Nate Dunlevy looks at what the firing of Jim Caldwell means for the future of the Colts.
If Hank Baskett had stayed down, Jim Caldwell would still have a job today.
On Tuesday, Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson caught everyone off-guard with the shocking, but welcome news that Jim Caldwell would not be retained as head coach of the Colts. No matter how right that decision was, I can't get over the fact that if everything else but the onside kick had played out the same, Indy would have won the Super Bowl, and firing Caldwell would have been unthinkable.
Of course, had Caldwell not tried to run the ball three times to end the half that night, he might still have a job too.
And that's what made this decision a difficult, but necessary one. Many things outside of Caldwell's control cost him his job. It wasn't his fault that Peyton Manning got hurt. I don't think that even a great coach would have won more than four games with Collins/Painter/Orlovsky this year. The Colts were too horrible at quarterback to win games in the modern NFL. But there were plenty of things within Caldwell's control, and that's where he failed.
He failed to grasp aggression. He failed to adapt to the reality of how bad his quarterbacks were. He failed to grasp the game that is media relations.
Caldwell will be remembered for his timeout against the Jets (which I still defend). He'll be remember for his unblinking, stoic sideline demeanor. He'll be remembered as never having met a punt he didn't like.
But if Baskett had stayed down, he'd be wearing a ring right now.
The moves this past week were not about accountability. They weren't retribution for one bad season. They were about change in direction. Change is hard. I think Irsay wants to hang on to the past as much as fans do. It seems to be dawning on him that the past can't be corralled so easily. When it's time to move on, the only smart option is to face the future with courage and resolve. The old direction was a good one. But without Peyton Manning to make it work it wasn't sustainable.
It couldn't have been an easy decision for Jim Irsay to part ways with Caldwell. It's clear now, that he is in fact willing to make the hard choices necessary to move the franchise forward. The dismissal of Caldwell gives fans a reason to hope that perhaps things will get better. The doomsday scenario of a Manning/Luck combination in Indianapolis that will lead to five plus years of irrelevance seems just sliver more unlikely now. The revelation that Grigson has not even spoken to Manning was jarring. The fact is that if the Colts thought it was likely that Manning would be healthy next year, they would be handling things very differently. Irsay's claims about being committed to Manning 'if he's healthy' are true. But the Colts clearly don't believe he's healthy.
I don't believe the Colts will have Peyton Manning to make it work anymore. I never thought it likely that the Colts would work out a friendly renegotiation of Manning's deal, and events of the last 24 hours make it more clear than ever that the schism between Manning and the team is real. He went from having more juice than anyone in the organization to not meriting a call back from the GM. Peyton Manning had no voice in this decision, and you have to wonder if he has any place in the organization any more.
Change is hard, but Caldwell was not the right coach to start the Andrew Luck era. The worst thing a team can do is have a lame duck coach with a young quarterback. Consider Blaine Gabbert of the Jaguars. He spent his rookie year under one system and now will be switching systems, all but wasting year one. It's great that Wayne Weaver wanted another year of Del Rio, but he slowed the development of his quarterback in the process. Think about Alex Smith and his 7 coordinators in his career. Perhaps many of his struggles were simply due to the fact that he never stayed in one set system for enough time to master it.
The bad news for Colts fans is that there are not many good candidates out there. Whoever the next coach of the Colts is, he won't be a big name. Maybe they'll land the coaching version of Grigson, someone young and unknown who can grow into the job. Maybe they'll land a retread destined to get fired in three years.
Either way, it won't be Caldwell.
The future of the Colts organization is brighter today than it was yesterday. 2012 is going to be a terrible season no matter what. There's no scenario that ends better than 8 wins. The team will have less talent than it did in 2011. Even a healthy Peyton Manning would not be enough to overcome the roster bloodletting that is going to begin soon. The Colts weren't in a position to 'bring the old gang back'. It's just not realistic cap-wise. By making the hard choices now, however, the Colts are starting the hard road back that much sooner. 2012 is lost, but 2013 and beyond may well be secured. Change is hard, but when it's embraced the new normal can be a good destination. It will never be as good as the past, but that doesn't mean it can't be great.
there were many other issues with the super bowl than baskets screw up on the onside kick. the manning pick six is a vivid memory of something that cost us the game as well. losing that super bowl should not go to 1 guy. even though that guy is a dumbass.
Is Brian Billick not interested in coaching anymore? I'm interested in why I haven't seen him mentioned. Super Bowl coach in 2000, defensive minded coach, decent time management. Why would he not be considered?
Actually, Billick was an OC before getting the Ravens HC job. He just had one of the best defenses in history so you might think he was a defensive oriented coach.
