The Colts defense, in particular Eric Foster, weren't the only ones who took at beating at the hands of the Buccaneers last night on Monday Night Football. All evening long, ESPN announcers Jon Gruden, Mike Tirico, and Ron Jaworski seemed to be scratching their heads at the Colts coaching staff, in particular Jim Caldwell and his defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer.
This morning, the Caldwell Beatdown continued, and banging the drum loudly was Phil Wilson of the Indianapolis Star:
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what seems like an obvious flaw in the coaching philosophy of this team. The Colts had success when blitzing Pittsburgh in key situations. They forced the action. They usually came out of those blitzes with successful results. And when they did it at times against Tampa Bay, it worked. But then too many other times the call was to drop back and just defend. That’s not working.
Wilson has consistently questioned Caldwell's ability to coach at the NFL level, and last night the man who took over for the legendary Tony Dungy did little to quiet is critics.
Here's local Indianapolis sports radio personality Jon Michael Vincent (the man who first broke the Peyton third neck surgery news back in August):
Although I defend [Jim Caldwell] for the Super Bowl (not for clock management) last night drove me nuts. I may slip into the empire's grasp. #colts
Or, I could quote one of our own readers, @DaHart85:
What's worse than 0-4? Oh yeah, the coaching...
Whether it was failing to challenge an obvious fumble by the Bucs in the first half (a move Gruden was practically screaming at Caldwell to do from the booth); or the puzzling coverages the defense employed that allowed the Bucs to convert numerous third downs' or the boneheaded decision to accept a third down penalty on the Bucs (rather than keep it at 4th and 3, insuring a long FG attempt by a shaky Bucs kicker) which was then converted and, later in the drive, was critical in the eventual tying Bucs TD in the third quarter, Caldwell's lack of coaching prowess was fully and completely on display last night for all to see.
Part of me feels a bit sorry for Caldwell. It seems clear that he and the front office are not on the same page. If you go back and watch the Colts secondary last night, then Paul Kuharsky's words this morning will speak to your frustrations:
Again, if we're to believe Tryon (who tweeted last week that Caldwell wanted to start him, but was overruled), the head coach in Indianapolis really isn't in charge. He has to deal with two meddling, seemingly incompetent front office guys who are stumbling all over the place trying to save face as the franchise around them falls apart. And while Caldwell will take much of the blame for this 0-4 start, make no mistake...
...this poor showing in the first quarter of the 2011 season is a damning indictment of Bill Polian and his two sons working in the Colts front office.
I'll disagree with JMV on one point, I don't think Caldwell will be back next year, regardless of Peyton Manning's input. If the Colts finish with one of the worst records in the NFL, someone will get the ax. The 'Peyton was hurt' excuse won't cut it. If that excuse is used, then the front office comes off looking incompetent and inept. One injury to the quarterback shouldn't be the difference between winning 11 games and winning 3, especially when so much money is invested in guys like Dwight Freeney, Antoine Bethea, Gary Brackett, and Dallas Clark. The Patriots won 11 games in '08 when Tom Brady went down, and while no one should expect this Colts team to win 11 games without Manning, winning only two or three would be inexcusable.
It means someone (i.e., the GM or the coach) didn't do their job, and I highly doubt Chris Polian and his dad are going to fall on the sword for Jim Caldwell.
Still, while I have sympathy for Caldwell, the reality is that the loss of Peyton Manning was his chance to prove to everyone that he was indeed a legit head coach; that this team wasn't quarterbacked and coached by No. 18. After going winless in the first quarter of the 2011 NFL season, Jim Caldwell has done nothing to crush that perception. If anything, last night reinforced it.