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Top task for new Colts GM: Stop wasting prime of Andrew Luck's career

The Colts didn't give Andrew Luck a $140 million contract to try to win the AFC South, but rather to win Super Bowls. AP Photo/Matt Dunham

INDIANAPOLIS – The San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts are the only teams with general manager openings in the NFL.

A franchise with question marks at quarterback or one with a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck?

The Colts easily win that area.

A team with just seven wins over the past two seasons or a team that has barely missed the playoffs the past two seasons?

Advantage goes to Indianapolis again.

Luck is a major draw for the Colts. That’s why owner Jim Irsay will likely hear from countless people racing to get in line to replace the fired Ryan Grigson as general manager of the Colts.

But the days of the Colts being able to step on the field and win simply because Luck is talented enough to cover up their countless roster flaws -- those days are done.

The No. 1 requirement Irsay must make of his next general manager is that he doesn’t waste any more of Luck’s career. In a span of just two years, Luck and the Colts have descended from making the AFC Championship Game finalists to being just an ordinary team that nobody talks about after they’re out of playoff contention.

Irsay has to remind potential candidates that he didn’t give Luck a $140 million contract to simply try to win the AFC South. He gave him that money with the vision of winning multiple Super Bowls.

“Everyone wants to find a certain Bill Polian, a Ron Wolf, what have you – a proven winner, so to speak,” Irsay said. He said that he and Polian, the Colts' GM from 1997 to 2009, would have "long conversations about the construct of a football team and how you put it together and what is the best way in terms of a general manager and how seasoned he has to be. The expectations that have been put out for us are unrealistic in a lot of ways, but we accept them and we’re proud of them because we’re the ones who kind of have set those expectations with what we did in the last 15 or 20 years and even what we started with this regime.

“... If it’s a young guy who comes in and presses without experience, it’s still possible that someone could come in that hasn’t been a general manager that’s in his late 30s or whatever.”

Having an opportunity to be the general manager of a team that features Luck is the highlight, but in order for that person not to waste any more of the quarterback’s years they first have to fix what’s become a faulty roster because of draft busts and bad free-agent signings by Grigson.

After four-plus seasons of struggles and constant hits to his quarterback (an NFL-high 578 since 2012), Grigson finally laid the foundation for an offensive line with potential, led by last year’s first-round pick, center Ryan Kelly. The Colts ended last season with three rookies starting on the line to go with some talented players at the skill positions.

The defense? That’s a completely different story.

The unit needs a major overhaul. That’s the easiest way to explain it when you get beat by a Brock Osweiler-led Houston team twice and by Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles once last season.

The Colts’ aging defense, which featured eight players over the age of 30 who received significant snaps last season, was 30th overall in the NFL.

How did Indianapolis end up with older defensive players? Poor decisions.

None of the seven defensive players Grigson selected in the drafts from 2012 to 2014 are currently on the roster. Irsay isn’t going to hesitate to spend the $60 million-plus in salary cap space that they have to find some linebackers, pass-rushers and a second cornerback so that the unit can try to close the gap between them and the offense. It's impossible to win in this quarterback-driven league if you don't have a pass rush and defensive backs who can cover downfield. The team's sack leader last season, linebacker Erik Walden with 11, is about to be a free agent.

Luck is only 27 years old and he's coming off arguably his second-best season in the league. But he’s also the furthest he’s been from making a run in the playoffs since his rookie year in 2012.

Irsay, Luck and the rest of the organization hope the new general manager will be able to fix that.