College football is where I first caught a glimpse of John Simon, and as far back as his days at Ohio State, the Colts have struggled to employ great linebackers. This we can all agree on. Colts fans watched Simon during his time with the Texans after initially being waived by the Ravens, and again there were games against the Colts in previous seasons where he made a big play and I couldn’t help but think “We need guys like that on our team.”
Last spring, when the Colts signed the 6’1”, 250 lb. outside linebacker of the Big Ten variety, I thought for sure we’d found our defensive captain and had no doubt he’d make big plays for us. That he did and more. Last year, Simon was the constant presence at the position we’d missed, and going into his second season with the Colts, again I think we can all agree that Simon was a lock to make the roster and continue to contribute in a big way.
When Chuck Pagano was fired and the coaching search began, there was a tone of “big changes are coming”, and sure enough, Frank Reich was hired and the defensive system was changed from a 3-4 (which suits John Simon as an OLB with range because he doesn’t have to commit to contact with a bigger offensive tackle to keep contain) to a 4-3 (in which he’d be forced inside and relegated to a situational pass rusher), and we found out that Simon was going to switch to defensive end. Nevermind that we saw Henry Anderson drop a bunch of weight to facilitate the scheme change and get traded to the Jets as a result. I’d argue the Simon cut is of similar flavor no matter how bitter it tastes right now.
First of all, we can love a player and his skillset and understand he isn’t an every down player in this defensive scheme because he’s playing outside of his natural position (regardless if he’s having success or not), he is undersized as a defensive end, and you can’t pay a guy $13+ million over 3 years to stand on the sidelines until you need him to play situational football.
That’s crazy talk.
The hardcore reality is that what Chris Ballard is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. This team is young and fast. Understand that Simon played four seasons of Big Ten football (at a very high level) before being drafted in 2013. That’s a decade of high level football at one of the most violent and important positions in the sport (linebackers are the quarterbacks of a defense). I saw Simon play well during this preseason, and like many of you, I wanted him to make the team.
Until he was cut.
The first thing I did when Simon was cut yesterday was go look up his contract. $4+ million due this year and he’s in a rotation with guys who are bigger than him and arguably capable of playing more downs a game than him. Simon played a ton of downs in the preseason and the Colts were shopping him.
Okay, I’d prefer if we called it showcasing, but nonetheless.
No one bit!
This is because a great football player will play great football even if you play him out of position.
You don’t pay a guy to do that, though. Let another team struggling for leadership and direction pay big dollars for that.
Cleveland here we come?
I’m not saying Simon’s career is over, but I will say that you won’t see him play defensive end for anybody based solely on his size. A lot of Colts fans are upset that guys like Margus Hunt made the roster but fail to understand that Margus is 6’8” and 277 lbs. He also is on the last of his 2-year contract and only makes about $2 million. Margus is bigger, is a natural fit at the same position, gets paid less and basically would be sharing snaps with Simon amidst a rotation.
The silver lining is that the Colts saw former Towson star Ryan Delaire rise this preseason. Keep in mind that he’s 6’4” and 270lbs and an actual defensive end. A lot of fans pointed out that his production mirrored Simon. Yeah, and he’s younger, cheaper (less than a million due this year!) and a better fit at the position (and productive!).
Keeping Simon is a bad decision every single day of the week.
We’re allowed to be emotional creatures because we are just that. This is a situation, though, where if you squint, you can see why this happened. Right?
All is not lost. It’s just different now.
Please direct your ire at me in the comments. I can handle it.