The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-27 on Sunday. What did we learn from the game? Here are three takeaways (and we're using the term "learn" loosely):
Jim Irsay is getting what he signed on for
In January, Colts owner Jim Irsay shocked everyone by retaining both general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano, extending their contracts in the process. But because of that shocking move, the Colts’ start this year shouldn’t be shocking. After all, what exactly is a new development? The Colts have started slow (they’ve trailed at halftime in three of their four games and faced a double-digit deficit in two of them). The Colts have been poor defensively and have given up 31.3 points per game as a team (which isn’t all on the defense, granted). The Colts have committed more defensive penalties than any team in the NFL, making them one of the most penalized teams overall. The Colts’ supporting offensive cast has been shaky, with poor offensive line play at times and poor receiver play at others. And on Sunday, Colts players seemed to indicate that a lot of the errors from the loss to the Jaguars came from a lack of focus.
So let me ask again: what exactly is surprising? The Colts are seeing a team that’s not overly talented and not overly well-coached, which is the same thing they’ve seen in recent years, but Jim Irsay decided to bring back the guys in charge of both areas. I’d be shocked if Irsay made a move this year with either guy (because doing so would be admitting a mistake, which I don’t think he wants to do), but he shouldn’t be surprised when his team struggles in the same areas we’ve seen them struggle in before. Maybe last year’s 8-8 record while playing nine games without Andrew Luck convinced him, but the issues go beyond just the first four games of this year. They’ve become trends under Rayn Grigson and Chuck Pagano, and with every passing game it becomes even more and more questionable whether the two will ever be able to get things together to reach the promised land.
The Colts stink
Along those same lines... the Colts stink. We’ve actually known this for a while, but I think it’s especially significant to point out after Sunday’s game because I think now we learned it for sure. In the first three games, the Colts didn’t play well, but they managed to go 1-2 with some silver linings. Their offense at least looked good in week one, and week two was bad just because it was against the best defense in football. Then the Colts got a win and headed into a portion of their schedule that looked promising to turn their season around. With matchups against the Chargers, Jaguars, and Bears in consecutive weeks the Colts easily could have been 3-2 heading into their matchup against the Texans, and then they would have been fine. But as many people said all along, wait to freak out until we saw them in this stretch, and then if they lost it’d be time to admit it. Well, we’ve now seen the Colts look terrible against a bad Jaguars team, and I think it’s time to officially say it: the Colts stink. I’ve written about this enough today, and I’m not sure there’s much more to add. Because of Andrew Luck they might be able to pull out some wins this year, but they’re not a good football team.
The Colts are in trouble
In the AFC South, even bad teams can stay in the hunt for the division title. The four teams in the division are a combined 6-10 through four weeks, after all. And if you needed an example of that, it’s that the 0-3 Jaguars jumped into second place in the division just by beating the Colts, so Indianapolis certainly isn’t out of it at 1-3. But with that said, they are in last place in the division and trail the Houston Texans (3-1) by two games. And here’s the biggest problem: the Colts are in what should be the easy portion of their schedule. As I wrote a few days ago, the Colts have a great opportunity to turn their season around with games against the Jaguars, Bears, Texans, and then Titans in the next month. They could easily make their 1-2 start forgotten... but they certainly didn’t get off to a good start in losing to the Jaguars. That gives them even less margin for error than they already had. They face a winnable game against the Bears next Sunday at home before then traveling to face the Texans on Sunday Night Football. Over the course of the rest of the season, they’ll face the Jaguars, Texans, and Titans (twice) while also facing teams such as the Chiefs, Packers, Steelers, Vikings, and Raiders. That’s not an ideal situation to be in for a 1-3 team with very little room for error. So again, the Colts aren’t out of it, but they’re in trouble. At the quarter mark of the season they sit in last place in the worst division in football, and while there’s time to turn it around, there’s nothing that we’ve seen through the first four weeks that suggests they’ll be able to do so consistently enough to make a run to win the division.