OK, we've spent enough time the last two days bashing Colts president Bill Polian. Yeah, 2010 was a bad year for him as president. He was wrong to call out the o-line after the Super Bowl and he did an awful job trying to 'rebuild' it this off-season. Those are all obvious. We all know it.
Unfortunately, none of those things are going to help this team win anything right now.
Pointing out Polian's mistakes, highlighting that he is really slipping as a talent evaluator, are not going to help the Colts make the playoffs in 2010. This begs the question then as to what will help the Colts make the post-season and win there? Can they do it with this offensive line? Can they do it with this defense?
Even though he's gone on to rub elbows with Dan Patrick and Rodney Harrison at NBC, but one of the things former-Colts coach Tony Dungy was masterful at was keeping the Colts rallied and focused during tough times. Right now, Indy is 1-3 in their last four. If they lose this Sunday, it will be the team's first three-game losing streak in a long while. For Jim Caldwell, this game is why he's paid lots of money to coach at this level. If Indy loses at home, the calls for Caldwell's job at the end of the season will grow louder and louder. If Jim wants to avoid that, he needs to get back to 'Dungy basics,' and get this team playing basic, simple, fundamental football.
Nothing fancy. Nothing pretty. Nothing exciting.
Run. Kick. Tackle. Block. Catch. Throw.
Now, it's Caldwell's turn to move this team back to a 'Dungy Ball' (or 'Buc Ball' named after the brand of football Dungy employed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1990s) mentality. What does that mean? Find out after the jump.
Stop Shuffling The Offensive Line
There's an old saying: Ya dance with who ya brung. Well, Polian, Jim Caldwell, and offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars brought Charlie Johnson, Kyle DeVan, Jeff Saturday, Jeff Linkenbach, and Ryan Diem to this dance. Now, they gotta make them work together.
No more shuffling.
No more appearances by Mike Pollak or Jamey Richard. If Jacques McClendon or Jaimie Thomas were good, they'd be playing right now. This is our line. It sucks, that's true. We know it. The media knows it. Caldwell likely knows it. And I'm fairly certain Peyton Manning knows it.
Unfortunately, there's nothing that can be done now to fix it in terms of adding 'better' players. Instead of bringing back scrubs like Pollak, or getting angry that Polian screwed up in cutting Ryan Lilja, the 'Buc Ball' mentality Caldwell needs to convey to these five guys is, 'Hey, you're who've we've got. No more more changes. No tweaks. You have to play better, and we will make you better by going back to simple blocking schemes.'
When things aren't working, go back to basics. Simple stuff. Basic, fundamental blocking. The success of an o-line is all about cohesion and working together. Right now, there is a talent gap, but there's no reason to have a synergy gap. Let these five guys work together, and stop 'tweaking' things. Set the line, and dance with who ya brung.
Run The Ball More
Even if it isn't working, run it more. Peyton is either hurt or tired, or both. I don't need rumors or a four interception game to tell me that. Asking him to throw the ball 50 times a game over a 16 game season is too much. Way too much. The Colts should start averaging 27-30 rushing attempts a game. Right now, they hover at around 23.
Also, it pretty obvious at this point that Donald Brown isn't very good. He has great speed, but his style of running does not fit what the Colts do scheme-wise. While Brown has looked somewhat better in recent weeks, he's still averaging 3.3 yards a carry behind a line that backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart average 4.4 and 4.7 yards per carry with, respectively.
As Addai and Hart return from the injury list, Donald Brown needs to fade into the background. After the season, the Colts need to take a long hard look at his overall worth. For now, he's really nothing more than a third string back.
Stop Turning The Football Over
The Colts are -2 in the giveaway-takeaway ratio (17th in the league). The last two games, they've given up the football eight times without generating a single takeaway of their own. Football, when boiled down to it's simple elements, is about two things:
- Protect the football, and
- Making the other guy screw up.
During this 1-3 stretch, the Colts have committed 10 turnovers. This is a direct result of throwing the football too much and not having any faith in the running game. This has to stop. We need to see the Colts go two games in a row without a turnover. If they can do that, they are in good shape.
Defense Needs To Earn Their Money
Fine. If that's the case, fine. But, no more changes. This is now the defense, a defensive that Polian has sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into. It's now set in stone. Maybe if Bob Sanders comes back we will see an appearance by him. But, going from Wheeler to Angerer to back to Wheeler is one too many 'tweaks.' Enough already. Stick with one of them. Set your line-up. Once that's done, it's then time for them to step it up.
During this four game stretch, in all three loses the Colts defense has generated zero turnovers. The only reason the giveaway-takeaway ratio isn't worse is because Indy got lucky in Week Ten by playing the turnover prone Bengals. Indy got five TOs in that game. In the Eagles, Patriots and Chargers games: Zero, zero, and zero.
Against the Chargers, we saw flashes of how this defense should play. It's true that between the 20s, they are terrible. However, in the redzone they played well. The next step is this defense needs to stop the opponent BEFORE they get into the redzone. Yes, it's nice to see your D limit touchdowns in the redzone. It's even better to see your D limit opponent's chances of getting in the redzone.
The main point here is the Colts need to simplify things. Get back to basics. No more 'tweaking.' The team is what it is. If they can minimize turnovers, play defense, and play 'Dungy Ball,' they can win their next five games. If they win out, chances are very good they win the AFC South. If they continue shuffling linemen; if they continue throwing the ball 50 times a game; if they continue committing dumb turnovers, they'll go 6-10 on the season.
Time to get back to basics and start winning again. Go Colts.