As many of you know, there's been some interesting reports about the tension in the front office. Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano are supposedly bumping heads and that's never good for business. In today's day and age of immediate information and reliable insider information, it's safe to say that where there's smoke there's fire. Chuck Pagano's rough season has put him on the hot seat. I'd have to imagine that Ryan Grigson isn't sitting too comfortably either. So, if we have to look at both sides of the story, which one is the bigger problem? Who is the person creating these problems? Is it Pagano and his inability to get the most of the team or is it Grigson, with his many bad trades and awful signings? Let's break this down.
Chuck Pagano's Side
First, we'll look at Chuck Pagano. He is a player's coach who's great message resonates throughout the locker room. If you look at Pagano's record with the team, you see a 33-15 record over three seasons and continued progression in the playoffs. He's taken a clear step back, but is it because of him or is because of the bad personnel choices?
Chuck Pagano has had a rough season with the Colts. Ever since the tough start against the Bills and Jets, his job security has been questioned. Just when the blame was shifting to Grigson, Pagano goes out and makes one of the worst coaching decisions you can make and he had no excuse and had to bite the bullet. As a coach, you don't call a play if you know your players don't know how to work the play. If you don't know that your players don't know the play, that's even worse. That play is a big deal, because it's the type of play that you'll see on Top 10 countdowns for years to come. You'll see it on Twitter when someone wants to make a joke. The Colts won't be able to escape that disaster and it doesn't give the franchise a good image. That play did so much damage to Pagano's image. It cost them the game against the Patriots as well.
The following week, the Colts laid an egg against the Saints and Pagano needed a rah-rah halftime speech to fire up his team. I wrote an article a month ago about a culture change in Indianapolis and one of the things I mentioned was that the Colts need to stop coming out flat and going into the half with a deficit. In four of the seven games this season, the Colts have gone into halftime with a deficit. The Colts cannot expect to win a championship if they keep taking halftime deficits, do some rah-rah speech at halftime and then close the gap in the second half. I said it in the article and I'll say it now, it's not a formula for success. That just won't work.
What's frustrating about Pagano (and Pep Hamilton too) is that they flashed the potential to come up with great gameplans. I look at the Broncos and Bengals playoff games from last year. I look at the first half of Patriots game and I see a great offensive gameplan. If the Colts came up with gameplans like that on a consistent basis, they would be a top team this year, however they don't. They can't do that on a weekly basis and that's a problem. That's why it's so frustrating because everyone sees that they have the ability to be effective game-planners, yet they can't do it consistently.
A Jay Glazer report said the players are behind Pagano and support him. It makes sense, he's a players coach and as the title suggests, players like him for that. He makes those rah-rah speeches that gets people fired up. The fans and writers see the ones after the wins, but there are also many rah-rah speeches happening at halftime.
The players defending Chuck Pagano could help his case at the end of the season, but the way the Colts have been performing, it's hard to think they're actually playing for this guy.
Ryan Grigson's Side
Then, there's Ryan Grigson. Grigson is known for his many trades and some popular free agent signings. Grigson is also known as the man who absolutely nailed the 2012 draft, only to blow it in the next one. In the 2014 draft, Grigson found Donte Moncrief and Jack Mewhort, two guys who have been key contributors for the Colts this season. He hasn't done a great job of fixing the holes on the team and has made some bonehead errors, but at the end of the day, he has put together a talented team. Do you blame the coach for not getting the most out of team, or do you blame the guy who put it together?
As you can see, there are many questions that need to be asked to be answer this big general question. You have to identify what is the issue and then work from there.
The offensive line has been an issue over the past three seasons (and before Grigson was the general manager), yet they haven't completely fixed the issue. That is just an example of how the front office just can't get the job done on many issues.
Grigson has had a lot of ups and downs. Trading a 2nd round pick for Vontae Davis was outstanding and he looks like a genius for that. Trading a 1st round pick for Trent Richardson is far worse than trading for Davis is good. Richardson has been called "the worst running back of all time" by ESPN analyst Ryan Clark. It's a bold statement, but he's not far off the mark. Richardson's impact was a negative one and he managed to hurt the team almost every time he touched the ball. Trading away Marcus Burley when there was little cornerback and general defensive back depth was not a smart move. Burley is now starting for the Seahawks. All his little trades from the Eagles (Justice, Fokou, D.J. Johnson for Cody Parkey, Greg Lloyd) have all failed as well. He hit the nail on the head with the Jerrell Freeman signing from the CFL, but Henoc Muamba has yet to do anything in the NFL. It's very inconsistent and that's usually what happens when you get a guy who likes to make a lot of trades. A conservative general manager, like Ted Thompson of the Packers, won't get involved in many trades and it actually helps them in the long run, as they are able to keep all their draft picks and not bring in too many new faces, which doesn't disrupt their team chemistry.
Going back to Richardson, trading Trent Richardson for a first round pick is something that could haunt this team for a long time and here's why. Had the Colts kept that pick, they would have picked 26th overall. Do you know who were the next TEN picks?!?!?!
27th Overall -- Deone Bucannon (Arizona Cardinals)
28th Overall -- Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina Panthers)
29th Overall -- Dominique Easley (New England Patriots)
30th Overall -- Jimmie Ward (San Francisco 49ers)
31st Overall -- Bradley Roby (Denver Broncos)
32nd Overall -- Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota Vikings)
33rd Overall -- Xavier Su'a Filo (Houston Texans)
34th Overall -- Dee Lawrence (Dallas Cowboys)
35th Overall -- Joel Bitonio (Cleveland Browns)
36th Overall -- Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
Of those players, all but Easley are starters. Of course the Colts wouldn't have taken Bridgewater or Carr (although you never know). Someone like Bucannon, Benjamin, Ward, Roby, Bitonio or Su'a Filo could have been productive starters for the Colts as all are productive (or very productive) starters for their respective teams. Of course I don't have a crystal ball, but these guys have proven to be good players.
