Well the Colts now have their man at HC in Former Pats OC Josh McDaniels. Although I admit I had some reservations on this hire even I can't deny the impact his offensive scheme should have with a healthy Andrew Luck and potential studs like Marlon Mack at his disposal. McDaniels is a mastermind in how to properly utilize the screen game, and when you have a suspect line like the Colts currently do, you can cover a lot of those holes with it. That brings us to the up coming draft and which direction the Colts should take between two outstanding talents who at the very least one of whom should be available when the Colts pick at #3 overall.
The general consensus around the MSM sports personalities and Colts fans alike is that the Horseshoes should either draft Chubb, or address the O-line to protect 12. I am of the mindset that the team should go in a totally different direction and draft Barkley and here's why. In terms of acquiring players who have the best chance of impacting your team the most, there's no doubt in my mind that Barkley has the better chance to do just that than Chubb would. Now I know that all of the Josh McDaniels fanboys out there will say: "We don't need a guy like Barkley because look at what McDaniels did with Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White." My answer to that is 1st off, McDaniels has never had a chance to have a back as dynamic as Barkley at his disposal, and there's a reason why he had to work with not 1, not 2, but 3 RBs for his offense: "All of them are just dudes" while Barkley is "the guy." The important thing to note here is that there's a difference between the type of RBs the Pats have been using vs that the caliber of Saquon Barkley. All of the backs the Pats have been using are 5,10, and occasionally (Key word: Occasionally) 15-20 yard "safety valve/dump off" guys. Barkley is a "68 and out the gate" guy... Let that sink in for a moment. I'll use one play from last weekend's SB for an example. Remember the screen play in the second qtr to Rex Burkhead that went for 46 yards that he was run down from behind on? Insert Barkley on that same play and its a TD. You aren't running Barkley down from behind once he gets into the open field and even if you do, at 230 lbs with 4.3 speed good luck bringing him down.
NE's RBs are not guys you have to "game plan" for. Barkley on the other hand is the kind of talent you have to account for no matter where he is on the field. Not only does he provide a lethal weapon for McDaniels to terrorize defenses with, he also makes your O-line look better than it really is. That also protects your QB because as long as opponents have to account for Barkley, they can't pin their ears back and T-off on Luck. This also improves your defense because not only will they not be on the field as much, the pressure their opponents will be under in order to try and keep up with the Colts offense will keep them in high stakes situations. If you want proof of that you need look no further than this year's SB. The Pats just made it to yet another SB appearance with a defense in the opinion of many (Mine included) to be down right atrocious. Sorry Lions fans, but Matt Patricia is no "defensive guru" and I predict that the honey moon in Detroit will not only be short lived, but also Patricia will be added to the list of Patriot coaching castoffs who failed once they left BB. Still, the Pats made it to the SB in spite of their porous defense and if you take a look at history as well as factor in the way the league has been consistently catering to the offensive side of the ball in terms of officiating, the smart thing to do as far as building a team would be to take advantage of that by putting the most formidable offense that you possibly can together on the field. In terms of history, even before many of the league's rule changes for today's game, teams that were stacked on offense fared better in going deep into the playoffs vs teams with good defenses while suspect on the other side of the ball did. Look at the Niners of Steve Young's era, the Bills under Kelly, the Broncos with Elway, and the Rams of the late 90s early 2000's.
Ladies & gentlemen the jury is in. Saquon Barkley without a doubt would impact the Colts much more than Bradley Chubb would, and when you look at the likely scenario that the Colts will be moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense there's a very real possibility that the pass rusher the Colts need is already on the team in Terrell Basham. I'm not ready to "give up" on the young guys from last year's draft, and as bad as the former coaching staff was from a player's developmental standpoint, there's only one direction those same players can go in with the new regime that's coming in: "up."
Bleacher report just put out a story claiming that an "unknown scout" alleging the Colts are taking a hard look at Joe Mixon. I know this story probably has Indy's "conservative" fanbase up in arms over the thought of taking a player with Mixon's "checkered history"- many of whom instead are crying for the team to go "defense! defense! defense!" As I stated in a post I did a few weeks ago, Mixon is not only a 1st round talent, he's the best all around back coming out of college this year. If you've watched any of his tape, you won't have to wait long before his skill set "pops out" at you. The kid is special with the rock in his hands, and no-I'm not talking about his punch against Miss Molitor either for all of you "holier than thou-goodie two shoe saints" out there. All that said, I would love to see the Colts address the defense early like everyone else, but if Mixon falls to us and the Colts take him I won't lose any sleep over him coming here and would welcome him with open arms. I can also tell you one thing, one team out there has their radar on him besides the Colts and that's the Patriots. Forget about the story of them putting the league on notice that they've "taken him off their draft board." Knowing Belichek and his antics, this was nothing more than a smoke screen to throw everyone else off their trail for what they really want to do with him.
By allegedly taking Mixon of their board the Pats will influence all of the other teams out there who want to mimic the "Patriot way" of doing things to follow suit by removing Mixon from their board as well. This in turn will give the Pats a "Bee line" to Mixon. For all of you naysayers out there who don't think Belichek would take a guy like Mixon remember Aaron Hernandez was no saint before he became a Patriot. In fact, his past had more red flags than Mixon's did long before the murder charges. So that being said, if you think for one second that the Pats won't take a player of Mixon's talent you're fooling yourself. As bad as Mixon's video of him punching a woman was, he didn't kill anyone. He's never been a gang member. He's never sold drugs either. If indeed other teams have taken Mixon off their draft board because the Pats did Belichek will prove to be the smartest person in the room again on draft day by taking Mixon. Also, forget about the reports of Brady being able to (play at the level he's been playing at until he's 45). Brady doesn't throw the ball down the field anymore and has been nothing but a system QB who has the benefit of playing on a team that doesn't get penalized for running pick plays. Brady's game is throwing 10-15 yard ins and outs for a reason. He doesn't have the arm strength that he once had and adding Brandon Cooks in the offseason isn't going to fix that. The Pats need a young RB for the future as bad as the Colts do. Belichek knows this and also knows he needs to surround Brady with as many weapons as possible to compensate for his QB's declining skill set due to father time.
When it comes to Mixon, too many people are putting way too much negativity into an incident that happened 3 years ago. If we are going to hold something like this against him then we should all have things we've done in our past held against us as well. I can guarantee you that there's not a fan out there who hasn't done "something" in this world that's not in good taste. No, you might not have hit a woman, but you've done something. I'm even willing to bet that if the skeletons in your closet were out on display for the world to see a lot of you would be scattering like roaches whenever the lights come on. For those of you who keep clamoring for Christian McCaffrey just stop it. His talent is nowhere near that of Mixon's and no, he's not a franchise back. McCaffrey is a good RB. He's not a "great" RB and is not going to be one at the next level either. Can he help a team? Sure. He can help the right team. He's not a franchise RB though so stop right there. Joe Mixon is going to have the kind of impact on the league that Randy Moss did, and every team that passed up the chance to get him are going to regret it. It would be a shame to see him go to a shady organization like NE and become a rock star when so many will have the chance to get him when he falls in their lap 1st.
With the 2017 draft quickly approaching, everyone (Especially Colts fans) has an idea of what areas the front office should address first. Most opinions fall on the defensive side of the ball since that was clearly the team's biggest problem not only last year, but for the past several to be fair. That's understandable. However, if the Colts went in a completely different direction and drafted say, a RB does that mean the Colts won't be able to address the holes in their defense? Let's explore the possibilities of that for second.
Contrary to popular belief, drafting a RB with the 14th overall pick wouldn't exactly spell "Phillip Dorsett" all over again. While a lot of Colts fans would probably be disappointed with the selection, this in no way shape or form would be a disastrous thing to do, especially with the available talent that will be there when the Colts are on the clock. Let's take a trip down memory lane, 1999 to be exact. Die-hard Colts fans should remember that year forever since we witnessed the birth of the "triplets." That was the year the team drafted Edgerrin James. The Colts went from 3-13 to 13-3 as James's presence provided balance to a Colts offense that would ultimately take them to another level. James took a lot of pressure off of Peyton Manning because he was a threat to take it to the house at any given moment. When you give a QB of Manning's caliber (Or Luck for that matter) a running game that opponents have to respect it opens up the field in ways that make it darn near impossible for the opposition to stop. The byproduct of that is that great offenses can also make mediocre defenses look "un-mediocre." A lot of people also forget that as good as Kurt Warner was in his 1st two years with the Rams, "The Greatest Show on Turf's" most important player was not their Cinderella storied QB. It was RB Marshall Faulk. Faulk was the glue that made that offense as prolific as it was because he was such a dynamic threat as both a runner and wr out of the backfield. Still not convinced? How about Terrell Davis and John Elway? For all of Elway's masterful brilliance as one of the best QBs to ever play the game, he didn't win a SB until the Broncos front office gave him a true all around RB to play with. By adding a viable RB to the Colts backfield not only are you adding a home-run threat to Indy's backfield, but you're also addressing the team's future successor to Gore.
