Put a fork in them. These 2011 Colts are done.
Sure, I could subscribe to the power of positive thinking and tell you everything is 'correctable' and that all this club needs to do is focus on 'the little things' in order to get better. In many circumstances, I do subscribe to that line of thinking. But, after watching my team get, essentially, manhandled at home by the Cleveland Browns, it's obvious the problems this franchise has to deal with are by no means 'little.'
The reality is this is simply not a good football team, and we Colts fans are in for a long, painful season.
The question that I am now focused on is not whether this team will make the playoffs, because they won't. 0-2 teams don't often make the post-season, and 0-3 teams (which the Colts will become next week when the Steelers destroy them at home) never make the playoffs.
No, the question I am asking is how many 'Colts fans' will bother to stick around this year? How many fans will tolerate the bad football that was on display yesterday?
As I have often said around here, Hoosier support for a professional team is never unconditional. Just ask the Indiana Pacers. The only teams that get unconditional support from Indiana fans are college and high school teams. With pro teams, they have to be good for people to consider spending their money on. Our market is a 'bandwagon' market, a 'flaky' market.
And you know what, that's not a bad thing.
I won't focus much on why this team isn't good. We all know Jim Caldwell is a pretty terrible coach, and seems unqualified for the job he has. Hell, the Indianapolis Star is now openly questioning his qualifications. We also know that, for the last four years, this front office has been living off reputation rather than results. Busting three drafts in four years has finally caught up with them, combined with Bill Polian's utter refusal to sign veteran free agents.
This isn't a talented team, and many of the players the Colts considered 'good' and worth keeping simply aren't. I'll state the obvious and say that it's kind of the primary job of a front office to know who is good and who isn't. When a front office can't make that determination anymore, then they suck at their job.
We've been saying this for two years now, and like Electra (Greek tragedy, not Daredevil's girlfriend) our warnings were ignored because people don't like hearing things are going down the crapper. Peyton Manning, who could win the MVP this year and not play a down, glossed over many of the flaws this franchise had. I take no comfort in 'I told you so.' Being wrong when one calls out the idiocy of their favorite team's front office is much more preferable than being right.
If you are now so abjectly depressed that you're hanging a rope over a ceiling beam, take heart in these few positives from the Cleveland game:
- Anthony Castonzo is a good left tackle to build the offensive line around. He's played well his first two games, and might be (as a rookie!) the best offensive lineman the Colts currently have.
- The Colts focused on stopping the run and running the ball. For the most part, they did stop the run, limiting Cleveland to 3.1 a carry. That stat loses it's meaning, however, when you watch the game and see the defense choke in the final minutes, allowing Peyton Hillis to rip off a 24-yard TD run to effectively ice the game. But, limiting a team like Cleveland to 3.1 a carry is a start. The question is, can they build from it.
- Delone Carter is a good back. 46 yards on 11 carries. He's so much more than a 'goal-line' back. It's pretty obvious why he is playing more than Donald Brown.
- I don't think it was a coincidence that the run defense improved with Gary Brackett out and Pat Angerer in at MIKE linebacker. Angerer had 8 tackles yesterday and a forced fumble. Angerer already has 21 combined tackles in just two games.
- Dwight Freeney is still a frightening pass rusher.
- Adam Vinatieri is back to his 'money' self. Nailing that 53-yarder showed he can still hit big FGs from long distances.
So, while this team is currently on a path to anywhere from one-to-four wins, there is still some talent here. Not much, but some. For me, the true issues that Jim Irsay needs to address are the front office and the coahcing staff. Even if Peyton Manning were 100% healthy, this team, as constructed, is not winning a Super Bowl anytime soon. Not with Jim Caldwell coaching. Not with Bill Polian and his kids running the front office as is. The same problems that have plagued this franchise and hindered it's ability to become truly 'great' are now keeping it from being relevant in general:
- Defensive tackle play is a joke.
- The offensive line is a mish-mash of old, past-their-prime veterans and undrafted nobodys who probably don't even make the practice squad for other teams.
- Secondary is putrid, in particular cornerback Jacob Lacey. Starting him over Justin Tryon only reinforces the increasingly growing sentiment that Jim Caldwell is incompetent.
- Neglecting the back-up QB position for years is biting this club in the butt, big time.
If you watched last night's Eagles v. Falcons game, you saw a completely unknown kid from Northwestern (Mike Kafka) step in for Michael Vick and nearly win a game on the road. I watched Kafka's play, and I was shocked this guy was a second year player. It was clear Philly (who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft) had invested in him because of his talent, and had worked to get him ready in the event their franchise QB (Vick) couldn't play.
Going forward, as we slog through what looks to be a season on par with the early-1990s Colts, I truly wonder how many Colts 'fans' will bother sticking around and watching this collection of over-rated talent stink up Lucas Oil Stadium.
You remember Lucas Oil, right? The stadium that the taxpayers of Indianapolis forked over 85% of the $720 million dollar construction budget. Maintaining the stadium costs $27.7 million. Taxpayers pay for that too.
Many fans know these numbers, and have them clearly in mind, when they buy tickets at $300 a pop to watch games. This is why people were so angry two years ago when the Colts rested starters against the Jets. People paid good money for those tickets, and Bill Polian and his stooges didn't care one lick.
With the poor public relations between the Colts and fans, coupled with the crippling economic conditions crushing the Midwest, it's hard to imagine many people still forking over time and money to watch a Manningless Colts team. Again, as previously stated, I don't hold it against fans if they tune out a bad team. It's management's job to make the team, you know, worth the time of the customers (aka, the fans). If they don't, then the fans will find other things more worthy of their time. Management might take this as a 'betrayal,' but they are in no place to whine, cry, or get indignantly angry. Their job is to make the team good, and if they can't do that, then someone else should have their job.
Indiana fans are not loyal to incompetence. They do not reward losing, especially when they are forking over $720 million.
For me, and for my writers here, we'll keep on keepin' on. Blogging about the Colts is a labor of love, and as we always say, the Colts are bigger than Bill Polian. They are bigger than Peyton Manning. In many ways, they aren't even 'owned' by Jim Irsay. Oh sure, he may have the title 'CEO' and he gets all the profits, but the people fronting the bill for the team to play in Indianapolis are Hoosiers. Fans have a stake, and it's much bigger than buying tickets. I will still root for the Colts, and expect them to win, regardless of who is in charge or who plays QB.
There's a reason I always say 'Go Colts!' and not 'Go Mannings' or 'Go Polians.' I hope you feel the same way.