Miami Dolphins

Blueprint For Success: How the Colts were built (and what the Miami Dolphins can learn)

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Blueprint for Success: How the Dolphins’ 2019 opponents were built

Our weekly series that examines how the Miami Dolphins’ 2019 opponents built their roster, and what lessons Miami can glean as they build theirs.

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This is the ninth in a series that examines how Miami’s 2019 opponents built their rosters, and what lessons the Dolphins can glean as they build theirs.

Team: Indianapolis Colts.

Coach: Frank Reich (second season).

General manager: Chris Ballard (third season).

Team owner: Jim Irsay.

Franchise value: $2.7 billion.

2018 record: 10-6 (second in the AFC South).

2019 record: 5-3 (second in AFC South).

Last playoff appearance: 2018 (lost in the divisional round).

Last Super Bowl championship: 2006.

Total 2019 payroll: $186.8 million (17th).

Total 2019 AAV: $176.3 million (23rd).

Salary cap space: $43.7 million (first).

Dead money: $22.2 million (14th most).

Percentage of homegrown players: 62 percent.

Overview: The Colts should not be good. The head coach Indianapolis wanted ghosted the team just before his report date. And the Colts’ franchise quarterback retired days before the start of the 2019 season. And yet, they’re currently the AFC’s sixth seed. How? They’ve got Chris Ballard in charge, and Chris Ballard is really good at his job. When Josh McDaniels left them high and dry after accepting the job in early 2018, Ballard didn’t panic. He hired Frank Reich, who has been excellent. Same story when Andrew Luck quit football in the preseason. They already had Jacoby Brissett waiting in the wings — acquiring him from the Patriots for Phillip Brissett in 2017. And the best might yet to come for Indianapolis, which has a reported nine draft picks in 2020 after having 29 in the past three years. The Colts have a solid foundation on the offensive line, with three first-round picks and a second. They have one of the league’s premier young defensive players in Darius Leonard. They have a five-time 1,000-yard receiver in T.Y. Hilton. And they have a projected $107 million in projected salary cap space in 2020, with just three players with a cap obligation of at least $10 million. They’ve done all this despite carrying $22 million in dead money and losing another $14 million to injured reserve, most of which is accounted for by Devin Funchess. The best value on the team: Brissett, who is making just $8.5 million this year, and despite getting a nice bump next year, might still be underpaid.

The lesson: Always have a Plan B. And you don’t need to tank to find your franchise quarterback. You just need good talent evaluation, a solid coaching staff and patience. The Dolphins will almost certainly take one in the first round this year. But like the Colts, they have stockpiled picks to give themselves a chance to build a complete roster around their young QB.

He said it: “I think Chris Ballard and his staff have done a phenomenal job with the draft picks that we have. We have a lot of young guys playing a lot of football and they’re playing winning football. We have good players, winning players. Players who play smart, are tough and do all the little things right. We’re 5-3. We’re disappointed we’re not a little bit better than that. We feel like we let a couple slip away, but we’ve got to find ways to eliminate those mistakes that we’re making to lose a couple of those games that we lost. But we feel like we got the right guys in the building to do that.” — Colts coach Frank Reich

Adam Beasley has covered the Dolphins for the Miami Herald since 2012, and has worked for the newspaper since 2006. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications and has written about sports professionally since 1996.
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