At 14 the Colts will have their pick of some really good backs, and since it's highly unlikely that the kind of defensive day one difference maker will be available when the Colts are on the clock the smart choice would be to take one of the top RBs, especially if someone like Joe Mixon or Dalvin Cook is still on the board. Mixon in particular will probably fall due to character issues, but remembering what GM Chris Ballard said about drafting rookies that "pop off the tape consistently," Mixon definitely does just that. If not for his 2014 assault incident, Mixon would be in the top 2 conversation as the best RB prospect coming out of college. His size, speed and vision are rare combinations, reminiscent of Adrian Peterson except with better hands. I know he probably won't be drafted in the 1st round but if there's any chance the Colts can get him in the second, all reasonable options should be considered. All that said, does that mean the Colts don't get their defense fixed by drafting another weapon for Andrew Luck? The short and long answer is "No" it doesn't. What a lot of people seem to forget is that the Colts have over 50 million in cap space. With that kind of cheddar they can go "Costco" on ya via free-agency. I've said this before and will say it again. You don't draft a defensive player 1-15 unless he's a day one difference maker as a starter. You don't draft "projects" that high. You draft day one starters. If you can't get a starter when you're on the clock that high then you have to go BPA. I know some fans will ask: "But what about protecting Luck with drafting another O-lineman?" Again, if you can't get a day one difference maker even at that position are you really addressing it, especially since there's no guarantee that said player will ever develop into a starter? If the Colts do indeed draft a RB not only are the probable impact possibilities greater at RB, but adding a versatile threat to the backfield would not only add more juice to the offense, but even that would protect Luck better because teams won't be able to tee off and focus solely on him. Make no mistake, I'm not saying that my formula is the only one that's correct out there. Still, I have a hunch that the team's new GM will utilize free agency to fill more holes than many might expect, and that's regardless of the references he made regarding the draft at his introduction about "Growing your own." At any rate this should be an interesting off-season. One I think many of us can't wait to get underway.
Andrew Luck is the new 140 Million dollar man and highest paid player in the NFL. His new contract extension has raised a lot of eyebrows around the NFL. Even before his massive new deal, Andrew Luck has had his fair share of critics throughout his short NFL career, many of whom stem from the sheer amount of hype that surrounded him from his days as the top QB in the nation at Stanford. The way scouts and NFL personalities around the league drooled over everything he did from throwing passes into the wind to simply tying his shoes both polarized him as well as brought out criticism (No matter how unfairly) from people who I can only imagine were just sick of hearing his name. Some NFL players even went on record to say in so many words that Luck wasn't the best QB in his draft class. Broncos standout CB Chris Harris is one of those players, and said in a post game interview on the heels of a 26-20 overtime loss to the Seahawks,that Wilson is a better QB than Luck.
Luck has been under fire and unfairly criticized for his play last season. Most of the negative opinions have been misguided at best because there are several contributing factors that weren't taken into account as to why he had such a bad year, like the fact that he has been playing behind one of the worst O-lines in the league ever since he arrived. That gamble by the front office finally backfired on them last season as Luck missed the majority of the season with an assortment of injuries. Although at times when he did play he was a turnover machine, he also didn't have the kind of running game or defense that Russell Wilson has in Seattle either. For all of the adulation thrown Wilson's way, the fact that he hasn't been in a situation where he needs to carry the team on his back by himself gets lost in translation. Lets be honest here. The Seahawks have been a well oiled machine from the moment Wilson arrived and had enough pieces already in place to be a force regardless of who their QB was. Luck hasn't had that luxury and therefore it's unfair to judge him off of what Wilson has been able to accomplish during their time in the league when Luck hasn't had the same level of talent to work with that Wilson has. I know some will make the argument that Wilson plays in a tougher division and that by contrast Luck has had the benefit of playing in what many view as the weakest division in football. Still, Luck has beaten the best teams in the league when facing stiffer competition with the only team he hasn't cracked the code yet being the Pats.
Outsiders have even gone as far as to say the Texans will win the AFC South this year with the addition of Brock Osweiler. I for one am sticking to my guns and saying that if the Colts O-line is improved, not only will they be able to play with anyone, but will also be a SB caliber team. Recognizing the importance of having a capable O-line is paramount to becoming an elite team in the NFL. The league has a long standing history of this simple rule of thumb. The Steelers of the and Bears of the 80s. The Cowboys, 49ers and Giants of the 90s. All of these teams had offensive lines that could protect them along with the running game to back them up as a bye product of the talent they had up front to play with. When you have an elite QB to play with an above average O-line, that puts you head and shoulders above the competition that can't match you in those two categories. The Colts are going to surprise a lot of people this year. Luck and his new O-line will be the main reasons why.
The Colts haven't played a single down yet in 2016, yet that hasn't stopped some of their biggest critics from making predictions on how they think the Colts will finish this season. Some critics use last season's failures on a team as a projection of how it will do the following season (For whatever reason I don't know why). In the case of the Colts, it seems that a lot of those critics are bumpin the horns of our AFC South rivals because of their offseason moves; with the majority of them jumping on the Texans bandwagon. Like most Colts fans, I don't think Brock Osweiler has done enough in this league to make me think that he's the "missing link" for Houston. Let's be honest here. We're talking about a guy when given the chance, couldn't make enough of an impression on the Broncos coaches to give him the reins for the rest of the season over a broken down Peyton Manning who was practically a half step away from playing in a wheel chair, with the best defense in the league... Osweiler might be the QB Houston's been waiting for. He might also be a game manager who's a step above anything they've had at the position ever since their existence. In spite of how he turns out one thing can't be mistaken; Luck is still the best QB in the division. Period. That in and of itself could be enough to be the difference between where any of the Colts division rivals finish this season. At least that assumption can be backed up by the fact that with Luck healthy for a full season the Colts have finished at the top of the AFC South.
That brings us to one Heath Evans of "NFL Now." According to Evans, the Colts not only won't compete in the AFC South, he doesn't even think it will be close:
Now anyone who's not only followed the Colts, but also follows this game knows how important your offensive line is, especially when it comes to protecting your most valuable player on the team. If you look at the long list of some of the greatest QBs who've ever played the game you'll notice that all of the one's that have won multiple SBs also played behind solid O-lines. The presence of those O-lines not only opened up doors for their respective QBs to do well, but also provided lanes for the running game. It's no secret (apparently to everyone not named Heath Evans) that the Colts biggest issues over the past 4 years have been the lack of running game and the inability to protect Andrew Luck (Guess what we can attribute both of those problems to?). The lack of talent on the offensive line has had a trickle down effect on the rest of the team. The offense's inability to consistently move the ball on the ground hurt both the passing game as well as the defense. When your defense has to go right back on the field due to either turnovers or the offense continually having to punt, they stop performing at their best as fatigue sets in.
So while NFL personalities like Heath Evans might think that the offseason moves by the Colts was "nothing to get excited about," even the average football fan can acknowledge the impact of what having a good O-line can do for you. Even though a lot of Colts fans might be upset at Evan's assessment, keep in mind that whenever you see material from analysts like Heath that seemingly come in practically out of nowhere from left field with absolutely no basis for validity, they are nothing more than than opinions intended for one purpose and one purpose only: "Shock value." Like Skip Bayless, even Heath doesn't believe the nonsense that he just predicted regarding the Colts. In fact, instead of adding any juice to their claims by clicking on their articles (or videos), there's a better way to get them to tell you how they "really" feel about the Colts. Write them a letter and tell them to put their money where their mouth is. If you bet Heath Evans $50,000 I guarantee you he won't take the bet, and the fact that he won't take the bet will prove how much he doesn't believe his own predictions.
When the Polian regime exited Indy, team Owner Jim Irsay let it be known early that whom ever he brought in would be tasked with winning multiple SBs given the fact the team had "lucked up" (No pun intended) in the chance to go from one HOF franchise QB to potentially another with addition of Andrew Luck. Dubbed as the "most NFL ready QB since John Elway" entering the 2012 draft, the kid didn't take long making good on those claims as he would go on to lead a Colts team coming off of a disappointing 2-14 season into the playoffs that no one saw making much of an improvement from their disastrous 2011 campaign. The Colts would go on to make the post season 3 of the 4 next years as well with Luck leading the charge. Yet with the coming of his new "monster deal" pending, question marks regarding how the Colts would be able to surround him with enough talent using limited resources due to the impact of his contract are at the forefront all over again.
One of the biggest regrets Owner Jim Irsay made known was the team's "failure" to win more SBs during the Manning era. Don't let wardrobe fool you. Irsay is as competitive as they come, and wants to win as badly as the most devoted fanatic does. So his disappointment of what the rings he feels were "left on the table" under Manning is more than understandable. That's why he went in the direction he did with hiring a coach like Chuck Pagano. Chuck's mantra of wanting to "build the monster" comes from his (bully) days with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens and Steelers are two of the toughest teams in the NFL, and if the Ravens were in just about any other division in the AFC they would be perennial playoff contenders even more than what they've currently been. All-pro WR Steve Smith upon his arrival in Baltimore shared a quote he read on the wall of the Raven's defensive meeting room that I found very interesting, especially in how it relates to coach Pagano's philosophy:
A bully takes your lunch, breaks your spork, and takes your juice. On the field a bully beats you up, and in the game of football that initial battle starts at the game's most critical point of attack: "The line of scrimmage." Both the Steelers and the Ravens are teams known for being strong up front, especially on defense. They've also been teams that are built with the intent of wrecking havoc on opposing QBs consistently. They might not always end up with the best records in at the end of the season, but come playoff time they are built to go on the road and impose their will on whomever they face. In both 2005 and 2009 the Steelers won the SB entering the playoffs as a wildcard. The Ravens won the 2000 SB as well as the 2012 SB as a Wildcard as well. Those accomplishments speak more to the toughness of their division than it does to their regular season records.
