A column by Reggie Hayes, email@example.com
Wednesday, December 28, 2016 12:05 AM
The Indianapolis Colts, as currently constructed, are broken.
They’ve gone two years without making the playoffs and this year they managed to do so in a division where the champion benched its starting quarterback at the end of the season. Think about that. The Houston Texans’ expensive offseason acquisition, Brock Osweiler, couldn’t keep his job at quarterback for a whole season. And the Texans still won the division.
The Colts have the AFC South’s best quarterback Andrew Luck, healthy for all but one game, and couldn’t find their way above .500. If that's not broken, I don't know what is.
This prompts the inevitable question: How do you fix the Colts?
The easy answer, for those of us not named Jim Irsay, is to clean house. Say thanks for your service to general manger Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano and his staff, and start over. That’s the easy answer. That’s the one Colts fans scream for on Twitter. That’s also what bad teams do. They fire and hire. The more they lose, the more they fire and hire. Change can be good, but there's no guarantee.
I can’t predict if Irsay will go that route, no matter how inevitable it seems to outsiders. Pagano talked Irsay into letting him stay after last season and the result was a four-year extension. Although it feels much longer, it hasn’t yet been four years.
Dumping Grigson and Pagano would require Irsay to admit he was wrong. It would require Irsay to go against sentimentality and take a blow to his ego. After all, he picked Grigson, who picked Pagano, and if they fail, the ultimate failure ends up at the owner’s desk. That's not as much fun to own as Ringo’s old drum kit.
You can retool a roster over time, but it’s tough to make enough changes in one offseason to alter a team’s makeup.
So the quickest route to change is in the front office and coaching staff. If I was a betting man, I’d say the percentage is 55-45 for cleaning house. That’s just a guess. It was higher than that last year, and no change took place.
If Irsay decides to move on from Grigson and/or Pagano, he must have a replacement in line. That’s where things get tricky. Is there a Bill Polian or a Tony Dungy out there to immediately improve the Colts’ roster and on-field product? I should rephrase that: Is there a Polian or Dungy out there who is available – and willing – to come to the Colts?
The current roster has enough talent to win the AFC South if it had some consistency of play and an ability to rise to the occasion of the biggest games. These Colts lost twice to Osweiler, including a game in which they were up two scores with seven minutes to play. The second loss, in a must-win game at home, the Colts came out flat. How does that happen? It’s on the coach, certainly, but also on the players.
Players become accustomed to winning, but the danger is when previous winners become accustomed to coming close.
Fielding enough talent to win the AFC South shouldn’t be the goal. If you’re not building a Super Bowl contender, you’re failing. The Peyton Manning years lifted the Colts into the annual contender category and placed them in the club with New England, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. They’re not in that club anymore. That club won't even return their emails.
I wrote earlier this season the Colts had turned into the Cleveland Browns with a better quarterback. I’m not inclined to revise my opinion until tangible change takes place.
The Colts need better linebackers, defensive backs and pass rushers. They need a consistent pass-protecting offensive line. They need another receiver, or some big-time growth and production from Phillip Dorsett.
Luck seems closer to Eli Manning than to Peyton Manning, and he has to continue to improve his decision-making. An achievable goal would be to deliver the consistency of Ben Roethlisberger. Both are physically strong quarterbacks, hard to bring down, confident in making difficult throws. Luck still makes some poor decisions and has games where he doesn’t play well. Apparently, he’s human. But on a list of Colts’ problems, quarterback doesn’t make the Top 10.
Can all of the problems the Colts have be fixed with a front office and/or coaching change? Hardly. But change is necessary, and there’s only one quick option.
Irsay will need to be quite a salesman to convince Colts fans to accept, let alone support, a slower solution.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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