After reviewing both cases, we come down to the real question: It is more of a personnel problem or not reaching the potential problem? The fact of the matter is, the Colts have continuously improved in the playoffs. The Patriots always have their number and they don't perform against strong teams, but they do go pretty far in the playoffs. I've written many negative things about Chuck Pagano, but I have to give him credit for taking the team to those levels. Does Andrew Luck play a part in it? You're damn right, but it was the defense that shut down Peyton Manning and the Broncos, and Andy Dalton and the Bengals last year. We saw more team wins in the playoffs last year.
Then, when we look at personnel, we see the same issues over and over again. The offensive line is always a mess and there's always little depth at key positions. The cornerback position was lacking depth this season after injuries to two of the top guys. Colt Anderson, a safety and special teamer had to play some cornerback.
Over the course of this article, I've tried to lay out just about everything in a objective, non-biased fashion. Here's where I state my opinion.
The Colts are just as talented as the Patriots. The Colts have the talent to compete with the best teams in the NFL. I mentioned the 33-15 record earlier and I have to say that those records are inflated. When you play the AFC South 6 times a year, that's like getting free money. They're easy wins every year so it inflates the record. If the Colts were in any other division, they would not be 11-5. They have improved in the playoffs, but it hasn't been pretty. The first year, they were easily beaten by the Super Bowl champs. That was acceptable, because it was the first year of the Pagano/Luck regime and they were on the road. The second year, they needed an absolute miracle to beat the Chiefs and then the following week they get clobbered by the Patriots. Finally, in the third year (last season), they put together two great games against the Bengals and Broncos, only to get killed by the Patriots for the second straight season.
Chuck Pagano can hang with the likes of playoff Marv Lewis and John Fox, but he'll never even get close to Bill Belichick and that's the difference between the Patriots and the Colts. As I mentioned, the talent between the teams is pretty close, yet the Patriots always find ways to win very big (with the exception of this year). What has killed the Colts whenever they play the Patriots has been mostly coaching related. This past season, there were plenty of coaching gaffes that cost the Colts the win. I believe coaching gaffes were the biggest reason why the Colts lost against the Patriots in 2015. In the 2012-2013 playoff game, the 2014-2015 regular season game and the 2014-2015 playoff game, the Colts came in with terrible gameplans and were easily out-coached by Belichick.
People say Pagano gets "out-coached", but what does that really mean? How does a coach get out-coached? Here's an example. Bill Belichick does an outstanding job of taking away the opponent's top performer. In the case of the Colts, that has been T.Y. Hilton. The Colts develop a gameplan that revolves around getting the ball to Hilton. How do I know this? You check out the amount of times Hilton has been targeted in those games and how many times Luck looks to Hilton as well how many times Hilton is the first read/progression on passing plays. In last year's playoffs, Hilton was targeted 6 times, most of those targets in the first half, and Hilton only caught one pass and it required a spectacular pinpoint pass and a tough over-the-shoulder catch. The Colts wanted to get the ball to him, but they couldn't and that's what Belichick does. So they came out with a bad gameplan and it hurt them all game.
When your initial gameplan is immediately countered by the opposing coach and then you can't make correct adjustments, you've been out-coached.
As you might imagine, I'm sounding like an anti-Pagano guy, because he is more of an issue than Ryan Grigson. That's my answer: Pagano is the bigger problem, but Grigson is not off the hook and he should be reprimanded for the countless errors this guy has made.
If the Colts do not win the Super Bowl or make it to the Super Bowl this season, they BOTH should be fired. It's time for a shake up. This is not a rebuild, this is not a restart. The Colts have plenty of pieces on offense and they have some players on defense. They can compete, but they need to have a coaching change and a front office shake up. The Colts remind me of the 2001 Buccaneers. They had Tony Dungy who took them far into the playoffs, but they needed a coach to get them to the next level, so they traded for Jon Gruden. In the 2002-2003 season, the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in Gruden's first year. The Colts need a coach and a front office that can get this team to the next level, because I think this is as far as they go under the Pagano/Grigson regime.
If it were up to me, I'd keep Greg Manusky, who has proven to do a good job of maximizing the defense's potential in many big games. He was a great defensive coordinator in San Diego and if he regains that aggressive mentality he had back then, this defense could be very good. He would have a short leash however. Pep Hamilton gets the axe because of his inability to create effective, smart gameplans on a weekly basis. I would name Rob Chudzinski as the offensive coordinator, who has a experience and has worked in a variety of different offenses. I would then hire an offensive coach to take over this team, and overhaul the offense. A few names include: Sean Payton,Todd Haley, or Hue Jackson. These coaches have head coach experience and operate balanced, excellent offenses. Sean Payton hasn't been great over the past two seasons, but we can't discount what he's done as head coach of the Saints. Notice also how I didn't mention any college coaches, because personally, I don't like hiring college coaches. History tells us that the majority of the time, those hirings don't work out. Of course, many of you may or may not disagree with that, but that's how I feel about the current coaching staff. You can't just take away the leader, you need to change some of the guys under him too.
This article has been all over the place, so here's a quick recap. A shake up is needed. Pagano needs to go and Grigson needs to go. This should be done after the season, because a mid-season firing implies that they're giving up and that message cannot be sent to the players. If this team wants to take the next step, which is the Super Bowl, they'll need to do it under a different leader and a new regime.
So I ask you Colts fans and football fans, who do you believe is the bigger problem? Should both be fired, or just one of them? Vote and comment!