Greetings Colts fans, and welcome to my new weekly column, "The Monday Morning Moaner." Let's face it: there's a lot of positivity about the Colts these days. Ryan Grigson is great. Chuck Pagano is great. Andrew Luck is great. Everything's great. But what if it wasn't great? What if we just, for a brief moment, focused on the negative? That's where I come in. I know, I know, you're thinking to yourself: "Greg... negative? But how?" It'll be hard, but I'll find a way to make it happen. For you.
As most of you know (actually, it's probably all of you, but I didn't want to assume), the Colts won their regular season opener yesterday, with a 21-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders. So, the team is 1-0, not a lot to moan about, right?
I hate the Colts offense.
No, not the players. I love Luck and Reggie and Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener and Anthony Castonzo and Donald Thomas and TY Hilton and even Darrius Heyward-Bey. When I say I hate the offense, I mean the scheme that horrible, inexplicably misuses those incredibly-talented players. So what do I hate about the Pep Hamilton offense? Let me count the ways...
1) Running the Ball. Look, there's a time and place to run the ball. I've complained all off-season that the team's "run the ball, stop the run" mantra is meaningless and outdated, but the reality is, being able to run the ball in certain situations is nice. The running game is great for picking up short yardage 1st downs and goal line scores. When the opposing pass rush is controlling the game, a nice screen or draw is a great way to stop it in its tracks. And my favorite aspect of the running game is that it allows the offense to utilize the play-action pass to create separation for the receivers.
Unfortunately, the Colts don't use their running game as this beautiful supplement for Andrew Luck and their passing game. Instead, the running game seems like... a separate entity? The Colts have two offenses: their passing offense and their running offense. When they want to pass the ball, they lineup with either 2 or 3 WRs, 1 or 2 TEs, and 1 RB. When they want to run the ball, they come out with at least 2 TEs (sometimes a 6th OL/3rd TE), 1 WR, and sometimes a FB. Their pass formations scream "pass" and their run formations scream "run." I'll let my esteemed colleague, Nate Dunlevy, sum this up:
Hated the fullback plays. If you have to run a special formation to run, it's not balance. Want to run back film of that and see its utility
The absolute best offenses in the NFL have a synergy: the pass feeds off of the run and the run feeds off of the pass. They do this, generally, by running a bunch of plays that "look the same." If the defense can't look at the pre-snap formation and tell if it's a run or a pass, it makes it harder for them to defend the play. By utilizing two unique sets of formations for both actions (running and passing) you're removing the best parts of being able to run and pass.
Quick aside: the Colts running game was NOT good yesterday. Sure, they ran for 4.45ypc (remove Luck's yardage), but a deeper look at the numbers shows the following: 13 of those yards came on a pointless 3rd-and-31 carry. Outside of that, the success rate for the Colts RBs was an abysmal 35% (46% for Ballard (not bad), 17% for Bradshaw (horrible), for reference: last year, the highest success rate was 58%, and Vick Ballard's 2012 success rate was 48%). The Colts rushing attack was very boom-bust (either a great run or a horrible run). Very little consistency. And never mind the irony of calling yourself a POWER RUNNING team and then not running the ball on a 4th-and-1.
More importantly, however, is WHY the Colts are doing this: the offensive line isn't very good, which means they don't have the personnel to be the kind of team Grigson, Pagano, and Hamilton want them to be. Instead of looking at Luck, Reggie Wayne, TY Hilton, Fleener and Allen and saying, "We have the tools to be one of the most dynamic, dominant offenses in the NFL, let's throw the heck out of the ball," they have decided what kind of team they want to be irrespective of their talent. It's simply not smart management, but it does lead us to #2: