The Colts have just lost to the Patriots in embarassing fashion, and fans are starting to call for Frank Reich’s head. After 9 games this season, I am fully behind that idea.
Where it all went wrong
Things showed signs of cracking at first when the Colts lost to the Las Vegas Raiders last season in what was a rather winnable game to secure a playoff spot, but it did not matter that much, as Indy only needed a win against the lowly Jaguars to secure a playoff spot. As we all know, the Colts came out flat and lost 11-26 against the Jags, missing the playoffs after what seemed like once again a valiant comeback after starting the season slow.
That loss stung, and several players went on record to talk about how pissed they were because of that, and how they were working for that to never happen again. Changes were made in the offseason and it looked like this team was ready to make a push once again. The defense got a new look under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, with the addition of proven veterans like Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue. The team traded away quarterback Carson Wentz and got veteran Matt Ryan, who was supposed to provide a much needed stable hand at the QB position. The additions of receiver Alec Pierce and tight end Jelani Woods seemed like a breath of fresh air for what was an unimpressive receiving group, and there were no major losses. Sure there were a couple of question marks, like would Matt Pryor be able to hold his own at left tackle? or would Danny Pinter make the transition to right guard seamlessly? But we trusted Ballard’s judgement and expected big things this year.
Cue the start of the season, and it all went south impressively quickly. Matt Pryor was clearly not suited to play left tackle, allowing pressure on what seemed like every single snap, and Danny Pinter got beat way too easily. Interior pressure is just something that unathletic quarterbacks just cannot deal with it, and as a result the Colts offense came out sputtering out of the gate. However, slow starts were always common with Reich and a new quarterback in town, so there was still patience. As the season continued to move on, it was clear that the Colts were actually nowhere close to solving their offensive struggles, and even after a quarterback change with Sam Ehlinger now in charge, the Colts’ offense is still among the worst in the NFL in every category.
How the offense fared this season
As we can see, the Colts’ offense has been laughably bad this season. There are no proper ways to fully describe the horrors of having to witness the first 9 games of “offense” carried out by the unit this season. Frank is in charge of the offense, and he is judged mostly on that, as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley runs the defense and that unit has more than held their own this year. There has been regression on every single position, no creativity whatsoever, just nothing. I can’t think of a single reason to be excited about this offense moving forward. The quarterbacks, though far from being the ones to blame, have been poor. The running backs have been a disappointment, with Taylor missing several games because of a bad ankle and not looking nearly as explosive, Nyheim Hines was traded for scraps, and Deon Jackson is not suited to carry a team. The receivers have showed promise, but the context hurt them a lot, and the tight ends have been criminally underutilized. Still, the worst of all has been what was supposed to be this team’s biggest strength: the offensive line. The first weeks the weakest link was Danny Pinter, as he was clearly not suited to play the guard position, and the rest of the line just could not compensate what was a terrible situation. After some shuffling around, Pryor played as the right guard the past few weeks, and he somehow was even worse. All-Pro caliber players like Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly have also drastically regressed this year, and as a result the Colts have fielded what most likely is the worst offensive line in the entire NFL.
Lost locker room
Correct me if I am wrong, but it just seems to me that the offense lost all it’s passion. There is just no heart, it seems to me that some players are not going at full speed, and are just looking for the season to end and changes to be made. The Nyheim Hines trade, the firing of Marcus Brady, several comments by the leaders on the team, it all looks like a head coach that lost the locker room to me, and there is no coming back from that in the NFL.
Looking towards the future
Of course it is still way too early to start thinking about possible replacements, but right now I do not like the odds of Frank remaining the head coach after such a debacle. I think Gus Bradley more than deserves to keep his job as the defensive coordinator but because of such a poor track record I would not consider promoting him to the HC position. Given the very realistic chance of the Colts drafting their quarterback of the future this year, I believe Indy should start looking into the best offensive coordinators in the NFL right now as possible candidates. Ken Dorsey, offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills is the first guy that comes to mind, as he helped developed Josh Allen into the MVP candidate he is today, and leads one of the most explosive units in the NFL. I also really like the passion he coaches with, and players seem to respond well to that. He would bring much needed fire and excitement to this team. The other candidate I like is Demeco Ryans, the defensive coordinator of the 49ers. Of course that would most likely mean that Bradley is gone, and there would still be a need for an offensive mind to lead the offense, but what he was able to do with the Niners defense is impressive, even taking into account the amount of talent they have. Sean Payton is also without a team right now, and the Colts talented roster, with the possibility of getting a young quarterback with what could very well be a top-10 pick has to be enticing.
All in all, even though the season is now obviously lost, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about the future of this team. The rest of the year should provide a clear picture as to where we currently are, and give some meaningful playing time to the young players. As for Frank, it is difficult to judge a head coach when literally nothing is working in the unit he leads, and it just seems to me that he knows he already has one foot out of the door.