The 2009 offseason for the Colts has been one of the most dramatic in the past decade, and has everyone asking questions like...who the heck are all these new coaches? Where the heck is Marvin? Is Vinatieri going to be okay? Who the heck is going to step up and step in to fill the slot receiver position? And how is all this going to affect the Colts' offense?
Well don’t worry Colts fans, I was able to speak with Colts receiver Pierre Garcon, and he had some interesting answers for us on all these questions and more.
The Colts' coaching staff is probably the unit that has seen the most changes this season, both expected and unexpected.
Head Coach Tony Dungy had planned his retirement from the team and had a successor named in Jim Caldwell at least a year in advance, but the losses of Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore and Offensive Line Coach Howard Mudd has most Colts fans a little worried...even if they are coming back as consultants.
The Colts filled those open positions from within the current staff by promoting Clyde Christensen (Wide Receivers Coach) to Offensive Coordinator, and Pete Metzelaars (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) to Offensive Line Coach.
But that left open spots to be filled at the Receiver’s Coach position and the Assistant Offensive Line Coach position. All that and I haven’t even mentioned that the Colts have a new Defensive Coordinator, Larry Coyer.
So what does Pierre have to say about all the changes? He doesn’t seem too worried. “There is not a lot of new coaches, it’s just a lot of guys moving up...moving around, but nothing’s changing really. Still the same playbook...still the same offense.”
When asked about the Colts promoting from within the current staff and how he felt about Jim Caldwell, Clyde Christensen, and Pete Metzelaars taking control of the offense, Pierre said, “That’s real good! They know the system very well, so there’s not going to be (any) growing pains. They’ve been around for a while, the guys know them, the guys respect them and all. And there’s not going to be much of a change from what Coach Dungy used to do.”
Early on in this offseason’s OTA’s though, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had made comments that expressed his dissatisfaction with the communication of the Colts organization, and also about the fill-in coaches, Ron Johnson (Receivers Coach) and Frank Winter (Assistant Offensive Line Coach).
So are these issues behind them now and are the interim position coaches working out better? This doesn’t seem to be the case. Pierre said that, “We still have the same wide receivers coach, Clyde (Christensen). He’s still helping us out, and doing the Offensive Coordinator job. He’s doing both.”
So it appears that Christensen has either taken over the job until the position coaches are up to speed, that he has taken over the job until they can hire someone else on, or that he is going to hold that position throughout the season.
In any case...it doesn’t seem as though the issue has been resolved. It should also be noted that on the Colts official NFL website (Colts.com), neither Ron Johnson nor Frank Winter appear on the Colt’s coaches roster.
In regard to Tom Moore’s role in the offense as a consultant, Pierre is out of the loop just as much as we are saying, “I couldn’t tell you, I really don’t know.” Any chance of Tom Moore calling plays up in the booth this year? “I couldn’t tell you, I really don’t know.”
This is also the case when you speak to Pierre about the defense. “Well, the defense is different (this year), but I don’t worry about that at all.” Pierre’s sole focus right now is on the offense and how he can get into the starting line-up.
Pierre is in a tough position battle to fill the third wide receiver option in the offense. His competitors are Roy Hall, a third-year wideout that has suffered an injury plagued career thus far, and rookie Austin Collie who was recently drafted by the Colts in the offseason.
While typically it is a third year wide receiver that is ready to have a break out year, Hall has not had much playing time or experience because of his injuries and thus he’s probably more of a rookie as far as development in the NFL.
It is also typical for NFL organizations to get their big name and newly signed talent on the field as soon as possible, which goes in favor of Austin Collie starting.
However, the Colts offense is a little more complex than most in the NFL and a wide receiver not only has to know the play book and feel comfortable running their routes, they have to deal with the mental stress of Peyton changing the plays and making erratic hand signals that could be legitimate of fake. That’s quite a bit for any rookie to handle.
Pierre actually finds himself in a pretty good position heading in to training camp. He has one full year of experience in the NFL and has seen some playing time as a return man for the Colt’s Special Teams, as well as seeing limited time on the field as a receiver.
