The mighty Indianapolis Colt's long fall from grace continued Sunday night as the Tampa Bay Bucs eked out a win late in the fourth quarter, 24-17. Once again, Colts' fans are left in bewilderment and disgust, wondering just where oh where our dynamic juggernaut has gone.
It's not an easy question to answer. It's the topic of much debate and finger pointing going on allover social media websites, chat rooms and bulletin boards. I can't imagine what it's like inside the Colts' locker room. There are many differing opinions. I'd like to share some of mine.
First, I have to say, I saw this coming. Granted not to this extreme, but even before the Manning injury was an issue, I was calling for just barely on the plus side of a nine-win season. With Manning hurt, I was hovering on the minus side of an eight-win season. When rumors hit around Week 1 that Manning may be lost for the season, I had little faith they'd reach six wins, even despite their weak schedule.
What we've seen is just how poor the coaching is. Jim Caldwell is in way over his head. It began to really show last year with mental mistakes and questionable coaching decisions. Now, ironically, one simple injury has exposed the truth. We can clearly see that the emperor is in fact not wearing any clothes. And it's becoming more apparent as the season goes on.
I've said all along, it's not that quarterbacks Curtis Painter or Kerry Collins are that bad, it's that Peyton Manning is just that good. Sure we all know his accuracy and strength throwing the ball, his perfect mechanics and his ability to read the defense, but it's more than that and we didn't know it until he was gone.
He offsets a weak running game by commanding so much respect in the secondary. Every snap is not only a potential touchdown, but it comes with a high probability of it being so. The time of offensive possession is critical. Without it a small, weak and aging defense who has a history of struggling anyway, in particular against the run, is worn down twice as fast. The only thing more porous than the Colts' defense in the first quarter, is the 2011 Colts' defense in the fourth quarter.
The reality is that these are blemishes that one player's ability has over shadowed. They are now glaringly obvious. The small and quick defense doesn't work. It's a failed experiment. Relying on one player to carry you is simply irresponsible. The conservative decisions have done nothing but prevent opportunities to win. This organization is hemorrhaging profusely. Someone needs to step up and stop it. Drastic changes need to be made. You can't expect drastic changes from a coach with a history of consistently overly conservative, if not just plain slow, decisions. And sometimes, an organization just simply needs a new face to inject life.
This is not a time to panic, but it is a time for honesty. If Manning returns, his clock is ticking. He's still one of the best in in the league, if not the best. Let's bring in a winner—someone with fire and passion. Someone who knows it's Peyton's offense and keeps it that way while tweaking the run game to make it a little stronger. Someone who understands that defense does in fact win championships and can bring in some hefty help up front through free agency to compliment Mathis and Freeney. Someone who simply knows that this is a franchise who still remembers how sweet the taste of success is and can capitalize on that now and turn them around before they have forgotten. The players deserve that. This city deserves that.
As I always say, "hesitation leads to devastation".