is their offseason blueprint looks better after another Sunday than it does beforehand.
Quarterback Andrew Luck has helped the Colts offense average 36.5 points the last four games, all wins.