The Indianapolis Colts entered the 2015 season with Super Bowl expectations, with even owner Jim Irsay going on record as saying this is as excited as he's been entering a season and that he wants to win multiple Super Bowl titles with Andrew Luck at quarterback. But the Colts have suddenly gone from the top of the power rankings to reeling after a second-straight loss to start the season, this one a 20-7 home loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
The players deserve a lot of the blame, starting with Luck himself. The quarterback turned the football over four times tonight and now has six turnovers on the year in just two games. The Colts have not developed any offensive rhythm as Luck has yet to really impress. And then there's the terrible play of the offensive line. And the struggles of some of the receivers (Andre Johnson) to get open. And untimely fumbles like Frank Gore's drop along the goal line. And missed field goals. And poor inside linebacker play. And a depleted secondary. The list could go on and on. If we're playing the blame game, it starts with the players.
But it goes further than that, however. And the blame for what we've seen from the Colts so far extends to general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano. Their seats are getting hotter as the Colts continue to go cold.
For two weeks in a row, the Colts have come out looking flat and unprepared. Last week, I was willing to chalk it up to shaking the rust off in the regular season opener against a very good team on the road. I wasn't too hard on the coaching staff last week. But this week? After a leader on the team, D'Qwell Jackson, called last week a "good wake-up call?" At home on primetime television? With some of the same issues? A lot of that is on Chuck Pagano and his staff. Looking unprepared last week was one thing, but doing so for the second straight week? That's unacceptable. The Colts have been shut out in back-to-back first halves now - the first time that has happened to a Colts team since 1997. Yes, the same year they went 3-13, which led to the number one overall pick to be able to draft Peyton Manning. The Colts have scored the fewest points of any team in the NFL through two games this season. With so much talent on offense, that's almost unfathomable, but it's true.
It hasn't just been a lack of preparation, however - it's been a lack of discipline. The Colts have been flagged for 16 penalties through two games this year, several of which have been crucial penalties. Seven times the Colts have been penalized for holding, wiping out a couple of big plays. 16 penalties and eight turnovers. That's sloppy, undisciplined play. And that reflects poorly on the head coach.
And we can wonder about individual coaching decisions too, though with the Colts players struggling I'm not sure that this is the biggest issue. But, with the run game working remarkably well, getting cute and trying to get Joe Reitz a touchdown? That was strange. Or saving their timeouts despite having all three of them and time left to work with before halftime (with Andrew Luck at quarterback)? Also puzzling. Again, I don't think the individual coaching decisions have been the biggest issue, but there still have been some confusing decisions.
Ryan Grigson is to blame, too. Just pop in the tape and watch the Colts' offensive line let Andrew Luck get hit all over the place. The Jets recorded 11 official quarterback hits tonight, and that's not even including the other times he was pressured and not hit. Through two games, Luck has been hit 17 times (officially) and sacked twice, while again the pressure numbers are higher. Lance Louis has looked terrible. Khaled Holmes hasn't looked much better. And the interior of the line has collapsed. Plus, the fact that the Colts have had seven holding penalties - four of them from offensive linemen - adds to the woes. The only move of substance that Ryan Grigson made along the offensive line this year was to add Todd Herremans. That was it. And then the team's insistence that Joe Reitz, who might be their best option at guard right now, be relegated to being used as an extra lineman or receiving target isn't understandable, either. The line has been a mess, and that starts with Grigson. They simply aren't that talented, outside of the tackles, and that has resulted in Andrew Luck getting hit often in the first two weeks.
Or take, for example, the pass rush. Quarterbacks have attempted 53 passes against the Colts this year, while Indy has hit the opposing signal-caller just three times total, notching one sack. Trent Cole hasn't done much. Bjoern Werner, the only defensive player Grigson has drafted in the first two rounds of any draft, has continued to be awful. The Colts can't get to the quarterback. And that's not a coaching problem, that's a talent problem.
I'm not going to start criticizing Grigson for some of the free agent signings made this offseason - like Andre Johnson or Trent Cole - because, after all, I think it's what he had to do. But Andre Johnson has played poorly, while Trent Cole has been nearly invisible. Todd Herremans hasn't done much to help the interior of the line. The free agent signings haven't looked great so far, but I do think it's too early to start judging those and criticing Grigson for them - particularly with a couple of his draft picks, Henry Anderson and David Parry, playing well early on (with draft talk, though, comes the question of his taking a wide receiver with their first round pick).
Earlier today, former agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry made a comparison that I think is very accurate: Ryan Grigson is like the DeMarco Murray of general managers. The perception of Murray is that he looked so good because he was playing behind the Cowboys' offensive line last year, while the perception of Grigson is that he looks so good because of Andrew Luck, his first draft pick. I think that's a great comparison. Andrew Luck is phenomenal, and he has made up for a team lacking in talent. But when Luck plays poorly, like he has in the first two weeks of this season, the Colts' warts show. We can see just how good the team is overall, and the answer is that they're not very good. They're an average team (if that) made a lot better by their great quarterback, but when he struggles the Colts will look terrible.
There have been a number of reports regarding the future of head coach Chuck Pagano with the Colts. Reports that suggest that the tension between Pagano and Grigson is such that Pagano could be gone after the season. The internal issues are legitimate and bear watching, but they might not even matter in the end. If the Colts can't correct things and if they continue to struggle, we won't have to worry about internal issues, because the play on the field would justify a change - and not just with choosing one over the other but with cleaning house. There's plenty of time to still right the ship and turn things around after an 0-2 start, and three straight games against the AFC South should help that. But the reality is that the seat is getting hotter for Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson in Indianapolis, and what we've seen from the team so far is unacceptable. It goes all the way to the top, and it's time for Pagano and Grigson to be on the hot seat after an ugly 0-2 start.