When training camp opened two weeks ago, Colts owner Jim Irsay told a pool of media surrounding him that he expected the Colts defense to become "a cornerstone" of the franchise in 2013. He also said he was looking for the team to become more physical and to improve their special teams. Irsay went so far as to compare his 2013 Colts with the 2004 Patriots, a team known for great defense and special teams that went on to win the Super Bowl that season.
So, what did Irsay get when his team took the field on Sunday in their preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills?
- Sloppy special teams, including a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
- Weak defense, with 136 rushing yards surrendered.
- The team seeming to quit in the second half.
- A 44-20 embarrassment at home.
Today, Irsay took to Twitter to express his frustration:
Many starters played briefly or were nursing little injuries,but it was a crap performance,my apologies/My commanders got n earful from me!— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) August 12, 2013
Irsay expects this team to contend in 2013, and rightly so. He spent a bunch of money this offseason, and he expects an immediate return on his investment.
Also, as Andrew Mishler and I noted in our post-game podcast, the Colts looked completely unprepared for that preseason opener. That's on the coaching staff, in particular Chuck Pagano. Since Pagano is the head coach, one can only assume he is one of the "commanders" who got an earful from Irsay.
Another guy who probably should have gotten an earful was special teams coach Tom McMahon. Hired this season to replace Marwan Maalouf, McMahon is the team's third special teams coach in three seasons. Maalouf, who parted ways with the Colts earlier this year (a.k.a, they fired him) helped improve Indianapolis' special teams ranking from 31st in 2011 to 11th in 2012, according to Football Outsiders' metrics.
Sunday was McMahon's first chance to show he could fulfill Irsay's mandate to improve the special teams, and he failed, miserably.
Yes, it's only preseason, but the owner pretty clearly expects better from his coaches and players. Maybe he doesn't expect them to win these sorts of exhibition games, but he certainly demands that they play and coach at a higher level.