The 2011 Indianapolis Colts: The Death of a Dynasty – PART II of III

After getting a good ways into this analysis I realized there was just too much to cover in two parts. I have made the decision to extend this series to a third part to limit the sheer volume of text that I am asking you to read in one sitting. So, for your pleasure, I present the second installment of this now three part series.


In part one I examined the 1997-1999 Indianapolis Colts. If you have not read that article I should warn you that it serves as prologue to this one, so you may want to read that first, though I won’t hate you if you don’t (I will, however, strongly dislike you).

In this second installment I intend to take a pretty in depth look at the 2011 Colts’ season. The final chapter in this trilogy (please forgive the mixed metaphor) will combine the collected efforts of the first two parts in an attempt to draw some meaningful comparisons and 2012 predictions. Look for that sometime next week. Please take everything I say with the heaping helping of salt it probably deserves, I am not an expert even if I may play one on the internet.

Let’s begin.

AV explained here:

Simple Rating explained here:

The 2011 Season:

Record: 2-14 ; Strength of Schedule: 0.4 ; TO Differential: -12 (26th)




187.2 (27th)

227.0 (15th)


99.6 (26th)

143.9 (29th)


15.2 (28th)

26.9 (28th)


286.8 (30th)

370.9 (25th)

Simple Rating



Pro Bowlers



Brief Season Overview: Let’s get this out of the way up front, the 2011 Indianapolis Colts were a horrible football team. They managed the unenviable feat of being near the bottom of the NFL in almost every team statistic imaginable. Let’s enumerate; in addition to the stats above: 30th in takeaways, 29th in yards per play, 32nd ranked special teams on kickoffs (when your kicker leads the team in special teams’ tackles it isn’t good), 32nd in punt returns (3.4 YPR!) AND kick returns (18.8 YPR! For the love of God, just take the touchback!), 29th in red zone offense and 30th in red zone defense, 32nd in time of possession, and the list goes on. On the bright side, they did have the 2nd fewest penalties, and achieved a tie for 1st place (with 24 other teams) for best extra point conversion percentage (100%), that’s something I suppose.

The season itself was marked by periods of decent play: a near win at home against Pittsburgh week 3, another near win in week 5 against Kansas City, and of course a 2 game win streak (nearly 3, which would have been a complete disaster) to end the season. Unfortunately, it was also marked by periods of absolute incompetence: a 62-7 road shellacking by the New Orleans Saints, a 31-7 no show against the Falcons two weeks later, and, the crown jewel of the 2011 season, a 17-3 home embarrassment by the lowly Jags in week 10.

Whether it was an inability to recover from the psychological/motivational blow of suddenly realizing that Kerry Collins, not Peyton Manning, would be the week 1 starter, or it was simply a matter of the Colts truly lacking talent on both sides of the ball (likely a little of each), the 2011 version of the Colts did nothing consistently well. That being said, and in looking for a silver lining to this rather dark cloud, we need to consider the value of the quarterback position in the NFL. Bad quarterback play puts pressure on the running game by allowing defenses to stack the box; when the running game isn’t good (26th) the team has a lot of 3 and outs (23rd in 3rd down conversion percentage and 27th in rushing first down percentage); when the team has a lot of three and outs (and horrible special teams; 26th in punt coverage) you give the opposition good field position; when you give the opposition good field position you put pressure on the defense; when you put pressure on the defense… etc. It’s a tower of football cards and the QB is the ground floor. Great QBs cover up a veritable litany of team flaws, but truly bad QB play (and it doesn’t get much worse than what the Colts had for the majority of last season) will expose, and even create, problems in other parts of the team, especially for a defense built to play with a lead. This isn’t 1963; in the modern NFL if you can’t pass, you can’t win.

5 Best Players By AV: Dwight Freeney (8), Pat Angerer (7), Pierre Garcon (7), Robert Mathis (7), Reggie Wayne (7).

QB Season Overview: I have already alluded to the general level of ineptitude we experienced at the quarterback position last season, but to lend weight to this statement let’s take a quick look (relatively speaking) at some numbers. To really accentuate just how high the cliff was that the Colts’ passing offense drove off of in 2011 I have included Peyton Manning’s 2010 season numbers (an injury plagued 10-6 campaign).




Manning (2010)

Approx. Value





Games Started

3 (0-3)

8 (0-8)

5 (2-3)

16 (10-6)

QB Rating


66.6 (33rd)


91.9 (10th)

Yards Per Att.


6.3 (31st)


6.9 (18th)

Comp. %


54.3 (31st)


66.3 (2nd)

Yards Per Game


171.2 (31st)


293.8 (2nd)



6/9 (36th)


33/17 (2nd)

Touchdown %


2.5 (33rd)


4.9 (15th)

Interception %


3.7 (28th)


2.5 (14th)






I included attempts to help provide some context, but the numbers more or less speak for themselves. The Colts’ primary QB, Curtis Painter, was at or near the bottom in almost every statistical category; in several he was even trailing backups (and Blaine Gabbert). Orlovsky was less awful, going 2-3 in his 5 starts with the team and compiling a league average 82.4 QB rating. Unfortunately by that point the damage was beyond repair.

Final Thoughts on the 2011 Season: To wrap this thing up I want to just throw one final stat chart at you. I won’t pretend like what I’m about to show you is proof of anything, in fact given the sample sizes involved it really proves nothing at all, but what I will say is that this chart surprised even me a little bit and I thought it might spark some interesting discussion. Below is a quick and dirty comparison of the Colts’ defensive numbers when Curtis Painter was starting versus when Orlovsky was starting. Rankings are extrapolations over a 16 game season.







30.38 (31st)

20.6 (10th)

Passing Yards

233.9 (18th)

201.2 (6th)

Rushing Yards

164.6 (32nd)

129.2 (24th)

Total Yards

398.5 (30th)

330.4 (9th)


0.4 (32nd)

1.4 (21st)

Time of Pos.

35:35 (32nd)

30:04 (20th)

This may not prove my earlier statement that QB play impacts defensive production, but I would say it does at least cause one to stop and consider the possibility. In fairness, Orlovsky started the final 5 games and it could reasonably be argued that the Colts defense simply got better toward the end of the season (undoubtedly that's part of it) but some of these jumps are pretty dramatic (nearly 10 fewer points per game has got to be statistically significant even given the sample size). One final note on this chart, if you remove the New Orleans game from Painter’s numbers (a 62-7 outlier) they of course come down slightly (25.6, 221.4, 154.4, 375.9, 0.4, 35:13) but the overall trend is still the same, albeit slightly less dramatic (though still pretty dramatic).


So that’s it for part two. I know I said this would only be two parts but in the interest of avoiding a 3,000 word article I think the prudent course is to split it into three. As always I value your guys’ feedback, so please leave comments, criticisms, or glowing adulations at your pleasure.

In all seriousness, thanks for the kind words left on the first part of this series, it means a lot to me. I hope to conclude this series sometime next week. Thank you again for reading and I hope part three will be even better than the first two (it will be difficult I know, but I am determined to see it achieved!).



This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors.

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