Colts lose another close game, flaws remain the same
The Indianapolis Colts lost another close game to fall to 1-3. The Colts season isn’t quite lost, but hoping for a turnaround from this staff is a longshot.
A telling fact from Sunday’s loss: the Jaguars are 2-8 over their last 10 games. Those two wins were against the Colts.
Would winning on Sunday have changed any of the fundamental flaws that Jim Irsay decided to double down on back in January? Had they started out the season 3-1 (a very real possibility) would fans be calling for coach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson’s heads?
Two games balanced on a knife point and slightly better decisions by the players might have changed the outcome. But the issues would have remained.
The Colts still get out to slow starts (five years in a row now). They still don’t have a reliable run game, pass protection, linebackers who can cover, or a pass rush. They have whiffed on more often than not on draft picks and free agency moves largely haven’t panned out.
The pattern is always the same. Colts get behind early then rally late after the game plan has to be scrapped in favor of a vertical passing attack (or no-huddle). All of the sudden the Colts can move the ball with ease, but it only stems from desperation.
More from Horseshoe Heroes
- Colts explored hiring former quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky
- When is the NFL Combine 2023? NFL Combine schedule, events, how to stream
- Latest NFL mock draft has Colts trading up to No. 1 for star QB
- Eagles offensive free agents that could follow Shane Steichen to Colts
- Here’s why Colts linebacker Shaq Leonard is going to love Shane Steichen
Yet despite the evidence, this team refuses start out games with a spread offense or uptempo pace. If feels as if the coaches either A) don’t watch film, B) are ignoring what they see, or C) are more interested in winning a certain way than just winning. And if it is C, that is the dumbest thing to ever happen in coaching but if feels like the truth (based on how Pagano espouses about the run and the frequency of two tight end sets).
Here’s the thing about all those close wins the Colts had over the first three years with Luck: they weren’t sustainable. You can’t expect a team to continually win games by a small margin if you want sustained success. 2016 has, so far, been the odds evening out for the Colts.
Now we see a bad team on the field.
Andrew Luck can’t cover up all the issues on the roster anymore and is once again, for the fifth season in a row, asked to be a hero and strap the team on his back. That is why his body is breaking down, at least to some degree. He’s been asked for five years now to stand in a questionable pocket with little support and play flawlessly.
Overhauling the coaching staff has produced no tangible results. Luck has played well, but the line isn’t much better (in fact he’s on pace to set a record for hits taken in a season at this point). The play calling on offense still suggests this team wants to be something it’s not and the Colts don’t seem to know how to use a number of their players properly (read: Phillip Dorsett).
On defense, the roster is poorly constructed and Greg Manusky was fired despite doing the best he could with what was available. But the bulk of the problems this season are either due to injury (which is mostly resolved) or a distinct lack of playmakers. The Colts are relying on Robert Mathis for a pass rush, which is simply fools gold given his age. And pointing to Dwight Freeney as still being productive ignores his talent and the fact that the Falcons (or Cardinals last year) are using him just in specific spots.
There is also the issue at inside linebacker, where the Colts let Jerrell Freeman leave over a paltry amount of money this offseason. Freeman might not be a franchise player, but he was clearly the best linebacker the team had and is proving that again in Chicago (think he won’t want to beat up on his former team this week?).
Grigson hasn’t shown an ability to build a team. His latest method to solve a problem has been to throw as many bodies as he can at the position and hope a few are decent. Honestly, it looks like it worked last year with the defensive line. And if any of the rookie offensive linemen pan out, it will have worked for the protection woes too. But that method is a terrible way to build a roster.
Next: Reasons why Grigson and Pagano are safe for the season
Does this mean the Colts will draft four EDGE players in 2017 to generate a pass rush? Or four inside linebackers to improve coverage? Or four running backs to get a ground game? The Colts have taken an almost singular approach the past two seasons in the draft and that isn’t sustainable going forward (just like continually dipping into free agency) because of the sheer number of needs across the roster.
If the Colts keep losing (and a loss at home to the Bears would be devastating), Irsay is going to wake up and realize what a horrible mistake he made last January. Firing them both during the season doesn’t solve anything and won’t turn the team around. But perhaps he’ll realize the error of his ways and fix the problem this coming January, otherwise he’s wasting seasons with potentially one of the best QBs in the NFL.