Every week Colts.com features a blog written by one of our fans. This week’s blog was submitted by Superman.
That is how this fan best describes the Colts’ 2011 season. Not that “frustrating” is the only adjective that comes to mind, because there are many others: disappointing, unacceptable, inexcusable, confusing, even expected.
That last one might seem curious. It’s been a long-standing half-joke among Colts fans that, if Peyton Manning were ever to miss a season, the Colts as they are currently comprised would be hard-pressed not to go 0-16. So when you look at the 2 win season that has just ended, it’s not anything that caught us off guard. No one really expected the Colts to contend for anything other than the #1 pick in the draft without their champion.
Yet and still, it’s been very frustrating.
I’m no football genius, and I’m more than willing to leave the X’s and O’s to the coaching staff, but I’m reasonably certain of one thing: You can’t just do the same thing over and over again all season long and expect to get a different result. For a defense that rated at or near the bottom of the league in every major statistical category, it would seem that some minor adjustments would be made along the way. After losing 62-7 against the Saints, it would seem the soft coverage employed would be tweaked at some point during that game to try to slow their offense down. It would seem that there would be an adjustment against the Patriots that would keep their tight end from scoring three straight touchdowns on three straight possessions. I could go on and on.
There was nothing to protect this season. The Colts started the year with a chance to make some pretty significant marks in the record books: most consecutive playoff appearances, first team to host and win the Super Bowl, etc. Those aren’t the reasons you play, but they matter to everyone involved. Once those chances were gone, there wasn’t anything to lose. But the team played as if it were protecting some imaginary lead: cautious, conservative, unwilling to yield.
That approach makes sense if you are having success, but success doesn’t carry over from previous seasons. There is no sense in ‘doing what you do’ when what you do is resulting in a bottom five offense and defense. There’s nothing sacred about what you do when you can’t win a game.
I’ve defended the Colts front office and coaching staff over and over again because I believe a lot of fans unfairly criticize them. I don’t think it’s fair to grade a draft pick based on how other players turned out. Hindsight isn’t a part of the draft process, unfortunately. I don’t think it’s fair to criticize a coach’s decision to run the ball on 3rd and short when the play doesn’t work. You can’t critique decisions like these in a vacuum.
However, 0-13 doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It isn’t just an issue of Peyton Manning being hurt, either. This team has a bunch of really good players all over the field, players whose names are in the record books. There are young players that even showed promise during a cloudy season like this one. And in the ultimate team sport, as Bill Polian put it last week, not even a world-class quarterback can do it on his own. So winning all those games over the last decade isn’t just a testament to Manning’s greatness. It shows just how good this TEAM has been.
And, big picture, the successes in the recent past are nothing to sneeze at. There are fans of 25 teams in the NFL that would gladly trade the last eight years with Colts fans. While the Colts went to the playoffs nine years in a row, there were teams that didn’t make the playoffs at all, not even once.
To watch it all come crashing down so quickly is frustrating. Perhaps better drafting over the last four years would have made a difference. Maybe a better backup quarterback than the Collins/Painter/Orlovsky triumvirate would have been the cure. Or some more engaged and creative coaching. I can’t shake the nagging feeling that the people in positions of responsibility could have done more to weather this storm of the last four months. And that’s frustrating.
There’s light on the horizon, I think. They call this “Black Monday,” but if Jim Irsay continues to do what he’s done for the past 14 years and put good, smart people in position to do great things with his football team, then this could all turn out for the better. There are a lot of good players and people on this team, and this could be a springboard into another sustained period of success.
But Jim Irsay has to get it right. No doubt he’s frustrated also. There has to be a distinction between ownership and management, between management and coaching, and between coaching and the players. Too often it’s been intimated that Bill Polian is calling all the shots, that the coaches are his puppets and Irsay won’t stand up to him. I don’t know how true any of that is, but it should be made clear that Irsay is in charge. Whoever the coaches are should be empowered to do what they think is best.
And the players should be responsible for their efforts. Peyton Manning is a once-in-a-lifetime player, but there shouldn’t be the widespread impression that he’s the real head coach or offensive coordinator.
All these sources of frustration are fixable. Again quoting Polian, it’s simple, but not necessarily easy. If one season of frustration is the cost for several more seasons of high quality football, us Colts fans will gladly pay the price.
Whatever happens with Bill Polian, Jim Caldwell, and the other people in positions of responsibility with the Colts, I hope this season has not been an exercise in futility. That would be extremely frustrating. I trust that Jim Irsay will get it right, one way or the other.
Since the post was submitted The Indianapolis Colts have relieved Vice Chairman Bill Polian and Vice President and General Manager Chris Polian. Mr. Irsay is now in the process of looking for a new GM.
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