The 2011 season was an unusually tumultuous one for the Indianapolis Colts. After consistently producing playoff-worthy seasons for nine years, including two Super Bowl appearances (and one win), the Colts literally fell apart and needed 14 games to record a victory. Virtually anything could be better than enduring the struggles the Colts battled through this year. In honor of the soon-to-be-ending season and the coming of 2012, here are some suggested New Year’s Resolutions for our Indy heroes and front office staff:
1. Secure a quarterback: We all know the million-dollar question: Will Peyton Manning return to the Colts in 2012? The answer, according to Colts’ owner Jim Irsay, is, “Yes.” That is, if he’s healthy. The Colts will face several difficult questions in the spring. Will they pay Peyton his bonus or allow him to become a free agent? If they get the rights to the first pick in the draft, do they select Stanford QB Andrew Luck or trade the pick? One thing is for certain: Orlovsky or Painter cannot lead the charge next season.
2. Bring back healthy sophomores: The Colts drafted five promising rookies in the lockout-extended offseason. Three-quarters of the way through the season, two of those draftees, second-round selection OT Ben Ijalana and third-round choice DT Drake Nevis (who looked very promising in the preseason), were placed on Injured Reserve. First-round choice Anthony Castonzo also missed a few weeks with an injury. The Colts will look to bring back these players in good health next season. Some experienced youth will be much needed on both sides of the ball to support the aging and more fragile veterans.
3. Shorten the IR list: The Colts currently have 14 players on Injured Reserve, including defensive captain Gary Bracket and notable veterans Eric Foster and Melvin Bullitt. The front office will want to make sure the team is much less depleted in 2012.
4. Commit to a coach: It’s got to be a tough task to replace the great Tony Dungy. Although we’d all love for him to return, it’s likely not going to happen. Is Jim Caldwell the right guy to lead the Horseshoe? He’s had an not-so-good season and made some questionable decisions this year, but his players never gave up, and they ended up notching two surprising victories in Weeks 14 and 15. Is this a testament to Caldwell or to the players themselves? The Colts will need to commit to someone in 2012; either keep Caldwell or clean house and start fresh with a new coaching staff. They’ve already started the latter by firing defensive coordinator Larry Coyer.
5. Extend contracts: Some important players’ contracts will expire at the end of this season. Reggie Wayne, who was the hero in the Colts’ dramatic victory over the Texans, Jeff Saturday, who saved football during the lockout, and Robert Mathis, who is a staple at defensive end and the perfect complement to Dwight Freeney, all could be lost next year. Who will be signed and who will be let go as free agents? The Colts will need to sign at least one of these men for the 2012 season.
6. Pick a running back: The Colts’ running game has been under-productive for many seasons now. Without Peyton under center this year, the running backs have had to step up their game but have struggled at times. Joseph Addai again battled injuries. Rookie Delone Carter fumbled the ball an inexcusable amount of times. Donald Brown finally had a breakthrough in Week 14 by securing the Colts’ first win of the year against the Titans. Is Donald finally maturing and ready to lead the rushing offense? The Colts need to either make him the permanent starter or sign another running back in the offseason.
7. Return to the playoff scene: Last season the Colts equaled the 1975-1983 Dallas Cowboys’ record for most consecutive NFL playoff appearances. The Horseshoe had a chance to stand alone at the top of the record books this season, but they ended up far from playoff contention. Everyone in the Colts’ organization will aim to return to the playoff scene next year; I expect it to be a high priority. But, as Jim Mora will tell you, it’s never a good idea to think about the postseason too early. I mean, really…PLAYOFFS?!
Happy New Year, Colts fans! Let’s toast to a winning season in 2012.