Today the AFC North without question is one of the league's toughest divisions in the NFL, with 3 of the 4 teams in that division all being playoff caliber franchises. So what makes both of these franchises so successful? They're both "bullies" in the post season. In order to be a bully, you have to have the kind of players on both sides of the ball who can push their opponents around. Andrew Luck might be a better QB than either Ben Roethlesburger or Joe Flacco, but for the most part both of Roethlesburger and Flacco have been on better teams. You could also say the same thing about Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. I take nothing away from Wilson and his skill set as QB, but when you compare the kind of team that he's been on vs that of Luck, without question Wilson has had the luxury of not having the burden of carrying his team on his shoulders week in and week out. Put Andrew Luck on the Seahawks and I guarantee you that the same critics who dropped him from 85 spots on the "NFL's top 100" due to last season would have him #1 on that list in spite of the year Cam Newton had last season. If the Colts hope to have any success at making good on Irsay's desire to win "multiple SBs" with Luck at the helm, the front office is going to have to build the kind of team that can accomplish that goal via the draft. Quite frankly, this should have been the approach from day one of Luck's career in Indy. Let's hope the latest approach the Colts have shown in this year's draft class is a start of more things to come. At the very least, if the latest additions to the O-line pan out to be what the team intends them to be, the Colts should be a very scary opponent for the 2016 season. From the reports that are coming out of OTA's, it looks like "The Monster" finally has some claws.
Let's take a trip back down memory lane. Remember when Bill Polian was the Colts GM? His first pick was a no brainer in picking "some guy" out Tennessee to play QB who would later go on to be one of he game's best ever at the position. Not many were picking Peyton Manning to slip by the Colts even with all the hype surrounding Ryan Leaf (Remember him?) as the only QB who was constantly mentioned along side his leading up to that infamous 98 draft. No, what Bill Polian and his staff did the following year is what gave a shining example of how a good GM earns his paycheck when they chose unknown commodity from "The U" in RB Edgerrin James. For those who don't remember, Ricky Williams was viewed as the "best RB in the draft" according to everyone, except those camped on West 56th street. The "nashing of the teeth" and "dismay" of Indy fans was short lived as it didn't take long for them to see how special James was as both a RB and WR out of the backfield. Another "under the radar" pick was a little known Safety out of Iowa in Bob Sanders. Drafted in the 2rd round, Sanders would go on and earn a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the game, and one of its most feared. The only drawback on Sanders was his inability to stay healthy. Even more impressive was 5th round draft pick Rober Mathis. We all know how he turned out. All 4 of these picks were great examples of GMs earning their money in the war room of the NFL draft as they would all go on to become cornerstones of the franchise for years to come.
2015 is a year many of us would like to forget with regard to the Colts as it was one riddled with injuries to a squad that basically underachieved given the talent that it had available, especially on the offensive side of the ball. When the Colts front office selected Phillip Dorsett with the 29th overrall pick in the draft, in spite of the surprise to many, the overall perception from critics and analysts alike was that at the very least the Colts would be an offensive Juggernaut as Dorsett would only add to an embarrassment of riches QB Andrew Luck would have at his already potent disposal of weapons. that never materialized because the Colts had a more vital position that wasn't properly addressed: "The Offensive line." Andrew Luck not only got hurt, but also missed games for the 1st time in his young NFL career because of it. Time and time again we've all heard the coaches say "We are going to build monster on W 56th street." When you think of a monster, you think of a team that's a "bully" on both sides of the ball. A team that beats you up and out physicals you with a punishing running game on offense and a front seven that get's after the opposing team's QB on defense. A bully is a team that dominates the line of scrimmage and wins consistently in the trenches.
When you look at the history of past SB winners, there's a reason why you see teams like the Steelers, Ravens, 49ers, Cowboys and even the current Seahawks consistently as either winners of multiple championships, or in the biggest games of the season come playoff time. All of those teams carry the same physical traits mentioned previously. They also prove another valuable point of reference: "When you have a franchise QB you don't have to surround him with 1st round talent at every skill position in order for him to be successful." A QB like Andrew Luck doesn't need A-1 talent at WR for him to be effective. Heck, look at what Cam Newton is doing in Carolina with the likes of Ted Ginn Jr. For those of you who missed that, Ted Ginn Jr is Carolina's #1 WR, and the Panthers are in the NFCCG... When you have a franchise QBs make the talent around them better. We've seen Manning do this many times when he was here in Indy during seasons like 2010 in with Blair White and Taj Smith filling in for an injured Marvin Harrison. Manning elevated the play of talent around him and led the Colts to a 10-6 record en-route to the playoffs. You can argue that the Colts had sub par competition from playing in the AFC South, but that still doesn't excuse the approach that should be used in building the current roster.
As I said before, Andrew Luck doesn't need the best WRs money can buy in order to make the Colts a championship caliber team. All he needs is a team that's built to win the battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball. If you give Andrew Luck a the very least a top 10-15 defense with an o-line that can keep him clean, the Colts will be in the conversation for deep playoff runs for years to come. If you give Luck o-line that can no only protect him, but also a defense better than top 10, you've got a dynasty.
From the moment Irsay let Future Hall of Famer and fan favorite Peyton Manning walk into free agency, the mercurial Colts team owner has had his sites on outdoing the accomplishments the team made with Manning under center. Irsay's been on record in saying that he felt the team should have won multiple championships during the Manning era, but failed to do so because of the way his team was structured. In placing 90% of the team's success squarely on the shoulder's of it's star QB the Colts won more games over a decade than most other franchises could only dream of. Although that approach seemed to work during the regular season, it all amounted to nothing in the playoffs as the Colts were consistently man-handled by teams like the Pats, Steelers, and Chargers. These three teams shared the same formula for success: "A stout defense, strong running game, and steady QB play. After Irsay made comments on how he expects the Colts to win at least two Superbowls with Luck under center you would think that the #1 priority going into this year's draft would be to address the teams biggest need: "The defense." That's why the selection of Phillip Dorsett was so surprising to most fans and sports personalities alike. Although the Dorsett pick may very well be "insurance" against the possible free agent departure of stud T.Y. Hilton, GM Ryan Grigson may regret choosing not to trust the available talent he already has on the roster who in the eyes of many feel could more than capably fill the hole that Hilton most assuredly would leave behind.
I've said before in conversations that when you have a top notch QB the caliber of an Andrew Luck, you don't have to surround him with "home run" players at every possible position. Players like Luck have the ability to make those around him better, especially when you have a scheme that can take advantage of it's opponents on game day. One of the best examples of this I like to use is the 2000 Ravens, one of the best defensive teams to ever step on the field. That team was able to win a Superbowl with mediocre play from the QB position. Trent Dilfer was never asked to "win the game" for the Ravens. His job was to manage it by simply moving the chains and not turning the ball over. Dilfer didn't have anything special to write home about at the WR position. In fact the only consistent threat he had on that side of the ball was TE Shannon Sharpe and RB Jamal Lewis. Think for a second how many rings that team would have won if Luck was under center. Can you imagine the possibilities?
If the Colts would've taken this approach from the beginning of Luck's career, primarily year two of his campaign this team at the very least would not resemble the one that's been man-handled by opponents like the Pats. Instead of making this team more like previous offensive juggernauts like the Manning-led Colts squads or the Rams of the Kurt Warner era, it simply needs to be more like the "Cardiac Kids" of 95. That team was led by QB Jim Harbaugh, a punishing one-two punch at RB with Lamont Warren and Zack Crockett, and backed up by a top 5 defense that was one of the league's best kept secrets all year long. Jim Harbaugh is not the QB that Andrew Luck is by any stretch, but with the pieces that were in place around him, he didn't have to be. Same goes for Jim McMahon of the 85 Bears. Even though that team only won one SB under McMahon, that was due more to the coaching staff not knowing how to maximize the talent they had at their disposal than it did with the QB under center. Jim McMahon isn't Luck either, but the point I'm making with all this is that you don't need to surround a QB who's above average with exceptional talent at the skill position in order to be successful at the highest level. Just give him a team that can be a bully in the post season. Give him a team that can run the ball when it wants to, stop the run when it needs to, and pressure the QB when it has to. Those are the true ingredients of a championship pedigree. If Luck is ever given that kind of team, the Colts will win a lot more than "2 Superbowls." Luck is good enough to bring home 4 or more when it's all said and done. If he doesn't, then Irsay will have come up short again with another franchise QB at his disposal.
