This is a series of articles focused on some very positive 'silver-lining' type stories surrounding the Manningless Colts for 2011.
Part One: Is Jim Caldwell A Real Coach?
Part Two: Pressure On The Front Office To Change
For the first time since 2001, when the Indianapolis Colts struggled through a horrible 6-10 season due, in most part, to poor talent on defense, there is real pressure on this Colts front office. For years, Bill Polian and his sons have botched the back-up quarterback situation for this team only to have the durability and genius of Peyton Manning cover their mistakes. Since 2007, they have wasted early round draft picks on crappy players like Tony Ugoh, Mike Pollak, and Donald Brown. When you really stand back and look at the football operations for the Colts since 2007, they've been living off reputation, not results.
A reoccurring theme many have for the Polian Regime is, 'When Manning leaves, the chickens will come home to roast.' Well, Manning is now gone for 2011, and I just heard a rooster crow.
With Manning gone, another 'silver-lining' story is that we, as fans and media, will finally get to see what this team's talent level truly is.
It certainly looks grim to start the season, what with 2009 and 2010 first rounders Donald Brown and Jerry Hughes (respectively) relegated to third string. On the offensive line, which was a train wreck prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, the Colts chose not to re-sign the dependable Charlie Johnson and released durable guard Kyle DeVan in the cut down to 53. Both are now starters on the Vikings and Eagles, respectively.
Meanwhile, draft bust Mike Pollak is still on the team along with the disappointing Jamey Richard. Ryan Diem, who has been a shadow of his former self, has been moved to guard while rookie first round pick Anthony Castonzo is starting at left tackle.
As I noted in preseason, I like this new o-line... as long as Peyton Manning was under center. But, Kerry Collins is not Peyton Manning in the pocket. Peyton looks like a tango dancer compared to the stone-footed Collins. Even if Manning wasn't as fleet-footed as he is (or was), keeping the very best offensive linemen should have been a priority. While I'm not advocating for Charlie or Kyle's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, wouldn't you feel better about this line if both of them were starting over, say, Diem and Linkenbach? Or, you know what? Forget them. Why not keep Charlie and Kyle over Pollak and Richard?
Imagine this line if Ryan Lilja hadn't been stupidly released in 2010.
Miscalculations and blunders like these were often covered up by Peyton's greatness as a field leader. Now, Peyton is in a hospital recovering, and there is nothing to hide the glaring weaknesses this team may have as a result of front office decision-making.
Should the Colts falter, the pressure will mount. Fans and media will not accept the 'Well, we don't have Peyton' excuse because people know the fallacy of building an entire team around a 35-year-old quarterback. For years, fans like yours truly have been screaming that management start building a complete team that utilizes Manning as a key part, not THE part. The Broncos in the late-1990s finally won two Super Bowls because they stop relying on John Elway to carry them and, instead, built a great team around Elway.
Hell, Elway missed the first four games of the 1998 season, and the Broncos went 4-0 during that stretch with Bubby friggin Brister as their starting QB!
Maybe, just maybe, the neck injury and spinal fusion surgery are the events that will FINALLY kick this front office in the nuts and get them to see the bigger picture. They cannot rely solely on Peyton anymore. Even if he comes back next year, he will be 36-years-old and probably won't be the same player. He could still be great, just not supremely dominant, as he was from 2003-2010.
Knowing this as a likely possibility, maybe 2011 is the year this front office finally 'gets it,' because if they don't the natives will get restless.
Next up: Time For The Defense To Earn Their Money