Why did the Colts cut Chad Simpson?

Our own LovinBlue posted a link from Twitter informing all of us that Chad Simpson had been cut. This isn't the first time the Colts have jettisoned Simpson. They did so last year in the middle of the season. But, if we dare to follow the Scout.com report filed by Adam Caplan, Simpson has now been jettisoned from the team for good because Mike Hart's solid late season performance in 2009 convinced the Colts that he was the best option as the #3 back, not Simpson.

While that certainly makes sense at face value, I'm politely going to have to disagree with Adam.

Chad Simpson wasn't kept on the Colts roster because they thought he was a good #3 running back. Consistently all throughout the 2009 season, players like Donald Brown and the before-mentioned Mike Hart battled numerous, lingering injuries. They were in and out of the training room all year, forcing the Colts to use Simpson as an emergency running back. Yet, towards the end of 2009, Brown and Hart got healthy. Those two, combined with Joseph Addai, were more than enough to carry the workload for the Colts running attack. So, why keep Simpson?

Simple, because Simpson was the primary returner on kick-offs.

With one-time returner T.J. Rushing still recovering from a knee injury and focusing his energies solely on returning punts, the Colts used Simpson as the A-Number One returner on kicks. His back-up was reserve safety Jamie Silva. Yep, that's right. A safety was our back-up return man. Ugh.

All throughout the 2009 season, Simpson really did not display that he had the speed and the quickness to be an effective returner. Sure, he never fumbled a return or made a really horrible mistake that cost the Colts a game, but his performance in Super Bowl 44 was indeed bad. That game, more than anything else, has likely been on Bill Polian's mind all off-season. We've seen the offensive line gutted and the reserve DBs like Rushing and Tim Jennings sent packing. Stands to reason that the one other weakness on this team, the kick return game, would also get over-hauled.

If you've noticed, the Colts have brought in several college players who are entering the 2010 draft. Many of these players were specialists in college as kick and punt returners. And while some like to dismiss "visits" as nothing more than useless draft-related stories to fill a supposedly "dead" time, the reality is the Colts are bringing in these players because they have some interest, on some level, of drafting or signing them. I don't think you need an advanced degree in mathematics to put 2 and 2 together.

The Colts are going to draft or sign a kick and punt returner.

I mean, seriously folks. The Colts aren't bringing in Ray Fisher, Freddie Barnes, and Andre Roberts just to for gits and shiggles. Less than a month after bringing all these collegiate players into the West 56th complex for a battery of interviews, tests, and workouts, the Colts cut their primary kick returner less than two weeks before the draft. Seems pretty obvious what they are doing, right?

So, yeah. The Colts will draft or sign a special teams returner before the end of April. Write it down. Cutting Simpson, right now, when there is no roster limit and there is no salary cap tells me that the Colts are very confident they will find a kick returner in the draft.

For Chad Simpson, I can honestly say that the guy was not a bad player. He had his best season in 2009, and (without question) got better from 2008 to 2009. He returned a big kick back for a TD in the Jaguars game, and he had an awesome touchdown run to finish off the Houston Texans late in the season. That run  was the best of his career with the Colts, and it capped a tremendous fourth quarter comeback that handed the AFC South to the Colts and, essentially, knocked the Texans out of the playoffs. Considering that Simpson was an undrafted player out of Morgan State, he's done a pretty good job rising above his draft pedigree these last two years.

For all the crap he took from some unappreciative fans (myself included), the reality is he's a blue collar-type player who did some good things for this team. People like to whine and moan that Courtney Roby, a local Indiana kid once on the roster, could have done a better job than Simpson returning kicks. These people forget that Roby is a pretty crappy wide receiver, and that even though he had some great returns for the Saints in 2009, he was a non-factor in Super Bowl 44, just like Simpson. Simpson was also a fairly decent running back in a pinch. He could block, catch, and he knew the offense. He also played as a gunner on punt coverage. Meanwhile, Roby is lost running routes and playing a real position on the field other than returner.

I'm glad the Colts are looking to find someone better, but I don't fault Chad Simpson's effort or his dedication. I hope he lands on his feet somewhere and continues to develop.

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