Without Peyton Manning the Colts would be at the top of the list of teams to go to LA. PM has also made the colts organization more money than any player in frachise history, and his jersey sales probably paid for one of Irsay's vacation homes. To act like the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (1984-present) would be anywhere near the billion dollar frachise it is now without PM is obtuse and foolish. Robert is 100% right, unless he can't throw a ball and retires you pay the man and give him the benefit of the doubt.
At least Jim Irsay is finally starting to realize that the past is just that--past. He's smarter than Jay Gatsby, who was shocked when Nick Carraway told him, "You can't repeat the past." The "great" Gatsby replied, "Can't repeat the past? Why, of course you can!"
That's the finest opening line to any sports article ever written about the Colts. In so many ways Hank Baskett has become our Bill Buckner.
When Rob F-ing Lowe is tweeting about Manning, I think it is safe to say this has officially turned into a circus. What's next, Favre watch?
Rob Lowe (good friends with Irsay) tweets Manning will retire. He doesn't name his sources, but says it's very viable intel. I hope he's right...seeing Peyton in another uniform would be too much to handle.
Pete Metzelaars just got fired. So is Frank Reich.
Is Howard Mudd coming back then? Hmm....
@GregC Are you guys gonna officially break that news.
@chad72 The bath water, sure... but the baby too? I guessed they would get rid of some of the guys I was totally cool with. Oh well.
It would be a real uncool move to take the position you left to give your protege after he was fired.
@chad72 Major, major overhaul. I had just read that Grigson wanted to talk in person with all coaching members who were on vacation, so this must mean the decision must have been made to literally start over.
Great post, Nate. You set up the situation quite nicely with those twin quotes about Hank Baskett and the three runs; Caldwell´s legacy encapsulated perfectly in the span of a few minutes, some of it not under his control. I wish all the people droning on and on about 2-14 would understand that. After an entire season of unmitigated disaster, and the upheaval of the most consistent NFL franchise all linked to the uncertainty regarding´s Manning´s comeback, you remain one of the few people who get Manning´s impact and his importance in an unprecedented genetically-encoded starship. Most sportswriters out there think this is about appeasing the fanbase regarding 2-14 (compared to Belichick´s 11-5).
I´ll repeat what I said yesterday, this is a good thing. This change was needed. Now I just hope we won´t get a bad HC just because of the Philly connection (Mornhinweg). But even if we do, this reassures me that when a definite failure is diagnosed, the team will change direction.
While I'm a diehard Texans fan, I have the utmost respect for Peyton and what he has accomplished. Having said that, I agree with the general consensus that he will not be a Colt next year. With Luck on the horizon as the Guy in Indy, it would make sense to look at Philbin from Green Bay as the man to bring Luck into the NFL. His offense and handling of Rodgers should be all the evidence needed. On the other hand, we could use a break from being beaten by the Colts.
If Peyton really isn't healthy then the Colts are absolutely doing what they need to do as a franchise. Even not talking to Grigson yet isn't quite as shocking. This is exactly how you would expect the franchise to act if Peyton wasn't healthy. So it is hard to ignore that Peyton's health may be in question. However, if Peyton is doing well and will be able to play in 2012 (mini camps, training camp, preseason included) then Irsay is handling this transition with no class at all. For me personally there is no happy outcome. At least if Manning isn't healthy he can retire a Colt and leave without regret. But if he's healthy, then basically the same franchise and owner who told him he deserved to be the highest paid player in the NFL last year would essentially be forcing him out. That would be unforgivable. This is a case where you don't have to trade winning for loyalty. Anyone who thinks Andrew Luck is the only QB coming out in the next two years that can be successful in the NFL is wrong. If your going to fixate on a player, how about doing it with a healthy Peyton Manning. Not a kid who's never taken a snap in the league. If Grigson couldn't find another QB with the 5 top 50 picks over the next two years Luck would draw, then Irsay hired the wrong guy. There are other options. If Peyton isn't healthy, my points aren't valid. But if he is healthy this feels exactly the same as watching the Bulls be ripped apart by an owner and FO tha couldn't manage it's team.
@Peyton for President sure there are other qb's that will be coming out. can you guarantee that we will have a shot at them? can you guarantee how effective manning will be
you are thinkng with your heart instead of your head. the colts owe manning nothing that isnt in his contract. irsay is handling this perfectly
@Peyton for President Peyton isn't healthy. It's just that simple.
@Nate Dunlevy As much as I wish I could say that I know you're wrong, I can't. Everything I have stated to make my case is real. I haven't made it all up. There ARE reasons to be hopefull. Is it possible something has happened since the season ended that has set him back? Sure, it's possible. But this isn't the type of thing I'm willing to speculate about. If Peyton isn't healthy I'll be willing to face that reality. I've been very matter of fact(sprinkled with hopefulness) since the injury was first reported. Trust me, I'll get over it. But I have to wait and see what the facts are. Right now there are too many unknowns to say for sure.
