INDIANAPOLIS IN - JANUARY 08: (L-R) Head coach Jim Caldwell and Reggie Wayne #87 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on against the New York Jets during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8 2011 in Indianapolis Indiana. The Jets won 17-16. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Not only are more than a few fans riled up in the aftermath of the Colts’ playoff loss to the Jets, they want coach Jim Caldwell held accountable. They want him fired.
The only individual whose opinion matters doesn’t agree.
"Jim’s done a really good job," owner Jim Irsay said Tuesday. "(People) forget he was on the field less than a year ago while we were hoisting the AFC championship trophy in front of our fans."
Criticism, he added, "is the nature of our business."
My love for Jim Irsay is well documented, but Jim is being a bit naive here. Of course fans remember Jim Caldwell holding up the AFC trophy in January last year. However, they also remember Caldwell getting out-coached in the Super Bowl that same season. They also recall his moronic timeout in the final minute that contributed to the loss in the Week Four against the Jaguars. And now, the moment everyone seems to associate with Caldwell is the utterly incompetent timeout he took with less than 30 seconds left in the playoff loss to the Jets.
It was a decision so stupid Peyton Manning couldn't refrain himself from going WTF!
The salt on the wound that was Caldwell's dumb decision has been the inconsistent, puzzling excuses offered up by both Caldwell and his boss, Bill Polian, to explain the reasoning behind the timeout.
If I've picked up on anything since the playoff loss it's that the Colts fanbase has pretty much given up on Jim Caldwell. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, they do not think he has the ability to lead the Colts to a championship.
And last I checked, fans pay for the tickets that Jim Irsay so covets on Sundays.
The Star's article touches on the fans' disgust with Caldwell, saying that emails have 'poured in' demanding Caldwell be fired and replaced with Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, or anyone not named 'Jim Caldwell.'
Irsay seems to understand this frustration, but isn't taking it seriously:
"People express their opinion, which is great," he said. "But if you’re not around this thing 24/7, if you’re not involved in the deep, internal conversations, the perspective is hard to get."As the owner, I’m the one who has to decide who measured up under tough circumstances, who did their job. Our guys did."
Here's the flaw in Irsay's statement: While Caldwell did a good job getting the Colts to the playoffs under some pretty tough circumstances (20 or so players on IR, including stars like Dallas Clark and Austin Collie) the concern is Caldwell's game management skills. Since he isn't an offensive or defensive guru, and since he doesn't have the pedigree or resume of a Tony Dungy, the one thing Caldwell absolutely cannot fail at is game management.
Otherwise, what purpose does he serve?
Fans aren't dumb, despite what Bill Polian thinks or says publicly. They can see that Caldwell simply does not have full grasp of situational football. Kent Sterling, the former programing director at EMMIS Communications who maintains a pretty good sports blog, summed up Caldwell's timeout fiasco against the Jets perfectly [emphasis mine]:
I've never seen another head coach call that timeout. I've watched a lot of football since I became a football fan as a little bitty kid, and nobody has ever called that timeout. One timeout left. 29 seconds. A two-point game. The Jets happy to try for a 50-yard field goal. The Colts call the timeout. The Jets hit Braylon Edwards for 18 yards, and all of a sudden a 50-yarder turns into a 32-yarder. From 50 to 59 [yards] this year, Nick Folk was 2 of 5 for 40%. From inside 40 yards, from 30 to 39, he was 14 of 16. So, you tell me which makes sense.
But, that timeout, as far as game strategy, game theory, if a sabermetrician was to look at the mathematics of calling that timeout, there's no way it makes any sense. There's no way it's defensible.
Again, when a fanbase has given up on a NFL coach for reasons that have to do with his ability to manage games, that coach will never win that fanbase back unless he holds up a Super Bowl trophy. And when fans have seemingly made up their mind, asking them to spend top dollar on games featuring their team coached by a 'moron' is a tough sell.
As I said in my article detailing FoxSports.com's Jason Whitlock's prediction that Jon Gruden would be named head coach of the Colts in one month, the key in all this is Peyton Manning. Peyton is a free agent, and he will negotiate a HUGE contract with Irsay and Polian. If Peyton goes to that table and tells Irsay he's lost faith in Caldwell, Caldwell is finished in Indianapolis. That is the only way a head coaching change happens this off-season for the Colts.