Last year was a true miracle story for the Indianapolis Colts. We saw a young team mature before our very eyes. Many credit the emotion over Chuck Pagano’s illness as a rallying cry which led the Colts to winning 10 of their last 13 games. Thankfully, Pagano made a full recovery from his leukemia battle and it is great to see him back on an NFL field. There is the emotional side of this entire ordeal, and then there is the business side of a coach meeting owner and front office expectations. With Pagano’s leukemia scare in the rearview mirror (thankfully), I can’t help but evaluate the business side of our coaching staff’s performance. I am deeply concerned about some of the decisions and results under the leadership of Chuck Pagano. As an NFL head coach, Pagano is 3-3. He has victories over the Vikings, Texans and Raiders. He has losses against the Bears, Jaguars and Ravens (playoffs). In 2 of his wins, I have seriously questioned some of the play calling. While this may fall to an offensive or defensive coordinator, it still rolls up to the head coach.
I remember the Vikings game last year where the Colts had a 20-6 lead heading into the 4th quarter and the offense suddenly went ultra-conservative. The Vikings caught up to tie it. Fortunately, we have a guy by the name of Adam Vinatieri who won it for us. In the Jaguars game at home, we had a 14 – 3 halftime lead before going ultra-conservative. We ended up losing on an inexplicable 80 yard touchdown pass at the end of the game. Yesterday, we get out to a 14-0 lead and then take out Vick Ballard, who was having his way with the Raiders D-line, and give him just 2 more carries between our 3rd drive and the last drive of the game. We could not contain Terrell Pryor despite knowing exactly what he would bring. Our defense, who had every reason to be fired up all game – especially for our home opener, was dormant for most of the game. Even though the crowd was as fired up as I’ve seen it, the team’s emotion just deflated as the game went on.
Jim Irsay invested significant cash to build the team into a true monster. I truly believe we have the personnel in place to become that monster. Our defensive line and linebackers are deep. Our secondary has the potential to be the best in the league. On offense, we have many weapons at receiver including a Hall of Famer, a former #6 overall draft pick, and a 2nd year burgeoning star. While we may appear to lack firepower at running back, Vick Ballard did an admirable job in 2012 and we brought in an established veteran in Ahmad Bradshaw. We have one of the best punters and kickers in the league. The pieces are there and it’s the coaches job to put it all together. I question if Pagano can do it.
During the Manning era, there was no such thing as going conservative. In some years, we couldn’t go conservative because we fought tooth and nail in every game. In most years, we were relentless on offense. Look at 2005 when we outscored our opponents by nearly 200 points! I’m not saying we have the same talent as the 2005 team, but I do know that we never went conservative. We need that swagger back and it comes directly from the head coach. Maybe he shouldn’t get the immediate heat – but we have to start placing blame on coaches when they deserve it.
I was very frustrated after yesterday’s game based on how the game evolved. We no longer should be winning “feel good” games against inferior opponents. We should be destroying them. We have every opportunity to go out and pound the Dolphins next week. Will we do it? For some reason, I think we’ll win – but it will be yet another close game that is won in the waning moments after we once again go conservative.