In OTA’s you would think that Pierre would have some idea as to where he stands in the position battle. Surely the coaches and veteran players gave him a hint right?
“Nahh. They just rotated us all in, let everybody get reps, and you know...get familiar with it. There’s not much competition going on. It’s just learning and getting back familiar with each other.”
However, after the OTA’s, Caldwell and Manning were both giving lots of credit to the game of Pierre Garson. Roy Hall was rarely mentioned and Austin Collie was also commented on, but at this point, one would have to think that Pierre Garcon goes into training camp as the man to beat.
Pierre’s not caught up in all the competition and what everyone’s saying right now. And he doesn’t seem to care what formation he is in, so long as he’s on the field. “I’m competing for anything for playing time. Wherever they put me at, I’ll play out there.”
So is Pierre primed for a big season if he does line up as a starter? “Hopefully… hopefully because I need one. I wouldn’t mind it.”
With the Colts promoting a former quarterbacks coach to the head coaching position, and also promoting a wide receivers coach to the offensive coordinator position, it would be hard to see anyone who gets the job having a poor season.
The Colts have arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game, an offensive that is designed to pass the ball, coaches that have offensive mindsets, and two other wide outs that have already proven themselves worthy of double teams. Whoever fills the third wide receivers/slot position is going to have a big year.
But Pierre is a little hesitant to put that much pressure on the receivers and the offense. “It’s going to be hard to have a better offense with Marvin (Harrison) leaving...hopefully we don’t take a dramatic drop. You know… you can’t replace Marvin, you just try to get better and work your way up.”
So that’s exactly what Pierre continues to do. He works, studies, and prepares for his chance to prove himself and start in the NFL at receiver for the Colts. Just talking to Pierre, you get a sense that he is much like Marvin Harrison in his demeanor. He’s well spoken and somewhat shy. He has respect for veteran players, especially Marvin Harrison.
Knowing that receivers are usually the most likely to exhibit diva-type behavior, I had to ask him who he would resemble more in an end-zone celebration, Marvin Harrison or Chad Johnson.
“Probably in between. I’m not Marvin, but I don’t want to get fined by the NFL so I’m not like Chad… I’m far from Marvin though. You might see a little more (celebrating), yeah.” One thing is for sure… Colts fans hope they find out plenty about Pierre’s end-zone antics this year.
Wrapping up my time with Pierre, I wanted to find out some information about Vinatieri, his feelings about the Patriots, and the Wildcat Formation.
The Colts key player acquisition (Kicker Vinatieri) in bringing home the Lombardi Trophy in 2006 underwent hip surgery earlier this offseason, but is expected to be ready for the start of the season. Do you know anything about Vinatieri?
“Yeah, he’s been around. He’s getting back into it. He’s been around the facilities working out and getting back into it, but you know…. He’s been in the league for so long… but I think he’ll be the starter.”
That’s awesome news for Colts fans, but I had to ask about a possible Vanderjagt return. Any chance of this? “I don’t know… I don’t think that will happen.” That might be even better news for most Colts fans.
The Patriots and Colts have one of the best rivalries in sports these days. The Patriots always seem to be the team standing in the way of the Colts going to the Super Bowl. So how much do you hate the Patriots?
“As long as we beat them, I don’t hate them. As long as we beat them, I’m fine… don’t have a problem with them at all. We beat them last year, hopefully we beat them again this year, and as long as we don’t have to go out there (New England), I’ll be fine.”
The 2008 NFL season saw the Wildcat formation lifted into the heavens as the newest gimmick play that actually works for nearly every team. Any chance of Pierre getting in with the coaches and having them call that play for him?
“If they (the coaches) put it in, I’ll be happy to run it. You know, without a doubt. Let me get on the field first and then you know… I got to crawl before I walk, got to get on the field first. Got to catch some balls and score some touchdowns.”
One thing is for sure Colts fans. This offseason has been full of surprises and there are surely more to come. Whoever wins over the wide receiver spot should shine and put up great numbers.
And whoever gets a chance to be employed into those open coaching positions better walk onto the field knowing what they are doing. This looks to be an interesting season for the Colts. I’ll be there to keep you posted the rest of the way.