With the regular season coming to an end, I think we have a large enough sample size to objectively grade certain aspects of the team. This is not a two way conversation, I'll be the judge. However your insults and comments are more than welcome.
The areas to be graded have been narrowed down into the following categories: pass offense, pass defense, run offense, run defense, special teams coverage, special teams returns, and last but not least, coaching.
I prefer to leave the categories more broad than say breaking down the defense by groups like secondary, linebackers, etc, for the simple reason that the defense plays as a unit, not idividual sects. Everyone on defense plays the pass, not just the secondary. The secondary relies on the defensive line to smash quarterbacks when able, and the defensive line relies on the secondary to at least try to cover people (I'M PEERING INTENTLY IN YOUR DIRECTION TIM JENNINGS) so that they have ample time to smash said quarterback. Basically what I'm saying is, this is a team grade as it should be. Also, there are no plus or minus grades because those are lame. If someone can explain the difference between an A and A+ without making me laugh I'll consider it. Good luck with that.
Pass Offense: A+
This is a no brainer really. Peyton Manning, while not having his best statistical season, is playing as good as ever. When you take into consideration that his #2 and #3 receivers have a combined 3 years experience in the NFL, what Peyton has accomplished this season is nothing short of amazing. The old argument of whether Peyton makes his receivers look better than they really are is kind of hard to figure at the moment, with this group anyways. Obviously Peyton is god and makes everyone around him better, but let's not diminish the accomplishments of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie this season.
Put yourself in Collie's shoes for a minute. You're a rookie coming from a school that isn't known to be an NFL farm school and just happen to be drafted by a perennial Super Bowl contendor, the Indianapolis Colts. You start the season assuming the role as the 4th receiver on the depth chart expecting to see little if any playing time for quite some time. On opening day, the heir to Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez, injures his knee and you get thrown into the game having to play in the same offense that Peyton Manning runs. You don't know what the hell you are doing. You just run around like an idiot hoping you don't screw up too bad. Talk about pressure. I couldn't imagine being in that position, but Collie rose to the occasion. At times he looked like the next Brandon Stokely, which bodes extremely well for the future of this offense.
Pass Defense: A
If there was any aspect of this team could have or even should have been exploited it was the pass defense, specifically the secondary. No Bob Sanders, Marlin Jackson, and Kelvin Hayden at times, sounds like a recipe for disaster. No so fast my friend. Having a healthy Dwight Freeney, Gary Brackett, some stud rookie corners, and very good Melvin Bullitt certainly helped in preventing the pass defense as being the death knell of the team.
Run Offense: C
I'm sure you saw this coming but it's the truth. The run offense was pretty average all season and average was good enough, especially compared to last season where the run offense wasn't bad, it was awful. All the Colts need is a decent running game and the ability to run when they need to and they should be good to go. As I mentioned many moons ago, Addai has improved upon his disastrous 2008 season. He's stayed healthy all season, starting in all 14 games this season. This is the first time in two seasons Addai has played in every regular season game. Rookie running back Donald Brown wasn't so lucky, however. He's been banged up for most of the season which I believe did hurt the running game. His explosiveness is something the running game is in dire need of and hopefully he'll be good to go for the playoff run. If he had been able to stay healthy and contribute all season the run offense would have received a B.
Run Defense: B
If you aren't pleased with the run defense this season then I don't know what to tell you. Become a Steelers fan or something. Teams don't run for shit against them but yet they are 7-7. Hmm.
This group has really stepped it up compared to seasons past. There were only two instances where the run game looked like a sieve: The Wildcat game and this past Thursday night game at Jacksonville. The good news? Both games resulted in a win for the Colts. Granted, the run defense gave up quite a few 100 yard games to oppossing running backs, but you never really got the feeling that they were helpess in stopping the run. This defense had just as many goalline stands and 4th and shorts stops as any time I've ever seen. So while the the run defense might give up some yardage you can rest assured in knowing that when they have to get a stop, they can, and will.
Special Teams Coverage: C
That certainly wasn't the Russ Purnell lead special teams coverage we saw this season, but it wasn't that great either. I'll sum up the special teams coverage in one quick sentence: They did their job. They didn't give up huge returns in multiple games, and obviously didn't give up any touchdowns, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Special Teams Returns: D
Don't let that Chad Simpson TD at Jacksonville fool you, this area of the team sucks and is clearly the weakest link. The blocking has been horrible all season, T.J. Rushing is the king of the fair catch, and Chad Simpson loves running into massive piles of players in the middle of the field for whatever reason. The Simpson return last Thursday is what they should have been doing all season long, and is what a return should look like. The blocking was good and Simpson looked for a hole in the coverage and busted through it. If they continue to do that then they'll have better production in the return game, but I wouldn't count on it.
Coaching: Individual Grades
Head Coach Jim Caldwell: A
Assistant Head Coach / Receivers Coach Clyde Christensen: A
Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer: A
Running Backs Coach Gene Huey: B
Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore: A
Offensive Line Coach Howard Mudd: A for pass, C for run
Linebackers Coach Mike Murphy: A
Quarterback Coach Frank Reich: Just to be nice I'll give him an A but we all know this guy is the most useless coach on the team.
Special Teams Coordinator Ray Rychleski: C
Defensive Line Coach John Teerlinck: A
Tight End Coach Ricky Thomas: C. What's the deal with Tamme and Santi?
Defensive Backs Coach Alan Williams: A