Legendary Indianapolis Colts Coaches Retire and the NFL Machine Rolls On

Jon CavanaughContributor IMay 17, 2009

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts signals a play at the line of scrimmage behind center during their NFL game against the Cleveland Browns on November 30, 2008 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The Colts defeated the Browns 10-6.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Two more coaching legends have officially departed the Indianapolis Colts.  Offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd, a pair of the NFL’s finest, have been forced into early retirement.

Both coaches chose early retirement rather than lose valuable pension benefits.  The story has been swirling around for weeks before recently becoming official.

I hoped that both men would be on the sidelines this fall but I was officially served the cold dish while tuning in for a nightly dose of SportsCenter.

It seems as if the whole world as we know it has gone mad in the midst of our nation’s economic crisis.  Companies are slashing workers, benefits and products like a bad 70’s horror movie, and the knife cuts right through the heart of America, from our cars to our beloved sports figures.

Their jobs were not eliminated like so many other Americans today, both men left on their own free will.  They are professional coaches and they will not be receiving foreclosure notices in the mail or sleeping in cardboard boxes under a bridge.

I will also admit that I have not done the proper research to fully understand their reasons for leaving or the NFL’s change in the pension program, but it still seems to be a sign of the times, another job related headline in a world full of depressing news.

The issue is burning in our American minds. 

Is my pension safe?  Can I afford to retire? Will I ever retire or am I going to work until my bones crack, my brain shrivels up and I drop dead?

It’s a shocking sight to wake up and see that even the mighty NFL is downsizing and the economic crisis has no boundaries.  Former coach Tony Dungy's personal secretary was even dismissed from the team recently.

Like everything else, the NFL machine will continue to roll on; even if it’s most unique and invaluable parts are caught in the gears and spit out.

Clyde Christensen will take over as the new offensive coordinator—after already being named assistant head coach—and Pete Metzelaars will be the offensive line coach.  Both men have previous coaching experience in the NFL and with the Colts.

Metzelaars was in charge of the O-line at times last year when Mudd was recovering from knee replacement surgery.  Christensen has been involved with the Colts offense for eight seasons and was offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay for the 2001 season. 

The latter make me cringe just thinking about the anemic Bucs offense of those days.

The new coaches don’t come with the same pedigrees as the men they replaced, but few coaches will ever enjoy such lengthy and stellar careers. Moore spent 32 seasons in the NFL and owns three super bowl rings.  Mudd has coached 36 consecutive seasons in the league and has a ring of his own now.

Many will argue that Howard Mudd was more important to the offense. The Colts have consistently been among the league leaders in fewest sacks allowed during Mudd’s 12 seasons with the team.

Tom Moore is no slouch himself, and his influence on the offense extends beyond just sending in three plays and allowing Peyton Manning to decide at the line of scrimmage. 

He bought a wealth of experience and ingenuity to Peyton’s career.

Manning has known no other line coach or offensive coordinator during his eleven year playing career, and you would assume that he would eventually have to forgo this luxury at some point.

This also makes the re-signing of center Jeff Saturday more significant.  It gives the Colts another coach on the field and continuity along the line.

Perhaps with new personalities to work with, Manning and Christenson can tinker with the offense a little, add some new wrinkles and make it even more prolific.  Christenson has been with the team for eight years, so he and Manning should be very familiar with one another. There should be a level of trust between them and there has to be because a rift between player and coach can ruin a great offense.  Thankfully there is nothing that suggests such an event will ever occur.

Manning is no loose cannon. In fact, he is the consummate professional and on-the-field coach.  If any quarterback is more equipped to deal with the sudden loss of continuity, it’s Manning.  The Colts offense normally behaves like a well rehearsed and coordinated fighting machine, the envy of offenses at every level of football from Pop Warner to the NFL.

It takes an amazing amount of time and practice to maintain this level of success and it can bog down with any idiosyncrasy or flaw, making it vulnerable to its enemies.  Last year the unthinkable happened when Manning underwent two knee operations, missed pre-season time and inexperienced players were shuffled along the line.

When the Colts do bog down it can be painful and unsettling to watch.  It was only a few years ago Manning was criticized for complicating things by taking too long at the line of scrimmage while pointing and flapping his wings like a prized fighting rooster.  (Forgive me for the comparison Peyton; I know you played in the SEC.)

The effects of the coaching losses will be clear by the end of the season, but at least the new coaches will have a well-tested battleship to work with.  They won’t be going to war with a rusty schooner, and even though the Colts appear to be leaking Hall of Fame caliber coaches, Peyton Manning and crew won’t be acting like a gang of drunken sailors on shore leave.