When it comes to the offensive line, one of the most important aspects when it comes to good play is often continuity among the unit. So important that, back in August while in Anderson for camp, I wrote that for the Colts continuity was more important than having competition along the line. Back then the Colts were approaching things as a battle for the spot when what they needed to do was get the unit some playing time together. Here's the point: consistency is absolutely huge for a unit like the offensive line. They need to play together to be at their best.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has said before how important consistency is and he repeated that emphasis on Monday. While on a conference call with Indy media, Pagano was asked whether the lack of consistency was playing a role in their struggles, particularly in the run game (the Colts ran for a franchise record low of one yard on Sunday). "We went through it last year;" Pagano noted of offensive line shakeups, "I think we started eight different lineups a year ago and it's difficult because of continuity and communication and chemistry and all those things. We'll never make any excuses but it's real.
"It's hard week-in and week-out for everybody when you have to change for whatever reason, so we'd like to hopefully settle in at some point before this thing's over. It's coming down to the wire with one regular season game left and then the playoffs but it obviously makes it more difficult."
Pagano is right: through fifteen games this year, the Colts have used nine different starting offensive line combinations, including a new one on Sunday. It is certainly a big issue for the Colts. But here's the reality: the lack of continuity is just as much thanks to Chuck Pagano as it is about injuries, and that's why the coach's words fall flat to those listening.
On Sunday, the Colts had two new starters along the line. One of them was right tackle Xavier Nixon, who was filling in for the injured Gosder Cherilus. The other was Khaled Holmes, a surprise starter that played in place of Jonotthan Harrison because of a coach's decision. And it was the second time this season that Pagano has flat out benched his starting center - first with it being A.Q. Shipley being benched for Harrison, and then on Sunday with Harrison being benched for Holmes.
Asked who will start this weekend, Pagano gave a non-answer. "We're going to, like always, continue to evaluate that position just like everything else," Pagano said. "[Holmes will] continue to get reps there. Jon (Harrison) will get reps. Then we'll make a decision."
So get this: Chuck Pagano acknowledged both the importance of continuity along the line and acknowledged that it was certainly a reason for the Colts' struggles, yet minutes later wouldn't say who would start at center. I hope you see the stupidity of that.
It's one thing to try to get the best guy out there. But it's another to do so at the expense of continuity and just a couple of weeks before the playoffs. That's when you want the unit hitting their stride, but rather the Colts are still mixing and matching trying to find something that will work. Maybe Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano feel that because of the injuries they can switch things around at other spots along the line because there would be change there anyway. I don't know. But I can tell you that I don't get it.
Look, I'll be the first one to say that I think a change at the center position was needed. After the Colts benched A.Q. Shipley, the line seems to have continually gotten worse. Would that have happened with Shipley in there? My guess is likely yes, but perhaps not to this degree. Jonotthan Harrison has played very poorly since taking over the starting spot and, while showing some glimpses of promise, wasn't the guy you wanted moving forward this season as the guy protecting Andrew Luck. I never would have moved away from Shipley, but I'll admit that a return to Shipley would have been a good move. Maybe the move to Khaled Holmes will end up being a good move, because Grigson and Pagano have certainly talked him up enough. On Sunday he wasn't great but he was better than Harrison has been. But what I find concerning is that Chuck Pagano is seemingly fine with shuffling the offensive line even still, yet makes some strange moves in doing so. That he preaches on a conference call the importance of continuity and how that's been a reason for the struggles, then minutes later doesn't commit to a starting center for this weekend. Maybe the Colts are trying to right a wrong in moving to Harrison in the first place. And I can't blame them for wanting to try something different there. But please, Chuck, don't give us the crap about how important continuity is unless you're actually serious about maintaining it.