Baltimore (10-3) provided the most recent reminder of Indy’s sad state of affairs by dominating Jim Caldwell’s crackpot crew for three-and-a-half quarters on Sunday (all that was necessary to put the game out of reach, that is) then walking away with a thoroughly misleading 24-10 win.
For the Ravens, the win kept playoff aspirations alive and helped maintain their edge in the AFC North, where they’re now tied with Pittsburgh for the division lead but hold the tiebreaker based on two head-to-head victories against the Steelers.
For the Colts, the loss strengthened anticipation for a No. 1 draft pick next season and moved the franchise one step closer to posting just the second 0-16 season in NFL history.
If you like bad news, then, this is the slideshow for you, as in it we’ll examine the five things the Indianapolis Colts taught us today about their team, their future and, saddest of all, their impending brush with infamy.
Warning: brown paper bags not included.
With Sunday’s loss, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell now joins some rare and shameful company: only five other teams in NFL history have started a season 0-13, and all but one of them fired their head coaches at some point during the season.
The 1976 Buccaneers decided to stick with their wisecracking coach, John McKay, even after going 0-14 in their first year of existence, but the leaders of the 1980 New Orleans Saints (1-15), the 1986 Colts (3-13), the 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15) and the 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16) all met a different fate.
That being the case, there’s no way former defensive coordinator Larry Coyer will remain the only victim of this lost 2011 Colts season. Now that Indy’s losing streak has equaled its longest in 25 years, the fallout for this travesty should put in jeopardy the job of every single member of the entire organization.
Obviously that jeopardy surrounds Caldwell more than anyone else, and the week ahead will probably be a particularly tense one for the third-year head coach and longtime assistant if history is any indication: two of the 0-13 teams listed above fired their respective head coaches around this same time of year and one of them, the ’86 Colts, did so right after their second-year coach lost his 13th consecutive game.
You can’t totally dismiss the unpredictable nature of professional football under any circumstances, but when a team like the 2011 Colts comes along, the normal rules just don’t seem to apply.
The Colts are going 0-16 this season, and that’s about as final as any assessment of the NFL as any could be here in its golden age of parity.
They’ve played 13 games so far in which they haven’t even had a lead for the last eight of them, and based on today’s performance (in which produced just 167 total yards), they’re in no way a better football team today than they were in Week 1.
The Colts deserve to lose.
That’s what happens when you build an undersized, poorly coached football team, rely on a single superstar player to just do everything himself, then lose the superstar in question—you lose. It’s the universe’s way of letting you know that it’s on to you, and that you’re not fooling anyone anymore. The Colts got caught. Now they’re paying the price.
If they don’t go 0-16, something’s wrong with the world. And if any of the three remaining opponents are so inept they can’t even find a way to beat these guys (the worst of the three, Jacksonville, just blew up for 41 points today), then shame on them too.
Even if the Colts do somehow shock the universe and win a game or two this season, the damage is already done.
The Colts suck, and this season they’re sucking like few have ever sucked before.
Forget any of the bad teams we’ve witnessed over the last two seasons. Ten years from now when football junkies look back on the worst teams of this era, they’re going to see the ’08 Lions, the ’07 Dolphins and now, already in their ranks and threatening to surpass both of them in their pursuit of supreme suckiness, the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.
Their 62-7 loss to the Saints in Week 7 was among the worst performances in NFL history. They’ve started three different quarterbacks, they’ve lost to multiple rookie quarterbacks and they’ve only looked competitive in the games they’ve played on a handful of occasions.
Next year they very well may turn it all around, regain their confidence and continue on as an elite franchise again like the whole thing never happened.
Even if they do, however, no one is going to forget they bad they were this season anytime soon, and that’s already clear only 13 games in.
Orlovsky surprised everyone in his first start of the season last week against New England when he threw for over 350 yards and two touchdowns.
It was as promising a performance as anyone in Indianapolis could have hoped for at the time and, for the last six days, you couldn’t help but wonder if the seven-year backup could somehow provide the necessary spark for this team to avoid a completely winless season.
Not so fast.
We went through this already with another backup named Curtis Painter, who got off to a surprisingly hot start when he took reins of the offense back in October (he posted quarterback ratings of 99.4 and 115.8 in his first two games, respectively), then slowly declined back to a frustrating state of futility shortly thereafter.
We’re not falling for it again.
Granted, Orlovsky was up against one of the most menacing defenses in the league this afternoon and, granted, this was only his second opportunity to run the offense in a meaningful game.
But 53 offensive yards through three quarters?
Orlovsky probably is still the Colts’ best option at this point, but he officially lost any confidence he may have inspired last week with today’s dismal performance and, until further notice, his outburst against New England was nothing but a fluke.
A game against the Colts has been a gift for any team lucky enough to have one scheduled this season, but it has been especially beneficial to the top teams in their own conference.
In Week 1, the Colts kindly laid down against the Houston Texans in a 34-7 blowout that helped pave the way for their division rival’s first AFC South championship, a title Houston clinched earlier today when Tennessee fell to New Orleans.
In Week 3, the Colts handed the 1-1 Steelers a 23-20 victory, prompting an 8-2 Pittsburgh run that now has the defending AFC champions right on pace for another postseason appearance.
Last week against the Patriots, the Colts gave their old pals a 31-24 win that helped New England maintain a two-game lead in the AFC East.
Earlier this afternoon in Baltimore, the Colts were generous enough to lose 24-10 in a game that could help decide the AFC North in favor of the Ravens.
Obviously the 13 losses the Colts have suffered this season have by definition benefited every team that beat them.
Considering how drastically their failed season has altered the entire AFC landscape, however (particularly the postseason ahead, which they’ll miss this year for the first time in a decade), it’s clear that the underperforming Colts have not only brought themselves down this year, they’ve helped raise up the rest of the AFC (especially the elite) as a result.