As we inch closer to the start of the 2015 season, the NFL finds itself at the center of yet another scandal. It's safe to say the 2014 season was not a good look for the NFL. From the mishandling of Ray Rice's and Greg Hardy's domestic violence cases to the infamous "Deflate Gate," the NFL has been a den full of mishaps. All of this has been happening under the watch of current commissioner Roger Goodell. While it seems that most of the owners have been happy with his job thus far, some within NFL circles haven't been pleased with many of the latest scandals that he's obviously mishandled. According to a report from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, at least one official has spoken up about it, pointing out the fact that the league had a chance to stop Deflate Gate well before it happened:
"As one league source with no connection to the present controversy explained it to PFT in January, past Commissioners like Paul Tagliabue would have informed the Patriots of the situation," wrote Florio. "[Tagliabue would have] warned them that the NFL is paying attention, that the league reserves the right to check the air pressure in the footballs during the game, and that any funny business would be met with a decidedly unfunny reaction from the league office."
This official, who spoke anonymously given his position and the sensitivity of the subject sheds light on a problem that has been going on for quite some time now. In fact, we can go on to say that the NFL's lack of accountability has become a serious problem since the beginning of Goodell's tenure as commissioner. This is even more evident given how Well's "report" from the Deflate Gate investigation comes out "after" the draft when we all know the league had this information well in advance and could have dealt out punishment to the Patriots before the draft, possibly taking some of their picks away. Richard Sherman stated last year that the "NFL has a conflict of interest" between Goodell and his "friendship" with some of the owners, Robert Craft in particular.
"Will they be punished? Probably not," Sherman said. "Not as long as [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell and [Patriots owner] Robert Kraft are still taking pictures at their respective homes..." -Richard Sherman
It's no secret that many around the league feel that not much will come of these latest allegations against the Patriots in terms of a viable punishment, and with the growing sentiment that there's a lack of accountability between the NFL with regard to punishing owners in the same manner that players are punished (see time frame of when the results of Deflate Gate were released vs that dealt to players) this will only increase the probability of teams taking up the "Patriot way" of obtaining a championship. "If you're not cheating your not trying." Who can blame them? If you can win the big one by cheating or manipulating the rules without getting the ultimate prize taken from you why not? The only way to put an end to all this ridiculous nonsense is to adopt the system of punishment seen at the college level. In College teams who are caught doing anything illegal of the magnitude oN what we see in the NFL lose their championship. Depending on the situation some may even lose scholarships of top recruits. I guarantee if you take away a ring from the Pats you will never see them or any other team for that matter "cheat" again. The fact that the league saw fit to make a rule change regarding their abuse of the "eligible/ineligible" Wr rules is just the latest fiasco in how the Patriots have yet again found themselves at the center of controversy. No team in the history of the game has been more responsible for changing the face of the NFL than NE has, and I don't mean in a good way either. It's time for the madness to stop. If the league has any "integrity" whatsoever, they should strip the Pats of their latest trophy and suspend Brady for at least 5 games. That's the right message to send to an organization that is not a "1st time offender."
In a previous article I covered the Colts 1st round selection of Phillip Dorsett and offered my analogy behind the purpose of why the front office took him over addressing more pressing needs, particularly on defense. With players like Landon Collins and Malcom Brown still on the board, the Colts opted for the fleet footed Dorsett to shore up a WR group that in the eyes of many is already loaded. The timing of this pick couldn't be more impeccable when you take in Hilton on the edge of a contract year coming up. Hilton didn't sound too pleased when asked for his thoughts on the pick:
“there was nothing he could do about that,” in regards to the pick. He (Hilton) went on to say that “(it was) a pick they thought they needed, so I guess that’s what we needed to help this team."
So is it just me, or does anyone else get the feeling that Dorsett was brought on board to "soften the value" of Hilton to either get him to resign at a lower agreement or replace him if Hilton decides to go play for more money elsewhere? When prodded on this subject both Grigson and coach Pagano reiterated that they "stuck to the board" and took the BPA. Come on guys. We weren't born yesterday. It makes no sense to have two players with identical skill sets at a position that's clearly not a need, and for those who want to make the argument that "Johnson is 34 years old and Dorsett was brought in to be his replacement" need I remind you that the team already has a stud in Donte Moncrief as well as the addition of Duron Carter. What was the purpose of bringing him on? Drafting yet another WR (especially in the 1st round) clearly doesn't send the message that you have confidence in him being a major component of your offense, especially anytime soon. Carter also stated that he chose the Colts under the impression that he would be catching balls from Luck. Well as things look right now it doesn't seem that he will be seeing the field anytime soon. Are you going to put him in the rotation with Hilton, Johnson, Dorsett, and Moncrief? What the Colts do between using Dorsett and Moncrief should be interesting to say the least. With this luxury of weapons Pep Hamilton may have to ditch the two TE sets in order to utilize the stable of WRs he has at his disposal.
What we are seeing right now with Grigson is a new trend amongst GMs in which they take advantage of the CBA by replacing players approaching the end of their rookie deals via the draft. The only players who aren't viewed as expendable once their rookie contracts are up are franchise QBs. Although I like Dorsett and view him as a special talent, I have to admit that I wasn't fully on board with this year's 1st round choice. After sleeping on it for a few days I am still not fully on board, especially given the fact that the team could have addressed so many other needs with better players on defense who were available. I don't argue the fact that Dorsett is an absolute stud. However, Andrew Luck doesn't need the best Wrs on the planet to be successful. Luck is a good enough QB that he can make average players around him better than what they really are (see Colts offensive line). Will the Colts be better on offense with this pick? That's a given. Will they be a better team overall? That's to be determined.
Once again the Colts sent shockwaves throughout the NFL world with their 1st round latest selection via the 2015 NFL draft. With safety and D-line being the main talk entering the draft within the front office, just about everyone in and outside of Indy had the Colts taking either Landon Collins or Malcolm Brown still on the board. Yet the Colts took former Hurricane blazer Phillip Dorsett and turned the Indy fanbase upside down, with many gnashing their teeth & calling for GM Ryan Grigson’s head on a platter.
On the surface this pick appears to be a wasted one given the fact the team is already loaded at the position, especially with the additions of Andre Johnson, and Duron Carter joining an already formidable stable of targets that include T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and TEs Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen from last year. However, there is one good reason why the front office made this move, and that’s to provide insurance at WR if T.Y. Hilton bolts via free agency after the Colts make Luck the league’s highest paid QB. As scary as that may sound, Losing Hilton is a very real possibility when taking into account all of the mouths the front office will have to feed in the next two years.
"You have to be smart about it,” Grigson said. “We're always forward thinking. Before we make any type of move, [we] are looking down the line. Because you don't want to hamstring yourself and you don't want to lose your franchise. So, obviously I have very smart people around me that remind me, including our owner. So we'll be smart about that and we'll make sure that we keep our best players here as best we can."
Those are the words of a man who is preparing for the “inevitable.” No matter how much we want to believe players we root for will never leave our teams, the harsh reality of the salary cap is a constant reminder that no team is exempt from the casualties of free agency. This year alone leading up to the draft should serve as proof of that reality, especially when you look at the flurry of blockbuster moves that took place. Do you think the possibility of Jimmy Graham being traded to the Seahawks ever crossed the mind of die-hard Saints fans? How about “Shady” McCoy being shipped to Buffalo? Didn’t think so. Those two moves alone should let Colts fans know that nothing can be taken for granted in this league, and with teams jockeying for position to make title runs as best they can, fans should always “expect the unexpected” during this time of year as we enter a new season.
Path To the Draft 2015: “Where Would Colts Be Now If Team Kept Hughes?”
Prior to 2012 and the beginning of the Andre Luck era, the Indianapolis Colts had one of the league’s more potent pass rushing defenses in the league. That defense was led by cornerstones Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis as that tandem routinely caused havoc on opposing offenses with regularity on Sundays. As both players reached towards the end of their careers, the Polian regime started addressing the future of the position, particularly in drafting Jerry Hughes towards the end of the 2010 draft. Hughes’ short career started off slow as he barely saw the field playing behind stalwarts Mathis and Freeney. When Grigson and Pagano were brought on board to replace Polian and company, the question marks on Hughes and his future with the Colts were at the forefront of discussion as the front office looked to shed teams’ staple 4-3 defense in order to become the smash-mouthed replica of the “bully” new coach Chuck Pagano helped build in Baltimore. In spite of Hughes’ limited playing time, he was already deemed a bust by both fans and the new front office. This led to his eventual trade to Buffalo for LB Kelvin Sheppard (Remember him?), a rare player for player swap.
A quick examination of the careers of both players will tell you who got the better end of the deal in this transaction. While Kelvin Sheppard has yet to register as a blip on the radar screen, Hughes has gone on to blossom into one the league’s better young talents at his position. Now under the guidance of new HC and Defensive guru Rex Ryan, Hughes very well may become one the leagues more feared DEs in the league. "This just in: I am really happy we signed Jerry Hughes back," Ryan said Wednesday, via Syracuse.com's Matthew Fairburn. "It's rare that you have to pull a guy from practice because he's ruining your practice. I had to pull him today."
