Obviously, that's not what he was quoted as saying, but you get the hint after reading his comments. He saw what we say: The Colts were bad at returning punts and kicks in 2009.
All of us pretty much dropped our jaws when Chad Simpson returned that kick 93 yards for TD against the Jacksonville Jaguars way back in December. When you look at photos or video, no one was more "OMFG!" than Robert Mathis on the sidelines. The reason we were all amazed this was happened had less to do with the circumstances (the return broke the back of the Jaguars) and more to do with the sheer shock effect of seeing our team's atrocious return game actually score off a return.
For years, the Colts return game has been bad. Not average. No OK. Bad. When Terrence Wilkins is the best return man this team has seen since the days of Clarence Verdin, you have problems. Now, obviously, the lack of a potent return game has not killed the Colts. Consider that the Bears had one of the best return games the league has ever seen back in 2006, and they were dominated in the Super Bowl. Since then, despite maintaining a very strong return game, they haven not made the playoffs.
Return games can be neutralized. All it takes is smart coaching and good game management.
That said, it is encouraging to see the Colts take a positive step forward this off-season and actually address the return game.
Caldwell on Friday called the Colts' kick return game "lacking."
"There's no question about that," Caldwell said.
But Caldwell also said realistically the Colts – or any team in the NFL for that matter – will have trouble making kick or punt returns a dominant part of a team's approach.
"You know me, I’m not going to try to hide from the facts," Caldwell said. "It hasn’t been quite as explosive as we’d like, but the league, because of the speed that you face, does not allow anyone to just blow the top off, in terms of their ability to return the ball up and down the field. You’ve had guys that have done it in spurts, here and there.
"We’re looking to be more consistent."
The Colts first moves this off-season to gain more "consistency," which is a coahcing term for "we sucked and we need to get better," was to not offer a tender to T.J Rushing and to cut Chad Simpson. Both are now off the roster, and likely out of football. We wish them well.
Their second move was to declare that, after the first two days in the draft, that there were no more duel return threats left in Rounds 4-7. We literally saw Bill Polian stand up in front of the press and, when asked a direct questions about drafting a returner, told the press the Colts would not draft a returner.
On day three of the draft, the Colts drafted a returner: Ray Fisher out of Indiana.
They also signed rookie Brandon James, a return specialist from Florida. The team also drafted, and brought in via collegiate free agency, players like Kavell Conners, Jeff Linkenbach, Brody Eldridge, and David Caldwell. Improving the blocking on special teams is critical to maintaining lanes for the returner to gain positive yardage, and making sure your team has quality teams that are dedicated to making those blocks is key to the special teams improving.
Prior to two years ago, it was kick coverage that killed this club. Now, that seems to have been squared away. Stage two is getting someone who can, consistently, provide a shorter field for Peyton Manning and the offense to work.