Colts Falling Apart Before Our Eyes
The Indianapolis Colts are an absolute mess right now. The firing of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is a desperate attempt at trying to try and change up the status quo, which right now is losing. Hamilton essentially becomes a scapegoat for what is an increasingly dysfunctional franchise from top to bottom.
Here’s the problem with that move: it doesn’t address the real problems.
If Andrew Luck had been playing better (or healthy, or whatever you want to believe), the Colts would be 5-2 at worst and no one would be talking about the issues this team is facing. Hell, a few more completions or a defensive stop in overtime on Monday and Hamilton likely keeps his job. We’ve already spent time outlining Luck’s struggles.
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There is plenty of blame to go around for the team failings. It starts at the top with
to make coaching staff hirings and giving him the final say over starting lineups. Irsay also chose to lowball an extension offer to head coach
before the season, effectively making him a lame duck coach.
It continues with a bad philosophy for team building. For some reason, Grigson and Pagano have espoused this idea of a tough football team that can run the ball and stop the run. This ignores the pure fact that the NFL is a passing league and that the rules favor throwing the ball.
We can even look at how this team has performed on the field over the past two and a half years and look at their biggest failings coming against competent quarterbacks who pick the team apart. The lack of a consistent pass rush has been a bigger issue than being able to stop the run (when you are forced to blitz to generate pressure, it takes players out of position to stop the run).
Grigson has crippled the team in a plethora of new and interesting ways. After the 2012 draft, Grigson built the Colts roster by making multiple bad free agent signings that have rarely panned out for the team. He’s also failed on the vast majority of his draft picks.
Not only have Grigson’s personnel moves been bad, but he’s doubled down on those moves by forcing Pagano to put them in a starting roll. This includes making Trent Richardson the starting running back, benching A.Q. Shipley, and starting the season with a baffling offensive line makeup. Grigson hasn’t given the coaches much to work with, and there have been fatal flaws on both sides of the ball.
Pagano, on the other hand, struggles to get his players ready for the game. It is rare that the Colts will get out to a hot start and are forced, more often than not, to stage some sort of dramatic comeback. For the past two years, the Colts came out ahead in those contests (which wasn’t sustainable). Now we’ve seen three straight games where the Colts came up short on their rally attempts.
There seems to have been a disconnect between Hamilton and Pagano over the past two years and it doesn’t help that Pagano lacks control over his coaching staff. Pagano seems to have this philosophy of “we have to win this way” whereas Hamilton would prefer to dictate terms to his opponent as much as possible (and we’ve seen Hamilton’s tone about the offense shift since he was hired).
This was on display in the 2013 Wild Card game against the Chiefs where the Colts offense sputtered until they ran uptempo with a vertical passing attack. Pagano is definitely in favor of a ground based attack, despite having a very talented quarterback who has won him a lot of games.
Hamilton certainly deserves his share of the blame. His quarterback has regressed severely (possibly due to injuries) and is either A) not being coached or B) not listening to coaching. Hamilton didn’t do anything to simplify the offense for Luck and help him get the ball out of his hands quicker (which would limit the importance of the offensive line).
Yes, the players haven’t executed but there has been some bad play calling. It is clear that this team is better when they play uptempo and if you are going to call play action passes, it helps to sprinkle in a few run plays. And for those clamoring for more screens, ask yourself, when was the last time the Colts ran a successful screen?
I would be very surprised if any members of this staff return next season (and some might be gone by this time next week). Irsay needs to be willing to take a backseat to whoever is incharge of the team next year and his primary goal needs to be getting Luck’s development back on track (especially before he signs that big contract).
For now, we get to see just how much further this franchise can fracture in the coming weeks. Lower your expectations, because the rest of this season isn’t going to be much fun.