I’ve made it no secret that I’m a big fan of Grigson and the front office currently in place. But I’ll be honest and blunt here, I think Grigson blew on this one. The one thing that held Hughes back on the Colts is the one thing that happens to be the biggest reason why his career has taken off with the Bills: “Opportunity to play consistently.” No matter what position you play in the NFL, your biggest teacher and best experience is always going to come from being on the field and in the trenches at your position. Hughes was not allotted the necessary time to develop with the Colts into the player he is now with the Bills. Giving him “spot” or “situational duty” is not the way you develop him, nor is it for any other player for that matter. When young QBs are drafted to be the future franchise players of the teams who take them, they aren’t given spot duty either. They either start right away or they start after sitting for a year or two. Hughes had the unfortunate task of playing behind two possible future HOFers, and I believe without question this stunted his growth as a player. Now in Buffalo under Rex Ryan’s tutelage he has the potential to become a monster at a position that’s still an obvious need for the team that gave up on him. Years from now NFL talking heads and fans alike will revisit this topic whenever the subject comes up of “Where are they now” with relation to Hughes and Sheppard, especially when the post season arrives. More importantly right now, the trickle down effect can even be measured by looking at the up coming draft. Had the Colts kept Hughes, their draft day needs most assuredly change as far as priorities are concerned.
Defense has been the recurring theme amongst most Colts fans and NFL personalities as we draw nearer the upcoming draft. Most of the reasoning behind that being the team's innability to stop the run when it counts against the elite teams of the league. The image of LaGarrette Blount running wild against the Colts in the AFCCG in NE has been the latest rallying cry for why the team's primary focus should be on shoring up the defensive side of the ball. Still, the more prudent move might be for the team to solidify the future of the RB position by drafting such a talent as IU's Tevin Coleman. I know this isn't exactly a popular choice amongst the masses, but it just might be a move that could take the roof off of an offense that already has some pieces on it that will keep DCs up late at night for years to come. The only real weakness on the offensive side of the ball as far as skill position is at RB depth. Even though the addition of Frank Gore gives the team a bonified running threat they haven't had since Edgerrin James, there are legitimate question marks behind him. If Gore goes down at any point in the season for an extended time I'm not sure I'm willing to trust any of the current backups to carry the load. Are you ready to trust Vick Ballard and Boom Herron? Even with both being healthy, none of them have the type of home run ability that Coleman brings to the table. Not only does Coleman have good vision and great hands, he also has legitimate 4-3 speed. What's even more remarkable is that Coleman played through a broken toe on his right foot.
IU running backs coach Deland McCullough said "Coleman left some yards on the field due to the injury" and that could have made him the top rushing back out of college. The fact is Coleman is the type of talent that won't be around in the second round when the Colts pick at 61. The Patriots have scheduled a meeting with him as we speak (You don't want to see him go there do you?). After putting on an impressive show at his recent pro day, Coleman has put himself on the radar for several teams including the Colts. There is really only one player (Based on need mind you) in this year's draft I would take over Coleman in the 1st round if he were available and that player would be Safety Landon Collins due to the obvious team need at the position. However Collins most likely won't be their when the Colts pick as he will probably end up in Pittsburgh especially now that all world Safety Troy Palamolu has retired.
With free agency winding down and we shift focus to the 2015 NFL Draft, there were quite a few surprises (and shockers) that few outside of their respective organizations saw coming. While the Colts made significant acquisitions that should surely help them be amongst the elite again this year, without question the Philadelphia Eagles are this year’s bread winners for making the boldest moves. Sending LeSean McCoy to the Bills for LB Kiko Alonzo was the blockbuster of the offseason and left NFL and talking heads alike scratching their heads along with all-world Saints TE Jimmy Graham going to the Seahawks being a close second. Both of these moves were done in order to become more balanced on both sides of the ball and in the case of the Eagles and Saints, these were moves both could afford given the fact that they are two of the league’s premier offensive juggernauts yet in contrast were also two of the worst defenses on the planet.
Towards the start of the free agent period there was big talk of top free agent prize Ndamukong Su possibly going to the Colts. At one point he was even dubbed a “shoe in” to be headed to Indy before things tailed off and reports came in with the team taking a “pass” on him due to question of whether he would fit “scheme wise.” I believe that Grigson and company did the right thing in taking a pass on the mercurial D-lineman because the cost of bringing him in would have limited their ability to address the rest of their needs via free agency. Su coming to the Colts had “Albert Haynesworth 2.0” written all over it. Su is not a 3-4 nose tackle and his skill set is best used in the type of 4-3 scheme he was used in during his career with the Lions. That said, another and more telling reason the front office didn’t go after the biggest fish available is due to the talent they already have in house. One such player is Aaron Morgan, dubbed by Grigson as his offseason sleeper. The intriguing thing about Morgan is that according to Grigson, he had only one practice with the team last year before being placed on IR/Future Reserve contract. That must have been one hell of a practice because the front office decided to keep him on the team.
Morgan is a guy to keep an eye as the season approaches. Along with former Bronco FA pickup Nate Irving he should be in the mix with a LB core that should be much improved over last year.
Three more players to look at are NT Josh Chapman, Kelcy Quarles and Montori Hughes. Grigson sent waves through the fan base when he said that he and coach Pagano like the young guys already on the team along the D-line.
“We have guys that are big, athletic guys that can run, but they’ve got to develop and they have to come through,” Grigson said of the young linemen. “I don’t think they have a choice. None of us have a choice. “They have to be (ready).” These guys better be, because there are already rumors of this possibly being Coach Pagano and Grigson’s last year with the team. I know it sounds ridiculous given the recent success of the franchise under the new regime, but Irsay is an ultra-competitive owner, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t want to out-do his previous success under the Manning era in his quest to win “multiple SBs.” I’m rooting for both Pagano and Grigson and think that if they are let go not reaching the SB this year it would be a major mistake by Irsay. Grigson is one of the best in the biz in scouting talent and has put together one of the better talent scout teams in the league to date. No matter what you say about the moves that brought in Trent Richardson and Laron Landry, those failures shouldn’t out-weigh the T.Y. Hiltons, Donte Montcriefs, Vontae Davis’s, Coby Fleeners and Dwayne Allens who were brought and have become cornerstones of the franchise.
Sunday's win was a bitter sweet one. Due to the loss of stud receiver and locker room leader Reggie Wayne for the season, beating the Broncos came at a costly price. It's not easy for any team to continue the same level of success offensively after losing a player of Wayne's caliber. Still, this loss provides yet another opportunity for someone on this team to be the "next man up." Could it be DHB? LaVon Brazill? How about Griff Whalen? You can bet Grigson is on the horn right now sending out feelers to other GMs as I write this. That said, I have a feeling that this could go one or two ways. For starters, I think this latest setback will create an opportunity to feature DHB in ways we haven't seen all year. Heyward Bey had his best outing last Sunday night in catching 4 passes for 44 yards and a touchdown and also adding a 30-yard rush on an end around. Could this be a sign of things to come? Last Sunday night was definitely a step in that direction. I've always liked DHB's physical abilities on the field. Now that he has a top 5 QB to work with for the 1st time in his career hopefully he will finally reach his true potential.
As far as trade scenarios go, I wouldn't be surprised to see if Grigs makes a run at Miles Austin. With the emergence of standout rookie Terrence Williams and slot receiver gem Cole Beasley, the Cowboys are loaded at the WR position and may be looking to unload Austin. He's been phased out of the offense and used sparingly since the emergence of Williams and Beasley. Austin would fit in very well with our offense due to not only his route running and speed, but also his down field blocking in the run game. Austin still has deep speed and at 6-2, 216 lbs is a bigger target than T.Y. Hilton. The arrival of Austin would allow Hilton to play the slot and would virtually cause a matchup nightmare for opponents on a weekly basis. A WR of his caliber would do wonders for the running game. For starters, if the Colts went to a more spread out offense, I believe it would open the running lanes for Trent Richardson. Richardson has not been as effective as he could be because the Colts have not disguised how they are going to run him when he's in the game. Whenever Pep puts T-Rich in, he runs him out of traditional sets that leave nothing to the imagination for defenses to figure out.Teams are still putting 8-9 men in the box whenever Richardson is on the field and the Colts have yet to exploit that. With Wayne out for the season the time is now for Richardson to become a focal point of this offense. Although the Colts have been impressive in winning games against the elite teams of the league, for them to reach the NFL's biggest stage the running game will need to be better than it has been thus far. That means putting Trent Richardson in better positions to be successful than he has been previously. The loss of Reggie Wayne doesn't have to be a handicap for the rest of this season. Like the Pacers losing Granger for the year and finding a gem in the emergence of Paul George, the Colts can do the same with one or two of the pieces they already have. For some, adversity brings out the "quit." For others, it brings out the "fight." Time will tell which one will surface for the Colts in the face of this latest setback.
Well it's been almost a week since the Manning led Broncos took the field to open the season in shellacking the World champion Ravens on Thursday Night Football to kick of the season. Manning has been and still is the talk of the town after tossing for 7 TDs in that game. While the critics and fans alike still gush over Manning and the Broncos, I challenge all to take a closer look at what "really" took place in that game. Were the Ravens really that bad or were the Broncos really "that good?" One of my favorite quotes from coach Pagano is: "You're never as good or as bad as you look." It's easy to get caught up in the "That's Peyton freakin Manning" thought process of it when all you do is look at the final outcome. For me, I like to look at the intangibles of what went into to the final score.
