In the past 10 days or so, Colts fans have seen some retention signings and some acquisitions- most notably Vontae Davis, Ahmad Bradshaw, Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee; D’Qwell Jackson, Hakeem Nicks, and Arthur Jones. While the peanut gallery plays the waiting game with the Alex Mack/Cleveland situation- and the Colts have over 17 million in cap space available, fans tend to get restless for splash signings and want to grab everybody under 30 that gets released from their previous team. It’s a certainty that this free agent period and last year’s couldn’t be more night and day, and I am totally fine with that.
March has been productive, personnel wise, overall. Good, low risk contracts, quality talent, and a solid foundation in place. Something that seems forgotten is what the Colts did in February in hiring Rob Chudzinski as a Special Assistant to the Head Coach. This addition to the coaching staff, in my opinion, could possibly be as- or more important than- any of the above signings. There are some that believe Chud was brought in to be the “go between” for Pep and Chuck, and some that believe the offense is already Chud’s. eh… you’re both right. Kinda.
Rob Chudzinski has been a Tight ends coach or an OC in both college and the NFL since 1996. Pagano and Chudzinski started coaching together in ’95 , while Rob was a graduate assistant at Miami. The two were on the Hurricanes staff together through 2000. Pagano moved on to coach the Browns’ secondary in 2001. It’s fair to speculate that when Pagano was hired by the Colts, he would have brought him in as OC had he been available. Pep was a solid, smart hire as a play caller, though- no argument here. He had the offense Irsay and Pagano wanted, and obviously had a history with Luck. Since then, Chud has been hired and fired by the Browns, and with that it was a no-brainer to bring him in, for a couple reasons.
Rob’s specialties are Tight ends and blocking schemes in general, which therefore yield better running back play (which were all issues last season). He’ll be crutial to teaching Fleener how to block effectively in both the running and the screen game, and faced with the task of getting Dwayne Allen back to form quicker, and better. The front office is blissfully hoping that this move greatly improves Trent Richardson’s 2013 output as well.
The other reason is simple: System retention. Even with it taking nearly three quarters of the season to realize that the personnel didn’t fit the scheme after multiple injuries last year, Pep still recieved a lot of attention for college openings in the offseason. If the Colts’ offense improves in 2014, you can bet Pep will receive a lot more attention before the 2015 season. Chud essentially would slide right in and the offense, theoretically, doesn’t skip a beat if Pep leaves.
Both Pep and Chud are on this staff to improve the Colts’ offense, and they will do exactly that. I don’t believe that this is Chud’s offense. It’s Pep’s offense. Pep will call the plays and Chud will teach the guys how to block it effectively which should greatly lessen predictability within the system. It could truly set off this offense! With the Colts’ skill set, and having the guys upfront blocking well for that skill set… The possibilities for Luck and this offense could be endless. However, I think the Colts are a legitimate center and lineman away from those results, which we will hopefully see throughout free agency.
So, is Chud the biggest addition to the team? He very well could turn out to be. In my opinion, Chud’s hire is both help for now and a backup plan at OC for the future. I don’t think Pagano would bring in Chud for open competition in the play calling duties and risk creating a divide in the locker room. However, should Pep struggle early in the season, that chatter will no doubt flow in the breeze.
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Matt Danely @The_Blue_Shoe