Brett, Nate, Greg, Laura... or anyone else
If the Colts were in the exact same situation, except instead of a neck injury Peyton had blown out his knee in preseason and he was for sure coming back 100%, would all this still be going down? And would trading the #1 pick still be completely off the table?
@DougEngland Don't think "neck injury". It's not about knee v kneck. It's about the likelihood of him coming back. Right now it's just not good. If they knew he was going to be fine EVERYTHING would be different.
@DougEngland That is an interesting question. The biggest concern to me besides Manning's health would be his contract. You could look at different options if he was going to 100% but the money would still be an issue. If the injury never happened at all, money wouldn't be as big of factor, assuming we made the playoffs and had a lower pick like previous years. If we trade the pick his year, lets say to Cleveland, we get #4 and #22. You would have to look at last years salaries to get a number. #4 got 4yrs $19 mil, roughly, and we got Castonzo at #22, his salary this year was around $3 mil. Combine the two without a salary increase and that's roughly $7 mil. You can manage either situation but at what cost? Manning's injury coupled with the #1 pick put us in a bind financially, in my opinion.
@DougEngland I think your point/direction is a valid one. All of this is because of the uncertainty of Manning's health
@GregC@LovinBlue This is just a feeling I have gotten from listening to Irsay over the last month or so... but I don't think Irsay really wants Peyton to get healthy. If Peyton is not healthy, he doesn't have to worry about:
(1) Missing out on the reputed best QB prospect in a decade
(2) Manning playing for another team.
Even when Irsay was making his comment that if Peyton was healthy, he would retire a Colt... that always came with the caveat of why can't we have both.
There has never even been the hint of "how damn luck we are to get the #1 pick in a year it has real trade value and the influx of talent we can put around Peyton,."
Even yesterday, it was reported that Manning is working out with his teammates and making progress. Who knows where he is at or if he will play again. But to not even be hoping for a full Manning recovery because that will mean you will have to make difficult decisions.. that is just sad.
@GregC The actor?
I don't have any inside sources, but my prediction is that Marty Mornhinweg is going to be the next Colts coach.
Grigson knows him, supposedly he is wll respected around the league, and no coach could win with the Matt Millen Lions. (Remember even the "great" Bill Belichick was a failure at his first Head Coaching job with the Browns.)
All you need to know about Mornhinweg is that, when Vick went down for a few weeks with a rib injury, and the black Tim Tebow (mechanics only, in jest) came in, ole Marty had Young throwing 50 times a game. Even after his 3rd INT he was still slinging that rock around. How is that any different than how Caldwell handled the Colts QB situation this year?
@BMS I would like to just say that I am not endorsing Mornhinweg, I was just (in retrospect) stupidly making a prediction. Stupidly, as I have no idea and why I was even compelled to make a guess now seems silly to me.
There is only ONE thing I am POSITIVE I know for sure... Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck both should not be on the Colts.
Alas, whether this turns out to be a good thing or not... I believe the Colts were planning on keeping Caldwell (and all that would infer and/or mean) except that Spagnoula turned them down to be DC. (Why else would Caldwell have been in that meeting?)
Maybe that was thefinal straw for Caldwell...Maybe Spags said, i dont want to work for him, im a better coach then him.
Just a thought
I think there are probably good candidates available. However, there are not any exciting candidates really. The names are not getting my hopes up. Of course, some of this could be because I have been researching this for 3 months now.
Nate, thank you for a great, but day ruining article!
Personally, the guy I think might have a good shot with grooming a rookie QB like Andrew Luck is Panthers’ OC Rob Chudzinski. I am sure someone has mentioned him. If he is hired, I expect a lot of TE usage in our system (something Luck did a lot in college too, mostly because his WRs were not really the game breaker kinds). I like his resume, he has worked under several good coaches, even once as assistant head coach with the Chargers. He made a Pro Bowler out of Derek Anderson with the Browns, and now I look at what he did to Cam Newton, he feels like the guy we need for Andrew Luck as a QB.
Besides, ESPN’s John Clayton expects Colts GM Ryan Grigson to hire an offensive mind as the next head coach. Take it for what it is worth:
@chad72@mattshedd Chudzinski is getting a lot of credit for what he did with Cam Newton. I have to challenge that a bit... if he really was a QB miracle worker like he is being portrayed, then Jimmy Clausen would be the starting QB for that team and they wouldn't have been drafting #1 last year.
So how does Freeney (Bratzke) play into the future? Will they restructure his deal to keep him around, or move away from the small and speedy pass rushers concept quickly and for good?
A bad season in 2012 is expected if Manning retires and Luck is starting as a rookie. This would be the best time to begin a defensive philosophy change as well if that is the direction they will take.
With the Browns, they had a good year for Joe Thomas and Braylon Edwards that year, I think. God knows what the Browns were thinking letting go of their OC after that year.