Up until the injury to Jacoby Jones, the Ravens were right there with the Broncos. Denver's vaunted defense was not stopping Flacco and the Ravens offense as they moved the ball well throughout the 1st half. Once Jones got hurt on the punt return in the second quarter, the dynamics of the game changed. From that point on Denver was able to roll their coverage toward Torrey Smith and all but erase him from the game as Baltimore's lack of WR depth was magnified. Flacco couldn't get the offense moving as Denver was able to send more pressure against a Ravens offense that only had one legit WR on the field. When Brandon Stokely and Dallas Clark become your primary weapons on offense I don't care who you're playing against or who your QB is: "You're in trouble."
With his defense able to terrorize the opposition, Manning went on a tear. Couple that with the fact that playing in Mile High Stadium is one of the most difficult stadiums to play in for visitors due to the altitude and you could pretty much see the writing on the wall. With no Anquan Boldin as a safety valve, Joe Flacco had his work cut out for him, especially after losing Jones. Make no mistake, the Broncos are a very solid football team this year, and I can see why many are picking them to represent the AFC in this year's SB. However, I still think that there is a lot of football to be played yet. In my observation of the Broncos, they look a lot like the Pats of last year offensively, but with a better defense. That said, I'll bet many of you are asking, how do you stop a team like that? Well, you've already seen the answer and here's how.
Even though the NFL has made rule changes that benefit the offense in order to boost scoring, the formula for stopping high powered offenses like the Broncos is still the same: "Be physical." When you can't get to an opposing team's QB, you abuse his WRs once they catch the ball. As I watched Manning torch the Ravens secondary time and time again with short to intermediate passes to Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, I couldn't help being reminded of how much the Ravens missed Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. If Reed was still back there Peyton would not make those throws with the success he had on Thursday because Reed would either pick them off or knock the snot out of whoever caught a pass in his area. That's how you stop a pass happy offense like the one Denver has. You be physical with them, knock their WRs off their routes and hit them when they catch the ball. Sooner or later those WRS will start hearing footsteps and start dropping passes. The Colts have the secondary to match up with the Broncos. With Laron landry and Antoine Bethea patrolling the middle of the field do you think Manning will test them often? When he does, do you think those WRs won't be looking for where Landry is on every play?
For all the A ratings given to Denver's aerial attack, they still lack the one thing every championship team needs in the post season: A running game. Monte Ball and Ronnie Hillman don't strike fear in the hearts of anyone around the league. That said, if Denver doesn't find a running game at some point, I believe their 2013 season will end the same way their 2012 season did: "Ring-less."
Game two is now in the books for the horseshoes and the glowing accolades for Andrew Luck are still coming in. Bob Kravitz even wrote an article called: "Keep your power running game. "Give me Andrew Luck throwing the ball." While Luck looked good on national TV vs the Giants, the much ballyhooed running game didn't. A lot of Colts fans share Kravitz' opinion given the fact that Luck definitely satisfies the those who still suffer from the "Manning" hangover and since Luck reminds so many of us of Peyton with his play on the field. Well for those of you who are thinking the Colts will indeed forfeit their approach of implementing a power running game, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. That approach isn't going anywhere in the foreseeable near future. How do I know this? Simple.
There's one thing that new OC Pep Hamilton and coach Chuck Pagano have in common: "Pride." If you listen to coach Pags when he's addressing the media on team news, it's not hard to see the difference between how he talks about the offense vs how he goes about discussing the defense. Coach Pagano "talks" about the offense. He beams over the defense. In a recent interview with Indystar beat writer Zac Keefer coach Pags said: “We’re going to be a darn good defense,” Pagano said Monday. “The guys can feel it, and can start to see it.” As the former DC of the Ravens this should be of no surprise. Pagano wants the stamp of this team to be the defense. Pep Hamilton shares that same kind of passion but for the offensive side of the ball. In spite of how good Luck is at QB, Pep wants to bludgeon opponents into submission with a punishing ground attack that opens up the field for the pass. Pep is not the type of guy who will go "willingly into the night" to appease his opponents on game day. He wants to force his will on the opposition. It's what he was known for at Stanford and wants to continue with Indy. He wants the Colts to make their competition "skip to his beat" and not the other way around. That said, he isn't going to scrap the approach to the running game one iota. If anything, Grigson will bring in more help on the O-line in order to make that happen before the Colts change their approach to Hamilton's system. I for one don't think that will happen though because the bodies we need to fix the run game are already here by way of the draft. Come mid-season, I believe the Colts will start to resemble the battering ram of an offense that Hamilton envisioned when he took his job with the horseshoes. The days of "small" and "quick" players are over for this franchise. The new regime has spoken, and they want a "monster."
There have been several debates over the legacy of the Polian regime. Many have sited the past success with other teams along with the current success the Colts have had under the Polians as a barometer to determine how well (Or not well) they did their job. For me personally, I feel that Polian did his best work as a GM when he was with the Carolina Panthers. I say that because when I look at the teams he helped build, from Buffalo to Indy the most balanced team of all three was the Panthers. They were solid on both sides of the ball. Buffalo was an offensive juggernaut. Much like the Bills, the Colts were also a high-powered offensive team. The Bills went to 4 SBs during his tenure there but lost all of them. The Colts went to 2 and won one. The common thread between both of these franchises is that they both never achieved the success they could have because neither had a defense that could win games for them.
Getting to the SB is no accomplishment if you don't leave winning it's most prized possession: "A ring." Going to a SB and losing it is like going to Disney Land and watching everyone else enjoy the rides. That's pretty much what the Bills did for their 4 SB appearances. They were fun to watch on offense, but when it came down to the games played on the biggest stage they always came up short. Ditto for the Colts. The Bills and the Colts both had 1st ballot HOFers at the QB position. What hurt Polian's success was his dependence solely upon those QBs. People have been debating on whether or not Bill Polian was a good GM for the Colts and I want to put to rest the answer to that question. The answer is no. This is a topic that can not and should not be answered with wins and losses. It's not a topic that should be answered by what they "have done." That topic should be answered by what they "should have done." Peyton Manning is heavily considered by many as one of the all-time greats to ever play at his position. That being said, he suffered from the same shortcomings that Barry Sanders suffered from: "A front office that was more content with ticket sales than post season production."
That contentment from the front office kept them from taking the initiative to put the necessary pieces in place to help the players who were the faces of their franchises become multiple SB championship winners. In Manning's case, I take deeper issue with this because of what happened last year. I remember all the years watching the Colts be kings of the regular season, only to flame out by being man handled in the playoffs by teams like the Pats, Steelers, and Chargers. Back then I thought the Colts needed to get bigger, tougher, and nastier on both sides of the ball in order to take some of onus of winning games off of Manning's shoulders. I even had the opportunity to speak with Polian on the air once when he was a guest on Bob Lamey's show after the Colts had gotten beaten by the Pats for a second straight year in the playoffs. Needless to say he never took the team in that direction and continued to depend on Manning being "Superman" on Sundays. It goes without saying that formula only took us so far. Yes we did win a SB and yes we appeared in another one.
What I look at in spite of that is how many SBs we could have had if the former regime had taken the approach that the current regime is doing now. More importantly, I look at the debacle that happened last year when the team had to play without Manning for the whole season. In 2010 the Steelers had to play the 1st 4 games of the season without Ben Roethlesberger because he was suspended. They went undefeated without their starting QB. The fact that the Colts went 2-14 is a testament to how much Manning's abilities covered up how awful the Colts really were as a team. I'll say it again as I've said in my previous posts. Now is the time to be as excited in being a Colts fan as we have ever been.
With Andrew Luck, while most fans and critics keep comparing him to Manning, for me the QB he reminds me of the most is Steve Young. He has the same pocket awareness, athletic escapability, and accuracy that Young displayed during his career running some of the most high-powered, offensive attacks with the 49ers. I don't like to compare him to Manning because not only is he more athletic, but he also throws a better ball. His passes don't wobble and come out with good velocity and straight spiral. He has incredible touch for such a young QB it's hard to remember he is after all, a rookie. Andrew Luck was made to be a QB the way Barry Sanders was made to be a RB. I believe he will be on that kind of level when it's all said and done and that day will be a lot sooner than what many think. The best part about all of this? Luck will be on a "team" that will help shoulder the responsibility of winning so he won't have to do it alone.
If there's anything that can be said about the new regime running the Colts front office, it's that these guys will take a chance on players they see make plays over players who have all the hype usually associated with big names. Instead of going after high profile players who would demand big contracts, last year GM Ryan Grigson signed unheralded yet productive players like Jerrell Freeman, Corey Redding, and relied on a list of rookies who flat out produced on both sides of the ball. With the 2013 offseason under way, Grigs and company have continued that trend by beefing up the defensive side of the ball as well as adding low risk/high reward talent on the offensive side like Wr Darius Heyward Bey.
Year after year we see teams go after big named players, often depleting their wallets in doing so yet more often than not fail to get their money's worth on their investments. Decisions like this can set a team back for years. The Redskins have been the NFL's poster child in that regard for over a decade. In short, what Grigson and his staff have done thus far is nothing short of remarkable, which is why he is the reigning GM of the year. This approach has allowed the front office to fill many of the teams holes without setting themselves up for cap woes in the future.
