You'll remember, during the regular season, how I threw the Colts defense under the bus following their disgraceful and embarrassing loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville. The Colts surrendered close to 400 yards rushing that day in a defensive performance that made even the hardest Colts fan shake their head and wonder, "When?" Well, a month or so later, the Jacksonville game was a distant memory. The Colts were holding up the Lombardi trophy while the Jags were home on the couch, again, for the playoffs. No offense to RiverCityRage, who is about as good a Jags blogger as their is over at Big Cat Country, but the Jaguars choked and imploded down the stretch, and I think they let that Colts game get to their heads.
While the Jags game was a distant memory for many Colts fans, you can tell now that it wasn't for Bill Polian. That Jags game was a watershed mark. It's where you saw what certain players were made of. I recall two players in particular that, essentially, quit during that game and they are no longer on the team.
Those two players were Cato June and Gilbert Gardner.
With the release of Gardner yesterday, it seems Polian has purged the team of the players that simply didn't bring full effort to that contest, and as a result embarrassed a team, an organization, and a city. Some would say their deprtures are addition by substraction. As a fan, I liked Cato June. He is as good a coverage LB as there is in the league, and he has an uncanny knack for generating turnovers (ask Tom Brady). However, what Cato isn't good at is tackling, and that is not a good thing if you are the WILL in a Cover 2. So, when Cato became a free agent, and the Colts made virtually no attempt to re-sign him (he eventually signed a very cheap contract with Tampa Bay), I thought back to that Jacksonville game where two half-effort June tackle attempts resulted in two 40-plus yard TD runs by Maurice Jones-Drew.
I think Polian thought of that game as well when it came time to assess June's worth.
Gardner is a different story. For some reason, he was truly loathed by his coaches, especially Ron Meeks. I had no idea that, after he was benched in favor of Rob Morris, he didn't even dress for the playoffs or the Super Bowl.
It was actually more of a surprise that the Colts tendered him a one-year $800,000 deal this off-season. Most of us were convinced he was gone. I question offering him the tender in the first place. If he's garbage, and you know he's garbage, why pay him and keep him on the roster? Why even offer a contract?
In any case, both Cato and Gilbert are now gone. I have no ill will towards them and wish them luck, unless they play the Colts. But their departures signal a clear warning to other players: Half-effort and inconsistent work will result in a kick in the pants. Gilbert's departure also signals, to me, that the Colts are comfortable with rookie Clint Session. We can also expect to see more of third year LBer Tyjuan Hagler in 2007. However, both Session and Hagler are warned: If you but forth a June or Gardner like effort, there is always someone else that can replace you.