This offseason has been one of the most heartbreaking as a Colts fan in recent memory. All the while being the most intruiging and uplifting as well.
With the retirement of our beloved coach Tony Dungy, the departure our defensive coordinator, the greastest receiver of all time not named Jerry Rice being cut, and the near loss of the most underrated center in NFL history, it seemed as if the team was in shambles. No side of the ball was spared, not even the special teams (not that anyone cares about Russ Purnell). Things seemed to be at their lowest, the state of the franchise couldn't have been more bleak.
But yet here we are, days, weeks, months later, and the future couldn't seem brighter.
There are many factors in this equation that caused our frown to turn upside down. Many of which can be placed solely on one person. Who is this person? Well, follow me to the next page and find out.
There are a lot of similarities between Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell. The most obvious being that they share the same stoic demeanor and willingness to win.
There are also a lot of differences between them as we have come to see. Tony Dungy's mentality when it comes to coaching was to will a player to perform, and undying loyalty to those around him. He didn't believe size would prevent one from being a great player, or that knowing every nuance of the game would hinder your coaching prowess, but that you can strive to greatness with heart and determination. Did he do this to the detriment of the team? It could certainly be argued. But even so, there is no denying his influence on those around him and his amazing accomplishments.
We assume that Coach Caldwell shares this mentality through the praises of Tony Dungy and Bill Polian. But we cannot judge him on words alone, for actions speak louder than words.
Through his actions, Coach Caldwell spoke loud and clear: change was in order.
Letting Ron Meeks and Russ Purnell go sent mixed feelings throughout Colts nation. Most people were indifferent when it came to Ron Meeks. To me, he seemed like a very vanilla defensive coordinator, basically doing Coach Dungy's bidding, but solid nonetheless. And then there's Russ Purnell, the most hated person in the entire organization. Instead of playing it safe and following in Tony Dungy's footsteps as not to upset too many people, Coach Caldwell did what he believed was right. He saw a weakness and decided to target it.
With Ron Meeks' departure, a defensive coordinator replaces him who shares the same general philosophy: speed kills. Where they differ is in the personnel department. No more will we see undersized defensive lineman dominating the starting lineup. This has been an area that Colts fans have prayed endlessly that would be resolved. It wasn't for the lack of trying mind you, it's just that some of the acquisitions were very questionable. As opposed to plugging any quick guy in, Coyer believes sizes and athleticism are just as important, hence the drafting of Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor.
The thing that might disturb Colts fans the most is that even someone who was working for a completely different franchise last year, Larry Coyer knew where the biggest weakness of the defense was.
In bolstering the defensive line, there will be a ripple effect all throughout the defense. The linebackers will be less pressured to perform above their ability, giving them the chance to make plays as opposed to trying to prevent too much of a loss. With a stouter interior defensive line, our defensive ends will be more free to cause havoc in the backfield, improving the pass rush. With the pass rush performing above normal, the secondary will have pressure taken off of it, allowing them to make more plays as well; a ripple effect.
While the special teams are a very important aspect of the game, I'm not educated enough to know what Ray Rychleski brings to the table. Word has it he's pretty good at what he does. To Russ Purnell's defense though, the kickoff and punt coverage teams performed much better last season, but it still wasn't good enough. Perhaps Rychleski will bring in new ideas or some type of schematic advantage, or perhaps it will just be a mental boost. Whatever it is, it will certainly be better than Darrell Reid coaching the special teams by himself.
These changes (for the better) are due in part by Coach Caldwell putting his stamp on the team, which is what we should have expected. With all due respect to Tony Dungy, we didn't want a clone of his to take over, too afraid to take a chance here or there. We wanted actions. What was he going to do to improve a team that has accomplished so much? Well, I think he's shown just that.
The state of the Colts is looking better than ever. Most of the players will be going into training camp healthy and ready to go. The additions through free agency and the draft look to improve on what is already a dominant team. Let it be no mistake Colts fans, last year was merely an anomaly, a freak accident. The combination of many things that are not normal to how the Colts play, caused their demise in the end (poor officiating didn't help). But as we stand now, without having seen anyone perform on the field, we're 10 times better off this year, as opposed to last year. That's all you can really do, build upon your success and failures of the year(s) past and work to improve upon them and prevent them from reoccuring. It looks like Caldwell has seen the light, now all we have to do is wait to see his changes in action.