The Indianapolis Colts are in the midst of a much-needed bye week, and with it coming right near the midpoint of the season it’s providing a chance to reflect on the first nine games of the season.
That’s what owner Jim Irsay took the time to do as well in an interview with Colts.com this week, sharing his thoughts on how the team has played so far and urging fans not to give up on them quite yet.
“There’s high expectations for this football team,” Irsay said. “And our coaching staff knows it, our organization knows it, Ryan Grigson, Chuck Pagano, Andrew Luck, all the guys know the expectations, but again, when you lose close games it’s easy to get dispirited. Disappointed starting off against Detroit, home opener again, not getting it done. Up 14 against Houston, not getting it done. And really having that home game against Kansas City and really hoping we come out and play well and probably playing our worst game of the year, which was really disappointing. The toughness and the mental durability to go out and get a win [at Green Bay], it was great for the franchise. It showed a lot about the grit, about that these guys believe in each other. Obviously going into the bye week it’s a great thing to get the win.
“Do we wish we were better than 4-5? Of course we do,” Irsay continued. “We know, Colts fans know, the games that slipped through our fingers, how easy we could be 7-2 right now and even have a different division record. Reality is reality and so we have to realize that we’ve had some real disappointment in this first half of the season, however, we know that when we play good football that we can beat anyone, anywhere. There’s something special about this group. I think this team’s going to be carried by it’s offense for the most part, but we can play good, tough, competitive defense and we have to, obviously. But again, a team that’s capable of scoring 30, 35 points a game and I think we have to take advantage of that. If we’re fortunate enough to get a lead, we have to play offensively as if the score is 0-0. We’ve got a lot of fighters though on defense, and I think collectively when we’re healthy we’ve shown defensively that we can be formidable and really do some things, particularly from a coverage standpoint and that sort of thing. We have to tackle well. We’re really looking forward to those last seven games. Don’t give up on us yet for this year, because we still feel there’s some magic in the horseshoe for 2016.”
There are a few things worth pointing out from Irsay’s comments: first of all, despite his now-familiar argument that the Colts have been competitive and could easily be 7-2, he also admitted that there were some disappointing moments of the first half, and he particularly mentioned the losses to the Lions, Texans, and Chiefs in that group.
Secondly, Irsay mentioned how big it is going into the bye week with a win, which is certainly an accurate point and one the Colts are hoping translates into a strong second half.
Thirdly, Irsay once again talked about how the offense needs to carry this team and score 30-35 points per game. This is something he’s mentioned repeatedly since before the season even started, and I think it’s something to appreciate: though Irsay has a much more optimistic opinion of this defense than fans do, he’s also more realistic than some others with the Colts by being honest about the fact that they need their offense to carry them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: whether or not you agree with the moves Irsay makes (like keeping Pagano and Grigson), he’s more in-touch with his team than most owners (such as when he pointed out that the coverage in particular is a strength of the defense).
Fourth, I found it particularly interesting what Irsay said about playing with a lead. Did you catch what he said? “If we’re fortunate enough to get a lead, we have to play offensively as if the score is 0-0.” To me, that sounds like Irsay may think the Colts have gone too conservative offensively when they have a lead, and perhaps he has the Texans game in mind. The Colts did a nice job of closing out the game offensively on Sunday and that was the difference, and Irsay wants them to keep playing like it’s a tie game even with a lead. Considering how much he expects the offense to carry this team, it’s no surprise that he wants them keeping the pedal down even with a lead, but it’s still noteworthy for him to mention that.
And fifth, Irsay is still very optimistic about the second half of this season - and playing in the AFC South, why wouldn’t he be? Despite their 4-5 record the Colts are in second place in their division and within reach of the Houston Texans, and Irsay likely knows that his team outplayed the Texans for 55 or so minutes in their first meeting. So with seven games remaining - including home matchups with all three division opponents - the Colts are still very much alive in the playoff race. So it’s reasonable for Irsay to be optimistic moving forward, but we’ll have to wait and see whether the team actually responds and plays better than they did in the first half.