With 245 college football programs in the US, each averaging roughly 90 players per team, I've never been one to believe in the process that seems to permeate the line of thinking of most scouts, GMs, and coaches in the NFL when it comes to their talent evaluation process of only focusing on the players who get the most burn time on the TV tube. Walter Payton, one of the best RBs to ever play the game came from a small, little known school named Jackson State. Jerry Rice came from Mississippi Valley State, another small, unheralded school. Both of these players had HOF careers. The NFL is full of players who had "big time names" in college, were drafted in the 1st round yet never lived up to the top billing they were projected to. It's also full of players who were snubbed, and overlooked yet have been better than what many of their critics thought they'd be. Alex Smith was drafted 1st overall by the Niners but Aaron Rodgers was drafted at the end of the first round (24th). The comparison of who's the better QB is not even close.
While most critics have teams like the Broncos, Niners, and Seahawks as the favorites to hoist this year's Lombardi trophy, the Colts could very well be this year's dark horse. I am gonna go out on a limb and say that I think the 2013 Colts will be just as good as the Broncos are projected to be. Maybe even better. The truth is the Colts (a team picked by many to be worse last year than they were the previous one) not only did more than double their win total, will be one of the best teams in the league while fielding a roster loaded with players that nobody is talking about. And remember, Andrew Luck was a rookie last year. The kid is only gonna get better..
I remember when this city was a basketball town. Before the Colts moved here it was all about Reggie Miller and the Pacers. It was all about the Indiana Hoosiers of college basketball. Fast forward now to the Jim Harbaugh era and the birth of the nickname "cardiac kids" for a franchise that had been mediocre at best for the majority of the time it was in Indy. Although that 1995 team lacked the flash and dash of teams filled with "superstar players," it was a team built with strong defense, a punishing running game, and a veteran QB who could make all the clutch throws when needed. In other words, the 95' squad had balance. That team was a Quinton Coryatt INT away against the Steelers from going to the SB. Had they gone, I believe that Colts team would have beaten the Cowboys and won it all as they proved by beating them the very next season in Dallas' own stadium. Now travel through time ahead again to 1998 as we go from the Harbaugh era to Manning.
Peyton Manning took this franchise to heights it had never reached before, and in essence turned the city of Indianapolis into a Football town. The Colts had arrived. After 3 unsuccessful years of trying to get past the Patriots, Manning led the Colts to their 1st SB appearance in 2006 since the franchises' move to Indy and on ahead to defeat the Bears. While many look at the accomplishments of what Peyton did during his career as a Colt, I look at what he could have accomplished had the front office he had then taken the approach that the current brass is taking now with Luck.
For all of Manning's brilliance, the reason he doesn't have more rings than he currently does now is due to the fact that he's been a one man show throughout the majority of his career in Indy. The Polian regime was content with that approach as long as the Colts kept winning and making the playoffs. Manning led one of the NFL's most prolific passing attacks in the game, and helped the Colts finish in the top 10 in nearly every passing offensive category during his entire career with the blue and white. That approach worked great for the regular season, but when the playoffs came it was a different story. The Colts owned the AFC South for nearly 10 years straight under Manning, but could do nothing with that edge come playoff time for the better part of those years. They were knocked out of the playoffs 2 times by the Patriots, twice by San Diego, once by the Steelers, twice by the Jets, and once to both the Titans and Dolphins, and most of the teams on that list were heavy underdogs to the Colts with the lone exception being the Patriots. They lost all of those games as well as a SB to the Saints for the same reason: No balance on offense, and a "bend but don't break defense" that couldn't get off the field when the game was on the line.
In a league where QBs are constantly either praised too much for team success or equally thrown under the bus for a teams' failures, the most obvious reasons behind the rise and fall of franchises are also the ones that are quickly over looked. Most analysts and sports fans alike judge a QB on how many rings he has, but if you use common sense it's not hard to see how flawed that approach is when evaluating talent. As odd as this may sound, Trent Dilfer has the same amount of rings that Manning does. Does that mean Dilfer is a shoe in for the HOF? Not even close. Keeping that same formula in mind, Ben Roethlesburger, and Tom Brady each have more rings than Manning. Would you say they are better QBs than Manning because of it? For people like myself who would say no, the question I'm often asked is "Well if you say Manning is better why does Brady and Big Ben have more playoff success than Manning does?" Easy answer. They both play for teams that are better balanced than the ones Manning has played for. Quite frankly, Brady and Roethlesburger don't have to be "Superman" every week for their teams to be successful. They both played with teams that had a solid running game and stout defenses. In fact, the reason why you haven't seen the Pats have as much success now as they had in the early 2000s is because they have strayed away from that formula (Along with Spygate). The Pats resemble the 2005 Colts now in being an offensive aerial juggernaut with a bend but don't break defense.
So what does this all mean in relation to Andrew Luck and the 2013 Colts? As I mentioned earlier, Andrew Luck has the chance to accomplish more the Manning did here by doing less. How so? Well if you have been paying attention to the direction in which Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano have been going as far as building this new current version of the Colts, you'll see that Luck won't have to play on a level that's considered "other worldly" the way Manning did week in and week out in order for the team to be competitive. The pieces that are being placed around him now will be good enough to alleviate the need for Luck to carry them. In fact, they can carry him when he has an off day. That's the importance of having a balanced team. When it's all said and done, Andrew Luck just may surpass Manning's greatness, and it will be because of the team he has around him as equally as the play required of himself as the reasons why.
With most of the other 31 teams in the NFL keeping the course of the "copycat" with them all trying to mimic the aerial attacks of today's most prolific passing offenses, coach Pagano (and a small list of others) still believes in using the basic fundamentals of success used in the past: "Running the ball and stopping the run." Many would call it "old school," but if we look at the history of SB winners, that term would hardly fit the bill. With teams like the Patriots, Broncos, and Saints all being the current "flavor of the month" as far as fielding high octane offenses, it's the teams that practiced the "old school" principles of the game who went the furthest in the post season. Baltimore was not a sexy pic to win the SB by any of the "experts" yet they are the current defending SB champs. Even now the biased east coast media's "love affair" with Brady and the Pats continues as they are the early favorites to represent the AFC in next year's SB along with the Broncos.
For the past 5 years, the black and blue division of the AFC North has been one of the more dominant divisions in football with the Steelers, Ravens, and now Bengals added to the mix of playoff contenders. What do these three teams all have in common? They are all "old school." When you look at the 2013 Colts coach Pags and Ryan Grigson are putting together, you will see them resemble teams like the Steelers and Ravens more and more as the years go on. Good, strong defense, smash mouth offense. Yet it's on the offensive side of the ball where this team can really stand apart. The Colts remind me of the Niners during the Montana era. That team was solid on both sides of the ball even though the Niners were known more for their high-powered offense over anything else. That being said, coach Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson believe in the fundamental approach that the game of football was built on. That battle has always and will continue to always be won or lost at the games' most crucial point of attack: "The line of scrimmage."
Any true NFL fan who's a student of the game knows that you don't have to look far to find examples of what has been the most successful approach to winning in the postseason vs that of the regular. We are all familiar with the term: Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. I can't think of a better example of this than the 2000 Ravens. A defense like that can allow you to win the biggest game of the year with a QB who had less talent than most backups in the league. Trent Dilfer was a "game manager." That's just another way of saying "A QB who doesn't lose games for you." Those type of QBs only thrive on teams who run the ball more than they pass it, or only pass it when they have to. Andrew Luck is light years ahead of what Dilfer would have ever been and he's better than most of today's starters now. Giving a QB of his caliber a solid running game and a good defense is down right scary when you think about it. That's why it's easy to get extremely excited about the Colts this year. Regardless of what the critics say and who Vegas dubs the "sexy pics" for this year's SB contenders, the Colts will be in the mix and are poised for a deep run into the post season for 2013.
There has been a lot of speculation on what the 2013 Luck led Colts offense will look like this year. With Bruce Arians in Arizona now fresh off his coach of the year campaign, blue nation has been wondering what his replacement will bring to the boys in blue on offense. New OC Pep Hamilton ran one of the most dynamic schemes as Stanford's head coach last year, as did the man he replaced there in Jim Harbaugh the year before he left Stanford. Under Bruce Arians, the Colts featured the long ball as the staple of the offense. so what will Hamilton bring to the mix? When asked if he would be running a west coast offense similar to that of Stanford in his first interview as a member of the Colts staff, Pep said that the Colts will be running what he called a "no coast" offense. That statement has a lot of people guessing at what that would compare too. If there is any team in the league that I think gives a good example to reference on what a scheme like this would look like, we need look no further than the 49ers.
For all intent and purposes, the Niners run a multi-headed monster that "morphs" into the scheme it needs to be in in order to exploit the weaknesses of it's opponents from week to week, and even quarter by quarter at times. One game you could see Kaepernick throw for 300+ yards through the air. Another week you could see the Niners deploy Frank Gore and a power running attack that bludgeons it's opponents to death for 170 yards on the ground. Or a game in which Kaepernick uses his legs out of the read option and beats you with both his running and his arm. Although Andrew Luck is not the speed demon that Colin Kaepernick is, he still possesses enough wheels to give opposing defenses something else to worry about.
