NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Jim Caldwell of the Indianapolis Colts talks to a player during the game against the New Orleans Saints on October 23, 2011 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
By all accounts, Jim Caldwell is a great guy. He is the embodiment of a true professional; an upstanding family man and one the players enjoy competing for. He's cool collected and remarkably unflappable.
Last year when injuries ravaged the team, Peyton suffered through a four game slump and the Colts fell behind the Jaguars in the division, Caldwell's composure was key to keeping the team focused and functioning at a high level.
Of course Peyton returning to his usual self was certainly key to the Colts winning 10 games, but Caldwell's role cannot be underestimated.
The measure of a good coach however, is one who can guide a team through true adversity and one who can win without a top quarterback.
Jim Harbaugh is doing it in San Francisco. Rex Ryan - as much as I hate to give him credit - has gotten a lot out of a team led by Mark Sanchez. Lovie Smith has Chicago winning with Jay Cutler. These are teams let by pedestrian quarterbacks who are all competing for a playoff spot.
Without Peyton, the mark of Jim Caldwell's measure as a coach was put to the test this year. Unfortunately, he just is not up to the task.
For most of the season, I have criticized Caldwell for certain coaching decisions, bumbling uses of timeouts or poor defensive play calling, yet have refrained from calling for his replacement. In large part because the effort from the players has remained impressive, a testament to a coach's ability to motivate.
After watching tonight however, it seems Caldwell may have finally lost the locker room.
As someone who has defended Caldwell to this point, I don't write this lightly and I am not suddenly switching my stance based on one poor performance. I certainly should feel to entitled to given how tonight was easily the most humiliating loss and moment for our franchise. That's not the case. In fact, it wasn't the disgraceful performance on the field. It was Caldwell's halftime comments to Michele Tafoya.
I didn't see interview (I had already left to go drown my sorrows) but apparently during his halftime interview with Michele Tayofa Jim Caldwell said, "That the Colt's needed to get back to the basics and that they need to fix the details because they weren't doing the little things well." She also added that Caldwell was "not happy."
If the devil is in the details, I guess Colts fans don't have to worry about Caldwell being the devil.
Sorry Coach, but giving up six straight scoring drives and a 34-7 halftime deficit means either one of two things. Either your problems aren't in the details and your whole system is flawed or if the game plans are sound then you have done a woefully bad job of focusing on the details.
Worse, I've heard Michele Tayofa use words like "furious," "incensed" and really angry among others to describe coaches like Cower, Fisher and Harbaugh after flat first half efforts by their teams.
I have always appreciated Dungy's and Caldwell's collected demeanors and do not advocate the explosive bravado of coaches like Rex Ryan, but for Caldwell to be only 'not happy' after getting embarrassed in the first half, calls to question whether he has a pulse.
The best coaches have always been able to walk the fine line between being levelheaded and occasionally chewing players out to light a fuse. Coach K does it when necessary at Duke. Bill Parcels did it in Dallas and Bobby Cox knew when to flip the switch in Atlanta. The fact that they coached top veteran teams didn't matter. Sometimes even the best need a little extra motivation.
It's obvious that Caldwell simply isn't capable of rallying and inspiring his team. He isn't on the level of those coaches
mentioned above. Not even close. A hallmark of teams led by great coaches is that when when their teams were
beaten soundly or they hit a rough patch, they always responded. That hasn't been the case in Indy and certainly
didn't happen tonight. To play one bad half and enter the locker room down 7-34 is one thing. You can make
reasonable excuses that the Colts played a poor half against a team that was on fire in a hostile environment. But to
come out and lose the second half 28-0? To not score against the Saints second team? And to admit defeat by pulling Curtis Painter too*? SHAMEFUL
*(It's not like Painter is an 14 year future Hall of Famer, he's only played six games! He needs to keep developing)
The second half was a disgrace. It was worse than the first. The Colts came out of the halftime break more shellshocked then when they started, looked demoralized and played equally horrendous football.
It is unacceptable that every player on the team looked like they pitied themselves. There was no fire, no energy no desire to say 'hey, we a group of veteran Pro Bowlers, let's make this game respectable.'
Even if I thought Peyton Manning was covering for Caldwell's coaching deficiencies, I supported Caldwell because each and every week the Colts came out hungry. No matter the injuries or adversity, they were never complacent and always played with an unparalleled consistency (a trait Cowboys fans only wish Romo had).
No more. It's clear now without Manning that Coach Caldwell is over-his-head coaching and can no longer coax his veterans to give their best efforts. Watching the players sit there with blank stares shows just how little faith they have in Caldwell's coaching, schemes or ability to lead.
He is not inspiring, not creative and not the right coach for the Colts.