If you missed it last night, Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton created headlines by saying that the play-calling has been to blame for the offense's struggles recently.
Hilton's main argument in support of that is that the Colts haven't been calling enough plays down the field, so defenses can crowd the line of scrimmage and be in a better position to stop the run and the short passing game. And, to be honest, he has a great point: the Colts haven't been testing the defense down the field much recently despite having guys like Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett who can do so. This past Sunday, Matt Hasselbeck attempted just seven passes of ten or more yards down the field (according to Pro Football Focus). That's it. Certainly the injuries play a major part of that as the Colts wanted to keep Hasselbeck upright, but regardless of the reason, Hilton's comments make sense.
Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is made available to the media once a week, on Thursdays, and with the Colts pushing up this week's schedule, Chud's media availability fell today, giving him the opportunity to respond to Hilton's criticism.
"That's a new one for me," Chud said. "I don't think anybody has ever said I've thrown too many short passes in a game. Look, we're navigating through some challenging situations right now and working to try to do our best to get what we need to be able to win and also do that and tie that into what our opponent does or doesn't do well. Attack from a game plan standpoint and tie that into Chuck's overall vision of the team and what we need to do from one week to another. I think everybody understands that. At the end of the day, we'll keep working from week-to-week and finding what it is that is going to succeed for us."
One interesting point of Chud's comments is when he talks about Chuck Pagano's vision for the team, and I don't think that can be overlooked either. We know that Pagano and Chud are close and that Chud was brought in to be the special assistant to Pagano last year, so they work together very closely. So we can't ignore Pagano's influence either. He's not hands-on with the offense like he is with the defense, but he does have a direction he wants the offense to go, so I find it interesting that Chud talked about Pagano's vision.
Chudzinski, though, realizes that there is a lot of frustration that comes with the offense failing (the Colts have scored just 36 points combined in their last three games) and isn't surprised by that ("no, no, no, not at all," he said today). He also realizes that he needs to get better and that the Colts will continue to work through things until they figure out what works.
"We're going to keep working through, and we're going to find a way," he said. "I know everybody's frustrated, and there are a lot of things that aren't ideal from my standpoint as well. We're going to find a way and get better. You see progress. You see good things happening and good play at times. We've got to be more consistent. Offensive football, I've been around it a long time. A lot of it is rhythm. A lot of it is getting in a groove. Sometimes that can happen in a snap. Hopefully that's what we'll be able to do this weekend."
As for whether Hilton's comments were made out of frustration, Chudzinski said that, "you'd have to ask him." And, while Hilton would like to see the Colts get the ball downfield more, Chud still is preaching balance.
"Well, I think it's important to have balance within your passing game, as well as from run to pass," Chudzinski said. "So being able to do all those things are important. You look at, I think talking specifically, like last week's game. We had some opportunities, we had some things up and we weren't able to capitalize down the field for a number of reasons. We got a lot of things underneath. That's what Houston was giving us in that game to get. We were able to get some of those things. It is tough in this league to move the ball consistently without getting some chunks. We understand that. We recognize that. I wish it was as easy. I think everybody knows, it's not as easy just calling a different play. It's a lot more to that. It ties into a lot of different areas, not just one."
Ultimately, offenses and by default offensive coordinators are judged by results. Earlier this year, the Colts fired Pep Hamilton because he wasn't getting it done, and recently, Rob Chudzinski hasn't been either. In their past three games, the Colts have averaged just 12 points and 250.7 yards per game while converting just 25.8% of their third down attempts, allowing eleven sacks, and turning the ball over seven times. That just won't cut it, as we saw perhaps most clearly last Sunday: 17 points would have won the game for the Colts, but their offense managed just ten points and 190 total yards, which resulted in the Colts losing the biggest game of the season. So it's no surprise that there would be frustration and T.Y. Hilton's comments have a lot of truth to them. Ultimately, for Chudzinski, he's going to be judged by results, and if things aren't working out, the blame is going to fall on him. And, unless he gets things figured out quickly, the Colts will likely end the season on a very bad note, mainly because of their offense.