Now that the firing talk has ended, the work begins for the Indianapolis Colts.
There is much to be done — much more than simply fixing an offensive line. There is a running game to establish, a defense to repair and a draft to prepare for.
You know, rebuilding.
Not the rip it up and start over again type of 2012, but the works-in-progress type required on an annual basis.
And make no mistake, the Colts are a work in progress — and have been since 2012. It’s just that playoff trips, and a guy named Andrew Luck, have belied that fact.
All the talk about multiple Super Bowls being on the immediate horizon, starting this season, was just that: talk. From Week 1, it was obvious the Colts couldn’t live up to such hype. They simply weren’t equipped to.
Perhaps the greatest myth of the entire 2015 NFL season was the vast talent collection of the Indianapolis Colts. They never had one.
Yes, they had Luck. Yes, they had a few nice pieces, including a kicker and a punter. But they did not have a championship roster.
Consequently, even when Luck was healthy, they never played like champions.
Clearly, the offensive line was the major weakness. Three different quarterbacks, most famously Luck, were knocked out of games, and the ground game alternated between mediocre and non-existent.
But the defense also gave up big plays in bunches, high-profile free agents didn’t produce, and offensive playmakers seldom made big plays.
For example, T.Y. Hilton had 1,000-plus receiving yards but only five touchdowns. Frank Gore had nearly 1,000 rushing yards but averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. And “go-to” tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen combined for 70 catches and only four touchdowns.
True, injuries contributed to the offensive struggles, but the Colts have battled injuries — particularly in the backfield and on the offensive line — throughout the Luck era. But this time, they weren’t deep enough to overcome them, even with Matt Hasselbeck performing beyond expectations filling in for the injured Luck.
Yet even if all had gone smoothly on offense, the Colts’ defense was not championship caliber. Sooner or later, it would have been scorched in the playoffs.
A Lombardi Trophy was never going to be in reach.
But because the Lombardi Trophy was expected, even mandated by the owner, rancor ensued. Chuck Pagano coached for his job every week; Pep Hamilton was fired as offensive coordinator; Ryan Grigson was vilified for his failures at general managing; and Super Bowl talk was quickly replaced by rumors of an impending housecleaning.
But a housecleaning isn’t coming.
Instead, Jim Irsay wisely retained Pagano, wisely or unwisely retained Grigson, and is giving it another shot with a leadership that engineered three straight playoff appearances in the wake of a 2-14 campaign four years earlier. Hard to argue with that logic.
But it’s indisputable there is a lot of work to be done on a roster that wasn’t built to win a Super Bowl in the first place. There will be plenty of pressure on Pagano and even more on Grigson. And if Irsay is truly wise, he’ll stop making championships a public decree for job retention.
Super Bowls are, and always should be, the goal. But they should never be promised without Super Bowl talent from top to bottom.