The 2015 Jaguars game, where the Colts allowed 51 points to a Blake Bortles-led team, was bad. The fake punt attempt against the Patriots was bad. Getting demolished by the same team year-after-year is bad. Playing an already injured star quarterback in a meaningless week 17 game was bad. Allowing your opponents to score at least 40 points in 13 games in 5 seasons despite being a highly touted “defensive mastermind” is bad.
Despite all that, Chuck Pagano reached a new low Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Rams. Chuck Pagano made some baffling errors in the Rams game, some of which you never see from a first year head coach, let alone a man entering his sixth season.
The first baffling mistake was one I have never seen in my life. In the first quarter, on what was the only meaningful, effective drive by the Colts offense in the entire game, quarterback Scott Tolzien dumped a pass off to Marlon Mack who took the ball 25 yards to the end-zone. The referee ruled Mack out at the one yard line, but after a replay, it was obvious that Mack kept his foot in-bounds and had the ball in the end-zone. It was a touchdown.
Instead of waiting for a replay, or talking with his coaching staff, Pagano instructed his offense to hurry up and snap the ball in an attempt to beat the defense to the punch. Not only did the Colts lose two yards, but they left an obvious touchdown on the board.
It was an embarrassing display of coaching from one of the worst head coaches in the NFL. Any competent coach would have at least received confirmation from someone in the booth as to whether or not it was a touchdown.
The Colts ended up losing yards on consecutive plays after the Mack catch and run and were forced to kick a field goal from the two yard line. The Colts left 4 guaranteed points on the board.
The next crucial error came on that very same drive. Why kick the ball from the two yard line? I get that the offense is awful, but if you’re so close to the end-zone and you need momentum badly, you need to try and go for it on fourth down. If they were all in on getting a touchdown, the play-calling would have been different and it could have changed the fortunes of the team.
The Colts were never winning that game, but they could have gained more momentum on offense. Kicking a field goal killed all of their momentum and most fans and analysts realized it at that point in time. You’re at the one-half yard line and it’s first down, what’s wrong with trying a quarterback sneak four times?
That was just the beginning. I can’t exactly say I’m shocked with Scott Tolzien’s performance. Here’s a guy who has never won a football game as a starter and looked awful in the preseason. Why does he get the start? Did Pagano think that Tolzien would magically turn things around with a beaten up offensive line and an aggressive defensive front?
The Colts traded for Jacoby Brissett, and while he probably doesn’t know more than 25% of the offense, I would be wiling to bet he’d be a better play than Tolzien due to his raw athleticism and his big arm. We saw it immediately when he entered the game.
If you want to talk about better quarterback options, then why not talk about Stephen Morris, who had a much better preseason than Tolzien. Morris isn’t going to do much better than Tolzien, but if you want the better player at quarterback, then why not go with Morris.
The Colts would have also saved $1.3M by cutting Tolzien and going with Morris, so the Colts must feel strongly about Tolzien to pay an extra $1.3M to keep him. As we saw on Sunday, paying an extra $1.3M to keep Tolzien over Morris was a bad decision by Pagano and the Colts management.
Pagano is constantly being out-coached by the opposing head coaches. Even Pagano admitted that he was out-coached. He said “We were dominated in this football game in all three phases, out-coached in this football game.” He was easily out-coached by a rookie head coach with a young winless quarterback.
Jared Goff looked like Joe Montana today. When blitzing one or two extra guys doesn’t bring pressure, it’s time to start looking for other ways of pressuring the quarterback, such as stunts, delayed blitzes, and nickel blitzes. None of that happened today. Pagano and the defensive coaching staff, until the final whistle, tried putting a square peg in a round hole.
The Rams put up 46 points, which is only the third time they’ve put up more than 40 points and the second time they’ve put up more than 44 in the last 10 seasons. The Rams had the NFL’s worst offense the past two seasons and as mentioned before, were starting a quarterback who had never won a game and had a lowly 63.6 passer rating in 2016.
Now, the Rams added some good players and they have a new offensive-minded head coach, but that’s an insane turnaround no matter which team you are. Jared Goff didn’t put up more than 21 points in a game last year and it took him three and a half games to reach 46 total points.
While he wasn’t responsible for 14 of those points today, he was still the man leading the way. Having a rookie, 31 year-old head coach, and a winless second-year quarterback make you look this bad is not a good thing.
Pagano, who is known for his football metaphors and odd interview responses, had a funny blunder in his post-game press conference. Well, it is part funny and part a continuation of the embarrassment he trotted onto the football field.
When discussing the game, Pagano said that the Colts got their “ass kicked... credit the 49ers”. For the record, the Colts played the Rams, unless my eyes were deceiving me. When he hits a new low in his press conferences, that’s when you know it’s a bad day.
Days like this won’t do much good for Pagano’s job security. This game was a new low for a coach who has made a habit of making embarrassing mistakes. If you want to say the reason the Colts got destroyed was because of Andrew Luck not playing, I would agree with that, but I’d also remind you that it was a certain coach who played him in a meaningless Week 17 game when Luck was already injured/hurt. Bad coaching decisions almost always come back to haunt teams.
The Colts are very bad without Andrew Luck, but they aren’t 37 points worse than the Los Angeles Rams. If you have to point fingers at anybody, start with the head coach, who has overstayed his welcome in Indianapolis.