One of the oh-so-stupid excuses people would often make for why the Colts have sucked on defense pretty much since Bill Polian took over as president of the team in 1998 is that the team only spends all its money on offense. Thus, the talent on defense suffers due to lack of monetary resources.
Well, since 2007, the Colts have invested $72 million in Dwight Freeney, $43 million in Kelvin Hayden, $37 million in Bob Sanders, $33 million in Gary Brackett, and $27 million in Antoine Bethea. That's a lot of bread set aside for defensive players who, as a group, have not been able to stop the run (surrendering 4.3 a carry last three years) and have been suspect of late in slowing down the pass. Last season, Indy was next to last in turnovers generated (netting only 10 INTs) and outside of Freeney and Robert Mathis, they don't have anyone who can sack the quarterback.
It's also a lot of money put aside for a group that, collectively, cannot tackle to save their friggin lives.
Now, before I continue to rip into the overpaid, over-rated collective that is the Colts 'defense,' I'll start by saying that guys like Freeney, Mathis, and Bethea earn their contracts.
However, Bob Sanders was clearly was a bust after he signed his mega deal following the 2007 season, and Gary Brackett is ridiculously overpaid, especially when the one thing he needs to be good at (tackling) is something he isn't good at. Don't even get me started on Kelvin Hayden. $13.5 million signing bonus, and the guy cannot play more than ten games a season. Meanwhile, Justin Tryon earnings are microscopic compared to Hayden's, and he covers and tackles better. Right now, Hayden might be the third best corner on the team, yet he gets paid like Darrelle Revis.
Football Outsiders recently posted a chart tracking the best and worst tackling teams in football. The 5th worst team on the list was Indianapolis. When the stats are broken down into which players rank the best and worst, Brackett ranks fifth worst among all linebackers. Not surprisingly, Aaron Francisco is the second worst tackling defensive back in all of football, eclipsed only by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who couldn't tackle a turtle with two broken legs.
It also doesn't make me feel any better that Pat Angerer, the man who will one day replace Brackett at middle linebacker, kind of sucks at stopping the run too.
Now, the reason I'm kind of pissed off by these numbers is:
1) They confirm for me what I knew, but didn't want to accept, and
2) That the Colts defense stinks because we keep drafting and signing players who cannot friggin tackle!
Lots of people like to cry about injuries, or make excuses about how all the money is poured into people like Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne.
Tackling is the most basic, fundamental skill of any defensive football player. Just as 'throwing' is basic for quarterbacks and 'catching' is basic for receivers, 'tackling' is as simple as it gets when it comes to defensive players. For the Colts, we've seen the defensive coordinators change from Ron Meeks (who was little more than a sock puppet for Tony Dungy) to Larry Coyer, a man with impressive credentials and loads of respect around the NFL. Yet, the same problem persists.
Our guys cannot. friggin. tackle.
At the end of the day, we can scream that we need 'a run stuffing DT' or 'a big play safety.' Those are all nice, but they don't address the true problem. What it comes down to is, do we have people on this defense that can bring the ballcarrier down? The numbers tell us no.
At some point, the Colts brass needs to stop drafting people who can't tackle and start drafting people who can. Simple, right? If they need motivation or a point of reference, go back and watch Week One against the Texans last season. That game was before all the injuries, before people started making excuses left and right. The tackling in that game was embarrassing, and, sadly, it's the kind of game we've seen time and time again.
In order for this team to win another championship, this defense must become good. The excuses have run dry. When the lockout ends, it's time for people to produce, and to do so consistently. If not, it's time for heads to roll.