Hamilton said in a recent interview that the Colts offense had no limits and even mentioned the possibility of using some read option sets. That comment somehow has caused quite a stir from some Colts fans that I would classify as just down right "paranoid." The quote in question reads: "There's nothing we can't do. We can incorporate some pistol concepts, which is kind of a trend, an 'en vogue' thing in the league right now. Everybody's talking about the QB option, the QB read game, the QB pistol, the pistol components that we can run. But, we'll be smart. We'll be judicious in how much we expose Andrew to taking additional hits." Nowhere in this statement did Pep say that the read option would become a staple of the Colts offense, yet it seems to be taken that way by more than a few fans here in Indy. When I read this, my initial reaction was that Hamilton wants to employ sets on offense that will keep opposing defenses on their toes. The best way you do that is to be able to "morph" as an offense into sets that constantly create mismatches on the defenses you face. If you can consistently create mismatches, you can keep opponents from figuring out what to do against you. Advantage offense. Describing a "no coast offense" would literally mean an offense with "no limits" in what you will see from it. The Colts on that side of the ball should be fun to watch, and a force to be reckoned with this year.
If you haven't read the story on Colts rookie O-lineman Hugh Thornton, you should make your way on over to Indystar.com and read the front page article on him and his journey to the NFL: http://www.indystar.com/article/20130509/SPORTS03/305090081/Colts-rookie-overcomes-murder-mother-sister-reach-NFL When the Colts initially made this pick, I really didn't get into researching his stats or anything right off the bat. I was looking at the corner back position and researching the free agent DB picks the team made instead. Then I read the article on Thornton's life which hit on the early tragic losses he endured when he was a kid. On Jan. 2, 2004, Thornton’s mother, Michele, and 8-year-old sister, Marley, were murdered during the night in their Jamaican home. Hugh, 12 at the time, was asleep in another room. His Aunt Rebecca found the bodies the following morning and woke him up screaming. Stop and think about that for a second. This kid is lucky to be alive when the murders of two of his close relatives took place just a room away. The reason this story struck a cord with me is because it hits close to home. I lost my father when I was just a kid as well. Like Thornton, I too was 12 years old. My father was gunned down and robbed while leaving a grocery store by two teenage boys who so happened to be sons of a preacher. To add insult to injury, the boys were not tried as adults and were freed a year later. Their father was a pastor of a mega church in LA, which probably played a part in the early release of his sons.
If anyone can relate to the kind of pain Hugh experienced 9 years ago, I definitely can. For me, Hugh represents the story of so many African American faces who have been through the struggle we call "life," and in spite of the circumstances we face, have risen above them in order to beat the odds. As fans, when we see players who come from what we call "the wrong side of the tracks," many of us will judge them without even knowing what their stories are. We call them "thugs," and "losers" because the only information we use to judge them by is what we gather from the news clippings we see in the papers or the perceptions we receive from Sports shows we watch. Most of us form opinions of these athletes who in truth are people we've never met. People just like you and me. We have no idea what these "Sunday heroes" go through when they are not on the football field. We have no idea what their daily lives are like when they take off the equipment. What's sad is the perception people have that says "since these players are making more money than the average Joe, that somehow entitles us to judge them with higher standards than the ones we judge ourselves with."
Although I am not an athlete, I don't agree with this point of view. I believe people are still people and there is no price tag that can or should change that. In the case of Hugh Thornton, this is just the kind of person who should not only be embraced by the city of Indianapolis, but taken under the wing of fans all around. Welcome to the Colts Hugh. You have a least one new fan who is hoping that you become one of the very best at what you do.
Posted by coltsindianapolis on June 22, 2012 – 8:00 am
Colts.com regularly features blogs written by one of our fans. This post was submitted by divineprodigy
The Colts running game hasn’t given any opposing defenses any nightmares since the haydays of Edgerrin James. Ever since his departure, the team has relied on 90% of the arm and brain power of Peyton Manning, and 10% of “running back by committee.” Enter 4th year RB Donald Brown. According to the critics, Brown has been deemed a “bust” due to the lack of his production since joining the team. These opinions are being made by people who are only looking on the surface of his career. When I look at Brown, I can’t help but be reminded of another RB who’s career didn’t start off well with the team who drafted him either, but went on to be a bell cow for two other NFL franchises he played for: Thomas Jones. Jones was drafted by the Cardinals in 2000. He was even dubbed the top rated RB coming out of college that year. He didn’t play like it for any stretch of his career while in St Louis. After a one year stint with the Bucs that saw his YPC go from 3.7 in St Louis to 4.6 with the Bucs, he landed in Chicago. With the Bears is where his career took off as a RB. For 3 years Jones’ production increased considerably from what it was with the Cardinals (511yds in 2002 for the Cardinals vs 948 yds in 2004 for Chicago). 2 of those three years he rushed for over 1200 yards. In 2007 he went to the Jets. His production with the Jets climbed each year he was there as well with his best year coming in 2009 where he rushed for 1400 yrds.
The point I make with this comparison is one that simply suggests given the right situation with the right team, a player who has been a “bust” for one team can also be a gem for another. Now even though Brown is still with the Colts, in essence its as if he is playing on a different team due to all of the changes that have taken place with the organization: New coaching staff, new players, new scheme. Technically, Donald Brown is on a “new team.” That is why I feel he will have his most productive year in the coming season for the Colts this year. The offensive line will be bigger than the one he has played behind for the majority of his short career. The men coming in to replace what was here before are better than what we had before. Donald Brown as well as all of the other RBs are going to have running lanes that they didn’t have previously. Scheme is more important than overall “talent.” No one exemplified this subtle truth better than former Broncos and current Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan. In Denver, it didn’t matter who Shanahan had in a RB, they all ran for over 1000 yards in a season. He even got that kind of production from a former Post Office worker in Mike Anderson!
That being said, when it comes to assessing what kind of RB Donald Brown will be considering what he had to work with coming into the league vs the potential of what he could be with what he has now, calling him a “bust” based upon those circumstances would be inaccurate. The best approach to take on this would be one that says: “Just wait and see.” Brown has flashed great potential when given the opportunity. The problem is he just hasn’t been given enough of them as well as not having the best of O lines to work with either. Add the season ending neck injury to Manning and you have another year lost due to ineffective play from the QB position. All of that should change this year. With the new additions on offense starting with Andrew Luck, coupled with the improved emphasis not only on the running game, but also the pieces in place to make it all work, I expect a breakout season for Brown that will have his naysayers lining up to get his jersey.
Although the dreaded "R" word has been banned from Colts Head quarters, that hasn't stopped commentators and NFL personalities from tagging the team as a "rebuilding project." That being said, it hasn't taken the front office long to show Colts faithful that there definitely is a new regime in town.Grigs and company haven't wasted any time in diving into the free agent pool to bring in some pieces that should pay immediate dividends come gameday. Nice pieces I might add. They've even shown the willingness to trade for players they want with other teams in pursuing CB Mike Jenkins from the Cowboys. This was something that was unheard of with regard to former GM Bill Polian (which is why he is no longer running the team). Although I have not been totally on board with the draft moves (after Luck) by the front office, I am impressed with the activity they have taken the initiative to be a part of outside of it this offseason. Which brings us to the defense.
I will admit when it comes to football, I'm partial to defense and a style of play thats more defined as "smash mouthed" vs "finesse." Call me old school but I'm a fan of it. I believe in the concept of being able to beat your opposition with brute force over trickery. Why? Because brute force can get you success over your opponents even when they know exactly what you're going to do before you do it, while trickery only works as long as you never run out of "tricks." The only advantage trickery has in any situation is the element of surprise. You can only "surprise" someone with something they have never seen before. Sooner or later, you will run out of "tricks." If we take a brief look at history, it won't take long to see what kind of teams have enjoyed the most success in not only the NFL, but with any team sport. When talking about this subject, I often reference the Pittsburgh Steelers because they are one of the most successful franchises in the NFL. They have never been a flashy team, opting instead to be more of a "bully" that reflects the blue collar mentality of the Steel city fans it plays for. The Steelers have more SB rings than any other NFL franchise and there method of success has been one that has worked through every generation they've played in.
With the addition of Coach Chuck Pagano and his staff, and with the talent base the Colts already have at their disposal, this team has the opportunity to do great things this year. Forget the "rebuilding" talk that seems to be the constant chatter used when referencing the state of the franchise by the mainstream sports media. This team has the tools to very good "now." For starters, the Colts front seven is pretty darn good starting with a core that inlcudes Freeney, Mathis, Conner, Angerer, and Redding. I know it's still very early and we haven't seen how well the veterans as well as the rookies adjust to Pags' system, but as bad as our defense was last year, the only direction it can possibly go is "up." The secondary is by far the biggest question mark on the team. Still, it has the chance to shine with the attacking approach infused by the new defensive scheme. I am confident in saying this because I believe in coach Pagano and the new staff.
As far as the offense goes, Andrew Luck is the real deal. Period. This young man will come in and pay immediate dividends for the franchise. The revamped offensive line should be an immense upgrade over last year's patch work job. If the defense plays the way I feel it will, the Colts will be the biggest surprise to the rest of the NFL world since the 99 Rams when Kurt and Faulk came to town. Luck has a plethora of weapons at his disposal already and a crafty old vet WR in Wayne. Not only was this a classy move on his part to stay, but it sends a message on how much he believes in his new signal caller. At Wayne's age, you don't resign with a team that's "rebuilding." You sign with a team that is going somewhere. The Colts will be in the thick of the division title with Houston this year and you can count me among the few who won't be surprised.