This is probably my least favorite time of the year, at least as far as football is concerned. I don’t like the lull between the NFL Draft and the starts of training camp, because things are, well, slow. Usually all is quiet on the Colts front, since the stories that fly around are usually about the latest trade and free agency rumors. This means, more often than not, the Colts are not involved. Unfortunately, this is not the case this time around.
As I’m sure we all know, Tom Moore and Howard Mudd officially retired. The speculations had been swirling around for a week and a half, (the story first appeared on May 6 and I first found out about it on Indyfootballreport.com). For the last week and a half, the blogosphere has been alight with opinions from writers, both named and unnamed to send a dig at Bob Kravitz, have been predicting the Colts will not win the AFC South and some, to mention Rod Woodson on NFL Total Access specifically, feel the Colts won’t even make the playoffs (and that was only with rumors of Moore and Mudd leaving the team). As a fan, but gut impulse is to react with a violent storm of words but, to again credit John Oehser, it is difficult for a national reporter or blogger to get the local feel of a team.
Yet is does not change the reaction, the intense disbelief, the shout of “How dare you! That is complete BS!” (or other words that are not so nice) to the uncaring computer or TV. I think we all have that reaction, at least I know I do. But, because they do not look as in depth at the Colts as some others do, they don’t understand the two key facts that have enable to Colts to be a perennial playoff contender for the last decade: Bill Polian and Jim Irsay. As long as these two men remain involved in the running of the Indianapolis Colts, the blue and white will continue to be a power and a playoff contender year in and year out. Polian has established himself as one of the great minds of the NFL building three separate teams into Super Bowl contenders: Buffalo, Carolina, and Indy. Jim Irsay, who Sports Illustrated did not rank in the top 5 owners in the NFL, learned to run a football team by watching his father drive the Colts into the ground. These two men understand how the business of football works and are always a step ahead.
The examples are numerous. In the 2007 draft, Anthony Gonzales was the first pick. Many people thought Gonzo was taken to replace Brandon Stokley, who was released after the season ended. What many, including myself, felt, was that Gonzo was to be Marvin’s replacement. The rule of thumb is that it take 3 years to develop into an NFL ready receiver. Now, 3 years into Gonzo’s career, he is the slotted number 2 and Marvin has been released. Edge wants too much money? We have a strong incoming running back draft class and it has one of the easier transitions to the NFL, let him walk we’ll draft someone. And, the most recent example, Jim Caldwell having studied under Tony Dungy in preparation for his eventual retirement.
The situation with Tom Moore and Howard Mudd was no different. Clyde Christensen was brought into the organization in 2002. Before that, he had been with Tampa Bay, including a year as the offensive coordinator. Last year, he interviewed for the OC position in San Francisco. People may not have heard of him, but Clyde Christensen is ready to be an OC again and has had 7 seasons under Moore. The same is true of Pete Metzelaars, who has been with the Colts for the last 4 seasons learning under Howard Mudd. Before that, he spent several years playing for Bill Polian in Buffalo and Carolina and turned to coaching soon after his retirement from the NFL. Both of these men are highly qualified and have been preparing for their elevations.
My point is this, while it is a bit disturbing to see the Colts so prominently in the news, a lot of the speculation concerning the status of the Colts is just that: speculation. National figured like Rod Woodson haven’t, in my opinion, grasped that the Colts have been preparing for his transition for the last several years. The expected bumps will likely be worked out in training camp and in the preseason. The Colts are a stronger team coming into this year than last year, in my opinion. The wide receiving corps is young and deep, and a leading storyline in training camp will be the battle for the third wide -out slot. Defensive tackle is once again a deep position with the re-signing of Ed Johnson, the addition of Antonio Johnson from last season, and the additions of Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor. Donald Brown rotating with Addai and a year of experience on a young offensive line should rejuvenate a running game that was last in the NFL. Most importantly, players are getting healthy again and the Colts have managed to re-sign both Jeff Saturday and Kelvin Hayden. The Colts are deep and dangerous and overlooking them because of coaching changes is a big mistake. Writers may be predicating New England to win it all, but what else is new? The Patriots have been pre-season favorites for the last half decade, but they have not won the Super Bowl since 2004. Come January, the boys in blue will be right in the thick of things.
When Bill Polian retires, then I’ll worry.