Is it way too early for this type of post? Perhaps. However, following another embarrassing and all too predictable loss last weekend, the season seems preordained to culminate with a first round playoff loss to Kansas City. There are moments of brilliance, but this remains a deeply flawed team and that will not be resolved before January rolls around. So many things can change during an offseason which only compounds the futility of a speculative task such as this, but I will throw out a couple of suggestions based on facts that are already known.
Pep Hamilton is only in his first year, so I am somewhat reluctant to call for his dismissal. However, it has become apparent as the season has worn on that he is simply in over his head. With so many new faces on the roster, it is troubling that our talent is so grossly mismatched with the offense we are trying to run. In additional to the problem of poorly matched personnel, it seems that his system simply does not challenge NFL defense. He has been roundly criticized for running 3rd down routes well short of the sticks and stubbornly sticking to a "power run" game when clearly we have neither "power" nor "run" as part of offensive repertoire. It sounds probably that David Shaw will receive offers to leave Stanford which would conveniently open up the HC position for Pep. I would suggest he take it.
The proposed alternative... recently fired Texans coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak had his failings as a head coach, but his chops as an OC have rarely been questioned. He runs a stretch zone blocking scheme which is a far better fit for our offensive line. I went back and checked scouting reports on Donald Thomas and Hugh Thornton, both sited good upper body strength but questionable leg drive. This makes them a far better fit for a zone scheme rather than the power man we are currently running. This system has proven successful both in Houston and Kubiak's previous term in Denver. Extending the Denver comparison, Kubiak managed Elway to two Super Bowl wins using a west coast passing attack that also utilized a mobile QB. For all the inevitable comparisons the Manning, Luck's skills more closely resemble Elway than any other QB to have played in recent memory. This could be a perfect fit.
I want you on my team...
By my count, the Colts currently have 43 players under contract for next year totaling ~$87 million of cap. There are also 22 free agents. Granted many of the lower players will come and go through camp, but I will break down the highlights.
Guys who should stay:
Pat McAfee (hopefully at a more cap friendly deal.)
Vonte Davis (is due a big pay raise from his current $2 million)
Ahmad Bradshaw (would love to keep him, but don't see it happening)
Kavell Conner (wait for it before you freak out...)
Samson Satele (saves $4 million against the cap)
Reggie Wayne (Only if his injury is not recovering. That's $4 million of cap space. I included him on the team when estimating the cap.)
After re-signings, cuts, etc... I am anticipating about $22 million in cap space and room for 3-4 free agent starters.
Hakeem Nicks - WR
Whether or not Reggie comes back, we do not have an heir apparent. Hilton is a great complimentary receiver, but not a #1 guy. Rogers flashed some great talent, but it was one game... I like him better as a solid #2 to replace DHB. I think you could get Nicks at a relative bargain contract given his injury history. Yes, it is a gamble, but the talent is undeniable. The biggest problem with our current receiving corps is that they can't catch. Nicks has some of the best hands in the game and is still young. I would absolutely take this shot.
Alex Mack - C
One of the better centers in the game right now and a perfect fit for a zone blocking scheme. It's not a sexy move, but it has become all too apparent what happens when you don't have someone you can trust anchoring the middle of the OL.
Karlos Dansby - LB
I was shocked to see that Dansby is only making about $2 million this year. Neither Angerer or Conner is not stout enough to hold down the point of attack and we really have no pass rush outside of Mathis right now. Dansby has been a rock on the inside of a very good Arizona defense and is capable as both a run defender and blitzer. He is getting up there in years, but on a 3-4 year contract I have no concerns about this. He could be in line for a huge payday and I wouldn't feel bad at all about the Colts giving it to him.
Kelcy Quarles - DE/DT - South Carolina
Only doing the second rounder, but I think we need help along the Dline. Redding and RJF are both solid journeymen players, but we need someone who can get a little more pressure up front. Quarles is listed at 298lbs but can regularly get pressure up field. This is exactly the kind of addition we need along the defensive front.
So there you go. First take on how to address the problems we are seeing presently with this team.