Colts naughty or nice list: Who deserves a gift on Christmas and who’s getting coal?

Some Indianapolis Colts players and staff have excelled in 2023, while others have unfortunately fallen short of expectations.
Denver Broncos v Indianapolis Colts
Denver Broncos v Indianapolis Colts / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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The Indianapolis Colts head into the holidays with an 8-7 record which is a fair reflection of an up-and-down season that's featured some confidence-inspiring victories and heart-wrenching defeats. In addition to the wins and losses, Indianapolis' players and staff have also had their ups and downs.

In 2023, some Colts have impressed, while others have disappointed. To get into the holiday spirit, let's see who falls on which side of the "Naughty or Nice" list.

Naughty No. 1: Gus Bradley

The Indianapolis Colts have already defied expectations this year by staying in the playoff mix despite losing rookie QB Anthony Richardson early in the season. However, the Colts have found success in spite — not because — of a porous defense led by defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Bradley’s playcalling has been suspect and his scheming has often left the Colts vulnerable. He simply hasn’t figured out how to get the Indianapolis defense firing on all cylinders.

The Colts give up the sixth-most points per game in the league — showing virtually no improvement from last year. Worst of all, Bradley has been torched by mediocre offenses featuring backup QBs including Cleveland in Week 7 and Cincinnati in Week 14. There’s no doubt that injuries across multiple positions and a scarcity of high-end playmakers have played a role in Indianapolis’ defensive struggles but, at the end of the day, this is a results-based league and results haven’t been there.

Nice No. 1: Shane Steichen

Shane Steichen may just be the nicest Colt of the year. The rookie head coach took over a team in a rough state, navigated a number of unexpected challenges, and has Indianapolis on the doorstep of the playoffs. If you had told most people that the Colts could still have a chance of making the playoffs at this point in the season despite missing their star quarterback and running back for the majority of the year, they would not have believed you in the slightest.

And yet, that’s exactly where the Colts are — a huge testament to Steichen’s leadership and turnaround of this team. The offense has done a full 180, scoring 24.6 points per game this year (eighth-most in the league) after averaging 17.0 points last year (third-worst in the NFL). Steichen has won eight games already which is twice as many as Indy all of last season and he’s also demonstrated incredible resolve by winning many close games including two in OT. 

Despite numerous injuries and suspensions to key players as well as a lack of quality at certain positions, Steichen still has the Colts on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in three years.