It’s hard sometimes to watch this Indianapolis Colts football team. My daughter is usually taking a nap during our 1 o’clock games. I keep a pillow close by to scream into whenever I see DHB line up on the field.
Sometimes we’re the victim of inconsistent play at each and every position… including our franchise Quarterback. Sometimes we’re the victim of bad play calling. I know a lot of people are calling for Pep Hamilton’s head. But, what everyone fails to remember is that most importantly of all, this team is the victim of holding the 1st overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. That’s only accomplished by being the worst team in football in the season prior.
Brad Wells posted a very emotionally charged blog early this morning accusing General Manager, Ryan Grigson, of making excuses for his 8-5 AFC South Division Champion football team. A team who’s defense was "blasted" by the Cincinnati Bengals talented offense yesterday. "Blasted" to the tune of seven points (and 7 more very controversial points) yielded in the first half.
Now, I didn’t initially intend on trying to make an argument for how this football team played yesterday. But, I’ll begin to preface this by saying I enjoy what Brad writes. Particularly, when Brad has something good to say about this football team that’s a real accomplishment. But likewise, a positive response from Brad is few and far between.
When I think of a football team who has truly accomplished something (a Super Bowl appearance) while being so heavily reliant on their defense a few teams come to mind; the 2006 Bears and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. The Bears were a very stingy and opportunistic defense who constantly had to overcome their quarterback, Rex Grossman. But, of football teams who have appeared and won a Super Bowl in the past 20 years, the 2000 Ravens are a team that overcame the least effective offense.
That 2000 Baltimore Ravens team was able to overcome a less than average offensive attack because they only yielded more than 20 points in 3 contests the entire year (20 total contests, regular season & playoffs). In 20 games they allowed an average of 9.4 points per game! Immediately you would expect that in those 3 games in which they allowed more than 20 points they lost. And… you would be wrong. They won every single one of them. The 4 games that Ravens team lost they allowed 19, 10, 14, and 9 points. In those 4 losses they averaged 3.75 points scored in the entire first half.
Rather than get all scientific or whatever with all of this, the point I want to make is, the Colts have had a problem giving up points since the Bye (really, since the 4th quarter of the Denver game). But, when this Grigson/Pagano defense delivers, the offense has to click too. And, versus a team that ended up scoring 35 points against them, the Colts held the Bengals to only 7 first half points.
If you don’t understand how the scoreboard affects play calling, scheme, and how each team approaches each ensuing snap you’re watching the wrong sport. By the time the Colts scored a touchdown their defense was facing a 21-7 deficit. But, imagine how the game might have been different. If Indianapolis could have mustered even 7 points in the first half, how many heaves down the field into double and triple coverage would Jay Gruden have allowed Andy Dalton. Gruden and Marvin Lewis would have been very conscious of the fact Indianapolis would have been only 7 points out of the game. Think about that for a second.
Wow… see how boisterous fired up football fans can get? I didn’t necessarily come here to write about this 2013 Indianapolis Colts football team. I came to talk about those other 1st overall pickers that came before us. I’ll try to get through this quickly after holding your attention so long.
So, the Colts are the 10th team since 2003 to hold that "coveted" 1st overall choice. Teams that have preceded us include (in order): Carolina, St. Louis, Detroit, Miami, Oakland, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego, and Cincinnati. Three of those teams didn't draft a QB: Houston, Oakland, & Miami.
So, where to start? Here’s a thought. Currently, the Indianapolis Colts, from 1st round selection until now, have the highest winning percentage of any other team of the same circumstances. That’s right. In this sample of time the Chargers have appeared in the playoffs 6 out of 10 times. And, the 49ers appeared in the Super Bowl. Yet, the 2012-2013 Colts, as of right this very second, have won a greater percentage of their games than each and every team who has selected 1st overall in the NFL Draft since 2003.
Not good enough for you… I know. "The Colts play in the AFC South. It’s the worst division in all of football. They’re playing weak teams." Don’t worry. Got that covered too. First, we’ll look at the whole picture. Win percentage vs. Non-Division opponents since drafting 1st overall:
San Diego - .580
Indianapolis - .579
Cincinnati - .523
Houston - .519
Carolina - .483
Miami - .483
San Francisco - .432
Detroit - .417
St. Louis - .342
Oakland - .286
A mere 23 games removed from being the worst team in football. And, the Indianapolis Colts have the second best win % vs. non-division opponents. Not bad. And, what of those teams in their 1st two seasons since draft 1st overall?
San Diego - .650
Indianapolis - .579
Cincinnati - .550
Houston - .500
Miami - .500
Carolina - .400
San Francisco - .300
Detroit - .300
St. Louis - .300
Oakland - .250
Well, that can’t be right can it? This Colts team is relying on winning games vs. the inferior AFC South right? Clearly not. You know what… I’ve got it. The Colts just aren’t playing anyone good. Obviously, their first two seasons, even including their non-divisional opponents, have been inferior football teams. What is the win percentage of opponents in these teams’ first two seasons (non-division):
Oakland - .578
San Francisco - .544
San Diego - .522
St. Louis - .509
Indianapolis - .497
Detroit - .497
Cincinnati - .494
Miami - .491
Carolina - .478
Houston - .428
To summarize, that’s the 2nd best record in two seasons vs. the 5th hardest schedule. Also, consider the Colts have 1 more non-division opponent to face, being the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now we’re going to get experimental. Just pretend the Colts lose to Kansas City this coming weekend. Obviously, they will play Houston. But, pretend its KC… and they lost. That would put their vs. non-division opponent win percentage at .550. That’s still tied for second best. And, mind you, vs. ("now") the 4th hardest schedule.
This has all just been a big long winded explanation as to how the Indianapolis Colts aren’t "struggling." They’re not in trouble. And, no one should lose their jobs… yet. They’re progressing right on schedule, if not even a little ahead of the curve. I can’t put some fancy "Star Wars metric" to it for the sake of time and effort for this post. But, just look at the numbers. Second best win percentage vs. the 5th hardest schedule. And, bare in mind that 2004 Chargers team earned their 1st round pick with a 4-12 record. And, that quarterback they drafted was Philip Rivers. Rivers didn’t start a game until the 2006 season (the year following this sample).
While you might be up in arms about the Indianapolis Colts’ 2013 season remember the big picture. Excluding McAfee & Vinatieri there are only 10 players (8 active, 2 IR) on this football team that played for Indianapolis two years ago. 4 of those players are currently back-ups on this squad who started for the Colts in 2011. Ryan Grigson literally threw away the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. Just threw them in the garbage and started over. If any of you are familiar with the Cleveland Browns & Houston Texans history will remind you that starting from scratch and trying to build a football team from 1 to 53 through the draft and free agency is normally a very long process before any success is achieved.
"It is what it is." I actually hate that phrase. But, there’s no better way to put it.
Twitter handle: @Ross_Wheatley