In their biggest game of the season, the Colts played their worst game of the season.
The Colts lost 22-17 at home to the Texans in a crucial mid-December AFC South matchup, dropping the Colts to 6-7 on the year and meaning they’ll have to make up two games in the final three weeks to win the division. In other words, their playoff hopes are very slim.
After the latest debacle, this much is obvious: it’s time for the Colts to move on from Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson. Of course, to many it’s been obvious for a while, and we’ve just been left wondering when Jim Irsay would actually see that as well. What would it take for Irsay to finally make the move needed to help his franchise?
It wasn’t enough when the Colts lost by 30 and 29 points in two of three weeks in 2013. It wasn’t enough when the Colts got blown out by the Steelers and Patriots with regularity. It wasn’t enough when the Colts lost 51-16 on the road to the Jaguars in 2015. It wasn’t enough when the Colts lost 16-10 at home to the Texans late last year to essentially seal their playoff fate. It wasn’t enough when the Colts started the season 0-2 for the third year in a row this year. It wasn’t enough when the Colts lost 30-27 to the Jaguars in London. It wasn’t enough when the Colts blew a massive lead and lost to the Texans 26-23 in overtime earlier this year. So the question becomes: when will it be enough?
The simple answer is that it already is enough, and Sunday’s debacle showed that clearly. There was a time where the biggest strength of Chuck Pagano’s team was showing up with their backs against the wall when they needed a crucial win. Now? They played their worst game of the season when they needed a win the most. They were booed off the field by their own fans. They struggled in every aspect against the Texans, from offense to defense to special teams to coaching. Matching up Dwayne Allen on Jadeveon Clowney one-on-one? No wonder there was a strip-sack. Calling a short screen pass on the late 4th and 1 play? I don’t think many are surprised that one didn’t work out. It was arguably the worst game of the season for offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
And leading the charge for this team is Pagano, the coach whose players love him but who can’t get the most out of players. Last year, the Colts could hang their hats on the fact that they went 8-8 and were in it until the end despite losing their franchise quarterback for nine games. This year, there’s no such excuse. While Andrew Luck didn’t have a great game today, he’s been as good as ever this season overall... and the Colts are still just 6-7.
Grigson isn’t absolved of blame either. He’s the one that put this team together, and it’s been clear all season that this team just isn’t talented enough. The realization that this is a bad football team isn’t something that magically occurred to people this week; it’s been something that’s been evident all year. Watch Sunday’s game and you’ll see a defense that (though plagued by injuries) struggled to get off the field against a bad offense. You’ll see an offense that struggled to protect the quarterback. You’ll see wide receivers struggling to get open and Phillip Dorsett - a first round pick - dropping passes. Sure, Luck didn’t have his best game on Sunday, but looking at the big picture what’s he supposed to do with this team that’s been constructed around him? People nationally can see it and fans locally can see it, so the question becomes when the guy running the franchise can see it.
Everyone thought that last year was the final straw for Chuck Pagano, and even he seemed to know it was over. But then Jim Irsay rolled the dice and gambled that Pagano and Grigson would be able to work things out and get along. But perhaps their disagreements and conflict masked the true issue from Jim Irsay: neither one of them is particularly good at his job. Irsay gave the two of them contract extensions, and now he’s reaping the results of that decision. Want to know what you get with Pagano and Grigson leading the show? You get an UGLY performance in the biggest game of the season against a division opponent at home to fall to 6-7.
So now the pressure shifts to Jim Irsay. Honestly, this conversation has ceased to be about Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson ever since Irsay extended the two of them last year. I think most people by now realize that the coach and GM aren’t great, but Irsay brought them back anyway. The conversation is now about Jim Irsay. He’ll have a mulligan this year, a team that likely will once again be sitting at home for the playoffs and an opportunity once again to meet with his team’s leaders on Black Monday. Last year, he made the call to bring them both back, and it’s proved disastrous for his franchise. So the question is when Jim Irsay will finally realize what’s happening and make the move that’s best for his team, realizing that he can’t just keep wasting Andrew Luck’s career away with a lackluster team, a lackluster GM, and a lackluster coach.
The Colts dropped the ball on Sunday, and we’ll have to wait and see whether Jim Irsay does the same. My advice? Don’t hold your breath.