On Sunday night after the Colts' win over the Washington Redskins, I wrote that it was past time for the Colts to bench running back Trent Richardson. The Indianapolis Star's Gregg Doyel wrote something similar. And luckily for all of us, the Colts can't hide from Doyel. So on Wednesday, he asked Chuck Pagano a simple question of why Trent Richardson continues to be the team's starting running back. He asked Pagano what he sees that we don't see. He asked Pagano why Richardson keeps getting the football.
"Because he's our starting running back," Pagano replied.
So again, Pagano was asked why?
"Because he's our starting running back," Pagano said once again.
No reasons. Short answers. And more fire to the discussions about what's really going on.
Normally, that question would prompt a "bowling ball of butcher knives" response from Pagano. On Monday, it was, "just keep grinding," "keep swinging the ax," and "keep chopping wood." But his response Wednesday was uncharacteristic Pagano, and on a day where he seemed to be in a good mood too. It was a short answer that gave nothing. And all it did was prompt more and more discussion amongst fans as to whether or not the Colts' head coach even knows why he's starting Trent Richardson at running back.
Look, Chuck Pagano doesn't owe us any answers. He ultimately doesn't answer to us, though part of his job certainly is dealing with the media. But Pagano isn't under any obligation to tell us exactly why he's still starting Richardson. He does have to talk to the media, however, and if his answer for why they're starting Richardson is "because he's our starting running back," it's likely not going to do much to help garner support for that move.
Colts fans aren't stupid. I deal with them every single day, and most of them know what they're talking about, they care about the team, and they're loyal. They're not just going to take whatever the general manager or head coach says and believe it. There's a certain level of trust built-in just by nature of the job position, sure, but stupid answers that are proven wrong over time don't build that trust.
It wasn't Pagano, but remember what Ryan Grigson said the reason for them starting Khaled Holmes at center was? Way back in the offseason, Grigson was asked the simple question of why the team felt confident in Holmes as their starter. A fair question and an opportunity for Grigson to simply share his reasoning and quiet the questions. Instead, he got testy. "Because we've done our homework," Grigson said. "Because we're the ones that have studied. We're the ones that have watched all the film and not just 10 YouTube clips. We went into the school, had multiple scouts watch him, had our o-line coach work him out. Thirty-seven starts at USC, it's not like it's ‘Whatsa Matta U'. It's a pretty good program. The thing is too just to help you understand, we're going to put the best players possible and we go to every length, every length, we go to other continents. We're trying our best."
I don't think that I have to remind you what has happened with Khaled Holmes. He has been inactive in eleven of the twelve games this season, playing a grand total of seven snaps - all of which came last week in his only game on the active roster so far this year. I'm not saying that the decision not to start Holmes is a bad one - remember, there was a reason for the question in the first place. But forgive me if I'm not quick to believe one of the Colts' management when they say things like that. Or think back to another situation regarding the center position, when the Colts benched starter A.Q. Shipley (who was playing well) for Jonotthan Harrison. Pagano's answer as to why they made the switch was by saying that they do "whatever gives us the best chance to win" a couple of times. No explanation as to what prompted the move.
So, what should we make of Chuck Pagano's comments? I see a few different possibilities for the comments:
- He's just flat out tired of answering questions about Trent Richardson. I mean, who could blame him for getting tired of these questions? He surely must see the same things we do on tape and he surely must not enjoy being asked about his player's struggles over and over again. So I could really see these comments just being a result of him being tired of answering the questions. But considering that this came after an off day for the Colts, on the first Richardson question of the day, when he absolutely had to have known that questions about the running back were coming, if this was the reason for the comments it seems very odd. Every other time this season he's handled it with one of his Pagano-isms, so why the sudden change this time? Why was this the situation that finally prompted this response?
- Pagano could simply be defending his player. I think we all know that coaches in general, and Chuck Pagano in particular, are very big on defending their players - as they should be. I don't think it's necessarily wise for a coach to throw a player under the bus, and so seeing a coach defend his player is nothing new whatsoever. It's very, very possible that this response was all in an effort to defend his player and try to get the questions to stop. But if that was his purpose, it probably wasn't the best option. Firstly, I think that giving reasons for why he thinks Richardson still gives value would be more convincing to fans as a defense than just saying "because he's our starter" is. Even calling Richardson "a rolling ball of butcher knives" seems like a better defense of Richardson than the one Pagano gave. Plus, it didn't stop the questioning. Not at all, and in fact it might have just added to them. If this was his intention, I'm not sure it worked out that well.
- Perhaps he doesn't really know why Trent Richardson is starting. This seems like the most far-fetched one, but hear me out: what if it isn't Pagano's decision to make? I think we all know that general manager Ryan Grigson has at least a say in personnel moves, and to think otherwise is pretty naive. Consider that this trade is considered one of the worst in the NFL in a long, long time. For a first-time general manager who made that terrible move, Grigson is not going to be quick to admit a mistake whatsoever. Could the GM have a significant influence in the decision to still start Richardson? I'm not saying that's the case, but it's at least worth considering in light of Pagano's comments. He had about as many reasons for Richardson starting as we all do. And if the only reason for starting a player is because he's your starter, odds are he probably shouldn't be your starter much longer. Unless, of course, there's more to the story. And I'm not saying that there is, but it's something to at least consider for this discussion.