If you had told me before the season started that my last Monday After Awards article this season would come right after Week 17, I would have said you are crazy. And yet, here we are. Sixteen games and 17 weeks after the Colts were pegged as a Super Bowl favorite, the Colts will be watching the playoffs from home.
It was a season that saw six QBs take the field for the Colts, with star Andrew Luck only playing in seven games. Still, the Colts finished 8-8, led mostly by a battered and food-poisoned Matt Hasselbeck. However, the team missed way too many opportunities, and couldn't hold off the surging Houston Texans, who took the division crown.
As of writing this article Chuck Pagano remains the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, although I, and just about everyone else, expect this to change later in the day.
Well, time to hand out some awards for the final time this season.
MVP - Jerrell Freeman
The Colts linebacker was everywhere on Sunday. After dealing with injuries for the better part of the year, we saw what a healthy Freeman is capable of.
Yesterday, Freeman led the team in tackles (6 solo and 2 assists), sacks (2), interceptions (1), and scored a touchdown. When the Colts needed a defensive play, Freeman was the guy who stepped up to make it.
As his contract is up, it is likely that this could be Freeman's last game in Indianapolis. I sure hope the Colts bring him back, but we'll see about that. If it was, in fact, his last game in town, he sure put on a good show.
"We're Talking About Practice" Award - Josh Freeman, Ryan Lindley, and Alex Tanney
I'm passing this one out to the quarterbacks in this game (minus Zach Mettenberger).
Freeman and Lindley were both signed by the Colts on Tuesday, and neither had taken an NFL snap since the pre-season. They both played on less than a week of practice, and didn't play too poorly. Freeman was 15-28 for 199 yards, a touchdown, and an interception (that was more a product of Daniel ‘Boom' Herron not catching the pass). Lindley was 6-10 for 56 yards and a touchdown, primarily in the two-minute drill.
On the other side, Tanney was signed off the Colts practice squad, and made his NFL debut against them. Tanney finished 10-14 for 99 yards and a touchdown, prompting many on my Twitter timeline to wonder why he did not play over a broken and battered Hasselbeck.
Sure, a part of the success came from having little to no game tape on the QBs, but for all three to play very well in their first action of the season (or ever in Tanney's case) was impressive.
Spread the Wealth Award - Coby Fleener
All season I've been harping about how the Colts have criminally under-utilized their tight ends, specifically Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
On Sunday, Fleener hauled in seven passes for 88 yards and touchdown. His touchdown came on a beautiful 57 yard play where Fleener burned his defender.
The seven catches were Fleener's second highest of the season, and the 88 yards were a season high. In total, the tight end only had three games where he caught more than 5 passes, the Colts were 2-1 in those games (the loss was in Carolina). Those were also the only games where Fleener scored, he only had three touchdowns this year.
Many noted that the Colts offense looked a lot better on Sunday. Part of that had to do with having a healthy, strong armed QB to be sure, but getting the ball to the tight ends in the middle of the field sure helps too.
What We Were Waiting For Award - Andre Johnson
That touchdown catch from Johnson was a thing of beauty.
Sure, it had something to do with horrendous defense from the Titans, but it was a gorgeous play from Johnson. To keep his feet in bounds, and reach the ball across the goal line was something we've seen Johnson do countless times in Houston.
It largely didn't happen this season, but was still fun to see in the final game.
LVP - The Season
I said it at the start, but this certainly was a season of missed opportunities.
In the pre-season, the Colts didn't look explosive or "right." Many of us attributed that to it being the pre-season, and that the Colts are almost always abysmal in the pre-season. That poor play carried over to the season-opener in Buffalo.
The Colts never could escape their poor play to start the year. This also prompted many to speculate that Luck was playing hurt. Turns out, he was. Is that an excuse for the mental errors the team made early and often in the season? No.
The Colts seemed to pick themselves back up, nearly beating then-undefeated Carolina, then beating undefeated Denver the following week. Of course, that Denver game ended up shaping the Colts' season. Luck was ruled out with an abdominal tear and lacerated kidney. He wouldn't return in 2015.
All in all, the Colts couldn't escape the shadow of the coaching distraction that was present all season. Before the year started, rumors swirled that there was a "rift" between Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson and that only a Super Bowl win would save Pagano's job. It was eerily similar to the situation the 49ers found themselves in a year ago with Jim Harbaugh.
The Colts pushed all of their poker chips (sorry) to the center of the table and went all in on the season. Signing aging veterans like Frank Gore, Johnson, and Trent Cole were win-now moves. It didn't work, and the Colts lost big. Not only did the team not reach the Super Bowl, they didn't even win the division. If there was ever a way to define a "lost season" this was it.
So there it is. The season, for the Colts at least, is over. Now what could be a turbulent off-season will begin. It probably begins later today with the firing of Pagano, and possibly Grigson. Then the Colts will enter a coaching search for the second time in four years. Names linked to the team include Sean Payton, Nick Saban, and Jon Gruden (to name a few).
It will be an interesting off-season, that's for sure.