I don't think it's any big secret that neither myself, Josh, or Matt are fans of Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano's coaching.
We have stated this over and over - but, we'll repeat it for any new readers out there - we aren't advocating he be fired, but we aren't too confident in Pagano's ability to effectively coach the Colts. Far too many times in 2013 this team has entered games woefully unprepared, and Pagano's philosophy of run the ball, stop the run is as dated as a Members Only jacket.
Still, despite all of Pagano's faults as a coach, he deserves credit for this: He saw certain players on his roster weren't getting it done, and he benched them.
Bravo, coach. Bravo.
- RB Trent Richardson, who was traded for this season in exchange for a 2014 first round pick, was benched prior to the Titans game at Lucas Oil Stadium
- OL Mike McGlynn, also benched prior to the Titans game
- WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, benched and relegated to special teams duties during the Texans game at Lucas Oil Stadium
- ILB Pat Angerer, a healthy scratch prior to the Texans game. It was later revealed that Angerer had a knee issue from an injury during training camp, and he has since been placed on injured reserve. (Side note: If Angerer had a knee issue this severe, why did it never show up on the weekly injury report? If he were hurt, and the Colts did not disclose the injury, that's a rules violation)
- KR David Reed, the inept special teams returner traded for during the preseason, was mercifully released two weeks ago
Now, for many of us, these moves really are the equivalent of no-brainers. Go back to July or August of this year and you'll see Stampede Blue articles calling for the benching of players like Heyward-Bey, McGlynn, and Angerer. These guys stunk in training camp/preseason, and it was obvious way back then that there would be little, if anything, that they could provide the Colts in 2013.
And David Reed? When the home crowd started giving Reed the "Bronx Cheer" for taking a knee on kick returns, it was a safe bet to say he was under-performing to the level of "PAINFULLY OBVIOUS!"
In the defense of offensive lineman Mike McGlynn, he's played much better as a starting center than as a right guard, but that's material for another article.
So, again, even though these moves fall in the category of "duh," Pagano deserves some credit for making them. That other, cheaper players have stepped up and made better, more consistent contributions has likely raised the temperature level on general manager Ryan Grigson's seat. Guys like DHB, McGlynn, and Richardson are signature Grigson transactions. They are his guys. To sit them and have other players like Donald Brown (drafted by the previous front office regime), Joe Reitz (undrafted free agent signed by the previous regime), and Da'Rick Rogers (undrafted free agent) provide more to the team makes Grigson look somewhat inept as a GM.
Sorry Grigson worshipers, but it does.
This has made the mood around the Colts' West 56th Street complex more tense in recent weeks. A mood that was eased, somewhat, by the blowout victory over the woeful Texans on Sunday.
While Pagano does deserve praise for benching under-performing players on offense, it's worth noting that defensive players tied to Pagano have not met with a similar dose of accountability. Players that Pagano lobbied the team to sign in the 2013 offseason include linebacker Erik Walden and safety LaRon Landry.
Landry, in particular, is a player Pagano has repeatedly described as a "difference maker." In 2013, he's been anything but.
Walden too has been a disappointment. Signed to replace Dwight Freeney (he even took his number 93) and serve as the "edge setter" in Pagano's "no edge, no chance" run defense, the Colts still rank as one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.
Yet, despite Landry and Walden performing about as poorly as other 2013 free agent signings, such as wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, they haven't been benched. Hell, if Walden had pulled the head butt stunt he did with Titans tight end Delanie Walker during Bill Polian's tenure in Indianapolis, he wouldn't have been simply benched but, likely, would have been cut the following Monday! The one defensive player who was benched this year, linebacker Pat Angerer, is a holdover from the Polian Era with no ties to Pagano.
Pagano is a defensive coach who knows little about offensive football. Listen to him talk, and you'll pick it up quick. Benching players like McGlynn, Richardson, and DHB puts the heat on Grigson and, to a degree, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. If Landry or Walden were to get benched, the spotlight would shift to Pagano. Those are his guys, and the defense is Pagano's baby.
It's just something to think about when the word "accountability" gets tossed around the Colts complex. It's a word Pagano himself likes to use at press conferences. As we have seen so often over the years, there is little accountability in the NFL, especially when it comes to a head coach publicly admitting mistakes involving players he personally lobbied the team to sign.
Still, even though Pagano has his many faults as a coach and talent evaluator, it's good to see him finally acknowledge what many of us knew back in August. That's progress. Hopefully, he'll extend the same accountability to his defensive players, who have been anything but a franchise "cornerstone" this season.