By this time next week, the Indianapolis Colts likely will be searching for a new head coach and, quite possibly, a general manager.
One or both are sure to be fired soon.
But when the season mercifully ends, job losses might not be the most significant fallout of the failed 2015 campaign.
Of greater concern is Andrew Luck and the toll it took on his health. The short term was bad. The long term might be worse.
For four seasons, he’s taken something more than just a beating. He’s taken a pummeling. An incessant, weekly battering that finally caused his indomitable 6-foot-4, 240-pound body to crumble.
He’s been out six weeks and is inactive for Sunday. He will not play again this season unless the Colts make the playoffs, which is all but impossible. So he’ll have the entire offseason to heal and be 100 percent ready 2016.
But what about beyond?
Luck is only 26. In theory, he should be able to play another decade — or more — at a Pro Bowl level. But in reality, that might not be the case.
Human beings simply aren’t designed to take the punishment he’s absorbed throughout his first four NFL seasons. At some point, the body stops bouncing back. At some point, a survival instinct kicks in, and risk-takers become risk-avoiders.
At that point, players are no longer the players they once were. They become less assured, less aggressive — less productive.
Luck is not at that point yet. But it’s hard to imagine he’s not on an accelerated path.
Uniquely talented and incomparably competitive, he’s tough, fast and strong. But he’s not invincible.
As evidenced by his myriad physical ailments, Luck is as prone to serious injury as anyone — even more so behind a notoriously bad offensive line that is about to cost a head coach and/or a general manager his job.
This season alone, Luck has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, a torn abdominal muscle and, of all things, a lacerated kidney.
A lacerated kidney!
To be sure, injuries can’t be managed. They can happen to any player, at any time, on any play, on the best of teams. But in the case of franchise quarterbacks, risk can be somewhat minimized by establishing a sturdy wall of protection, something Luck has never had with the Colts.
And now, they — and he — are paying the price.
How many more years can the Colts realistically expect Luck to play at a high level behind the silk screens they’ve put in front of him? How many more years does he want to play here if that doesn’t change in a hurry?
Owner Jim Irsay has talked openly and boldly about winning multiple Super Bowls in the Luck era, starting this year. But since the Colts are all but certain to miss the playoffs, this won’t be the year. And until, or unless, they reduce the number of hits Luck takes every week, that year will never arrive.
Luck will either be in an infirmary, in premature retirement or with another team.
Firing Chuck Pagano won’t change that. Terminating Ryan Grigson might.
Either way, nothing will reverse the physical and psychological toll four years of pounding have exacted on Luck. Maybe he has another decade of Pro Bowls ahead. Maybe he’s merely average.
Or maybe he leaves town when his contract expires at the end of next season, a plausible scenario if he takes another thrashing.
So if multiple Super Bowls are coming in the Luck era, next year would be a good time to start — while Luck can still walk, still throw and is still here.