Heading into the season talk centered around the Colts being contenders for the Super Bowl. What could go wrong? They have one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, they have a head coach that has lead the team to three consecutive post season appearances (including the AFC Championship game last year), and a slew of high profile free agent signings with what is considered to be one of the easiest schedules for the 2015 season. Seriously, what could go wrong?
Well, just about everything at this point in the season it seems. The team now finds themselves at a dismal 3-4 record heading into a tough stretch of games facing the likes of the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Pittsburgh Steelers before going back into the AFC South fodder. Looking at these games it’s hard to see many “W’s” in that stretch, but stranger things have happened. The bigger issue the team is in the midst of concerns the play of franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. Right now there’s no way around saying this, but Luck has been playing horrible.
I’m not one of those trumpeting for 40 year old Matt Hasselbeck to take over starting duties from Luck unless there is an injury, which could be part of the reason for his poor performances as of late, but I’m closer to saying this than I ever thought I would be. It has gotten so bad that the boo birds were out heading into the half in the game against the New Orleans Saints. Luck has always shown a penchant for poor ball security and turnovers and this season just seems to be spotlighting that right now. Through 7 games (5 of which he’s played) Luck has 9 interceptions, 2 fumbles, and has been sacked 12 times. Those are not great numbers, but they also don’t paint an accurate picture up to this point. Luck has not played well and there is no debating that, but the offensive line has most likely been part of that problem. Since entering the league in 2012 the offensive line has been an afterthought in terms of acquiring personnel and that falls squarely on general manager Ryan Grigson. Andrew has been harassed by defenders, often relying on his athleticism to overcome their poor play. Is this the reason? I’d say it’s a factor, but not the only one. Maybe he’s regressing instead of blossoming which at this point you would think would be opposite of the current situation or maybe it could be that undisclosed injury that is limiting him at this point?
There has been no indication that he is still injured, but one begins to wonder if he is and if it is a long term thing. It’s hard to say that is the case because no word has leaked about his game readiness other than he looks normal and has shown no tell-tale signs in practice leading up to the last two games since his injury status absences. This leaves play calling and personnel as other avenues of concern.
Pep Hamilton‘s plays have often been questioned by fans and seem odd when compared to the model used for two wins by Hasselbeck earlier this season. Even more peculiar is that the team seemed to use this early in the game against the Pats, but then decided to abandon what was working and go back to the big downfield plays that have had very little success this season. For some reason getting the ball out quick and focusing on Frank Gore became an afterthought for Luck when they were working so well. When using the model it seemed to generate some life into the cumbersome, anemic offense. When the weapons were getting the ball the offense showed signs of life compared to the disjointed mess we saw through the first half against the Saints.
Besides the poor play of Luck and poor play calling by Hamilton, the head coach and GM have also not helped matters. We all know that two weeks ago saw one of the worst plays ever in the NFL, but as mentioned prior Grigson has done a poor job drafting a team around Luck and bringing in the right free agents to fit the team. Reports surfaced after the game concerning a “heated discussion” between owner Jim Irsay and Grigson. Details are not known, but one could guess it has to do with the make up/structure of this team. Add in the notion of the reported disconnect between Chuck Pagano and the GM heading into the season and it is apparent that their relationship has soured to the point of hurting the team. Again, this is my feeling so it will be interesting to see how this plays out for the rest of the season.
As you can see, there are no easy answers other than this team will have to most likely fight tooth and nail for the AFC South title as their destination to the post season. Right now it’s too early to talk about that. The team just needs to find a way to put all of this stuff aside and rally some wins in the column. I fear it may get worse before it gets better, but remember how a team plays in the post season is more important than how it plays in week 7 or 8. Let’s hope they can turn it around by that point, you know, assuming they can even make it in.