I have been a Colts season ticket holder since 2005. I have seen ups (Pats v. Colts AFC Championship 2006, Jets v. Colts AFC Championship 2009) and downs (Steelers v. Colts Divisional Round 2005, Chargers v. Colts Wild Card 2007, Jets v. Colts Wild Card 2010) with mine own two eyes. I've been a Colts fan since around 1996 when Jim Harbaugh lead the franchise to its first day in the sunshine since the move the Indianapolis. I have been on cloud nine following the team chasing Superbowls (TM) and had vomit in my mouth and couldn't sleep for days after witnessing atrocious defensive meltdowns. I have been and will be a devout Colts fan, therefore I will use "we" at liberty when discussing the team below. Here is what I know...
1. The Colts defense is underachieving and has been since 2006. There is no doubt in my mind that Freeney and Mathis are beasts. Gary Bracket and Melvin Bullitt play with heart. Antoine Bethea is an overacheiver. Unfortunately, it seems to me like the scheme is out of date and the personnel are not good enough together to run it well. Ron Meeks began the decent after Dungy's retirement and Coyer has done nothing to change the direction of this part of the franchise. The story has always been that this defense is designed to play with a lead. It's pretty hard to get a lead when your defense is giving up points every time the opponent has the ball. This defense looks largely like the one that Dungy brought from Tampa eight years ago. Our opponents have eight years of footage of this defense.
2. We have a coach that makes mental errors in crunch time. See the dictionary for definition of "stupid timeout call" - Colts vs. Jags 2010 and Jets vs. Colts wild card round 2010. Enough said, we know that story. He may be humble, well read and an outstanding United States citizen, but before he took over this Colts team at it's zenith his football coaching record was not very good (NCAA 26-63). I firmly believe you can pin the two "stupid timeout call" losses above on him which would mean that 20% of the Colts losses since he became head coach were directly due to his decision making. Yikes.
3. Outside of Vinatieri and McAfee special teams is a mess on both sides of the ball. I blows my mind that even with the rule change this year, we consistently give up at least 40 return yards on kicks 6 yards deep in the end zone. The rule change this year was supposed to greatly benefit teams with shoddy special teams like the Colts. Part of me believes the conspiracy theory that by having Polian throw around his weight on the competition committee, the Colts are able to push through a favorable rule change every few years. We can't even capitalize on the rules we make ourselves! We turn over the personnel each year and get the same result. This has to be a result of a) the special teams scheme we employ, b) the type of personnel that are required to back up our offensive scheme and defensive scheme, c) coaching. It's probably all of the above, although I'd lean toward (b).
4. The Colts cannot run the ball consistently. It appears that the office is doing something about this by addressing the offensive line issues and employing a different type of RB. Addai and Brown are holdovers from a different era. I believe Brown would have been good in this offense in 2004. When the stretch play became extinct, so did Brown and Addai (less so) become ineffective. The future is Carter and Spann and Evans. This is the one area that I think will come around over the course of the year.
5. I knew, heck we all knew, that Peyton Manning wouldn't be QB of this team forever. I hope Peyton has a full recovery but am realistic and understand that there is a chance the Jets game last year might have been the last snap for the Legend. Even if/when he returns we only have three to four good years left out of the GOAT, and what if he "gulp" SLOWS DOWN??!?!?!.
If we don't fix issues 1, 2 and 3 what are we going to have in those last years of Peyton's career? More of the same. Shoddy defense, mental breakdowns, porous special teams and fewer and fewer of those legendary comebacks that kept perfect seasons intact and playoff hopes simmering.
This team needs an EXTREME MAKEOVER. Here's my opinion of how it can be done in rapid fashion:
Trade the valuable components of this team that represent a bygone era. Throw sentimentalism out the door. Stockpile draft picks / young talent for Wayne, Clark, Freeney, Mathis, Bethea. Likely these guys are the only vets who will net the Colts anything valuable. We want 2012 and 2013 picks and developmental athletes. A couple years with 5 or so picks in the first 3 rounds can go a long way to restocking the shelves. The EVIL HOODIE does this all the time and look how competitive the Pats are year-in and year-out. Even when Brady went down in game 1 2009, his team finished 11-5.
Fire the coaching staff at the end of this season. I'm sure that Irsay will hire someone respectible to coach for the next few years and keep the seat warm for The Franchise. Pay Peyton for a lifetime services contract that will keep him as OC after he's finished playing, then later HC. In the near term, snag a DC that will employ a 3-4 or anything other than a Cover-2 base defense. I don't care if we play from the 46 all the time. Use draft picks and reassemble D over the next few years. New scheme/new faces. Hopefully this will have a pull through effect on special teams. Personally, I think we missed the boat on Leslie Frazier...
Find the quarterback of the future. I'm not big on drafting quarterbacks early. It is a high risk move that damages teams more often than it pays off. I make an exception for Luck because I drink the Kool-aid. It's doubtful that he would be there where the Colts would likely draft next year. He's a number one pick and the Colts aren't the worst team in the league this year, even without Peyton.
I honestly do not believe that given these moves the team would be that much worse off in the event of a Peyton return in 2012 than if the Colts stuck with the status quo. Certainly if Peyton is unable to return to football as a player the team would be a year ahead on rebuilding.
What do you think Irsay intends by this tweet?
"There will b some shocking,dramatic,inspiring,unimaginable things happening n Coltsland the next 18 months...buckle up,stay faithful,BELIEVE" - Jim Irsay