On a cold and rainy night in New England, the Indianapolis Colts lost 45-7 to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game to see their season end on the doorstep to the Super Bowl. It was a performance that completely embarrassed the Colts in every aspect of the game. One of those areas was in terms of physicality and toughness. And owner Jim Irsay didn't like it.
"It's a really tough loss, obviously,'' Irsay said, according to RTV6's Mike Chappell. "We had high expectations coming in here, and the way the game went was extremely disappointing.''
"It's tough to get that close," he added. "It was an incredible year. We're going to get there.''
"Tonight it's hard to feel the appreciation, but it's there when you take in the whole season,'' Irsay said. "We're really disappointed. We knew this was a measuring stick that we wanted to get over, and we didn't…. We just didn't have it tonight and I know how empty that feels. However, we're not that far away. We're close."
What was the area in which Irsay really thought the Colts needed to get better? He said the Colts have to be a tougher team.
"When you get to this level, this championship level, we have to be able to be a tougher team," the owner noted. "We have to be able to stop the run. We can't turn it over. What's missing is trying to continue to bring in a team that I talked about, which is a really tough defensive team. A team that can run the ball and surround Andrew with that.''
These are interesting comments by Irsay in light of what Ryan Grigson and particularly Chuck Pagano have talked about over the last three years. Pagano has mentioned repeatedly about how the Colts want to build a monster, and what we saw on Sunday night was far from a monster. Pagano was hired to bring the Baltimore physicality that the Ravens' defense has, yet on Sunday night they were outmatched in that area. This tough, physical defense was exactly what Chuck Pagano was supposed to bring with him, yet three years later the team's owner is saying that they have to be a tougher team after a playoff loss.
Look, neither Ryan Grigson nor Chuck Pagano are going anywhere. Even the discussion is pretty silly, considering they just reached the AFC Championship game in the third year of the rebuild. Right now, both are safe. But the comments from Irsay are interesting nonetheless when considering that he was talking about the team needing to get better in the very area that Pagano was hired to address.
I'm sure that both Grigson and Pagano would agree with Jim Irsay - the Colts do have to get tougher. They can't be pushed around in the trenches like they were on Sunday night. They can't miss tackles like they did on Sunday night. They do have to get better, and both Grigson and Pagano will be around to help the team do that this offseason.
But when the team's owner - the one paying their checks - is saying that he's disappointed after a playoff loss and saying that they have to be tougher, hopefully it will be a wake-up call of sorts to Grigson, Pagano, and the Colts players that this type of performance won't be tolerated moving forward. The Colts had a good season, but they've got a lot of work to do moving forward to reach their ultimate goal. One of those next steps they have to take? Become a tougher team.