But more than those moments of instant gratification, I'm enamored with the way football has evolved into a form of high stakes chess. Offenses and defenses alike spend every moment of preparation figuring out how to come up with new ways to disguise their true intentions and to attack their opponents' weaknesses.
And so every time a coach, player, announcer or fan starts talking about "heart", "determination", "clutch", "the will to win", heck, let's throw "karma" in here, for good measure, I cringe and sigh.
In my mind, those phrases rob football of its true beauty by eliminating the existence of good and bad performances, of great plays and mistakes. Instead, every outcome is boiled down to "WHO WANTED IT MORE!" As an example: Peyton Manning only has one Super Bowl ring because he's not clutch, because he didn't want it enough, not because Raheem Moore made a mistake, or a coach called a bad timeout, or, heck, even because the opposing team did something amazing.
And so it was especially painful when one of my favorite players of all time, Robert Mathis, tweeted the following:
I know the old blowouts and style point wins were all the rage in Old Regime but wins are wins & we wont apologize for a hard fought "W".
This tweet hurts for a couple of reasons.
First, I was one of the people who criticized the Colts victory over the Oakland Raiders. At no point in my analysis - written, spoken, or thought - did the concept of style points enter my brain. Sure, I would have preferred a blowout, but so would Robert Mathis and every fan who retweeted him. And if they tell you otherwise, they are liars. Or Raiders fans. Or both.
And STYLE POINTS? I honestly don't know where the phrase "style points" originated in the NFL vernacular, but it seems like a phrase tossed about by those who romanticize the sport in an effort to discredit those who prefer to look beyond mere wins and losses.
And, for the record, that style of scoring a lot of points, of putting enormous pressure on the opposition, it made Robert Mathis a very very rich man, because it afforded him and his Partner in Sacks, Dwight Freeney, the opportunity to pin their ears back and rush the quarterback with impunity.
This isn't to take away from Robert Mathis - he's a great player. He was one of, if not the best players on last year's defense, and his veteran leadership is greatly needed on a team with so many rookies. And, as I mentioned, he's one my personal favorites.
They didn't win the right way. They didn't win with style points.They just won.
Great post and writing, Greg. I´ve always thought that if you wanted bygones to be bygones, you needed to be the first to stop mentioning the past. Railing against Polian and Peyton is ultimately far less effective than just embracing their legacy quietly and moving on, and far more destructive.
Gregory, stop channeling! You're articles are more and more right on. It's so easy to put down your predecessor. It's partly the pressure on this team BECAUSE the Old Regime was so successful. So I'm disappointed in Mathis.
And Irsay SHOULD be calling out his team (on a related note) because they are not protecting the QB. I know there as some "buts" in there.. but still. Hey there's another but!
I think the regret for lost championships starts at the top. Irsay said he wants a team in mold of the early 2000s pats. Defense built for all seasons + offense simple enough to be operated by a plucky backup = ringz.
As for Mathis' tweet, I give him a pass because he's playing. His perspective is NOTHING like ours. He didn't offer any context. Was he speaking of Peyton? WAs he speaking of Polian? Does HE have regret for lost championships? Maybe it's as simple as going to hell and back against the Raiders, getting the w, and reading nothing but grief about his performance in the papers the next 2 days. You could spot him a little vexation, right?
Each team must forge their own identity, but does it have to be at the expense of the past?
I don't understand this seeming desire by current leadership to disparage the Colts teams of the past. Instead of creating their own legacy, it almost seems like they want to build themselves up by taking shots at an entity that it can never hit. Because those old Colts teams now only exist in the collective memories of us fans that will never forget them... and the record books.
Grigson obviously has his own ideas on how best to assemble a football team. Bully for him. I'm rooting for him. But toiling away at spectral windmills of bygone Colts teams is not remotely helpful.
(And by the way, how did the apparent blueprint for Grigson's vision, the 49ers, win their game Sunday? Hint, despite having the best offensive line in football, it was not by running the ball.)
I have to say, in terms of "style points" I give the Colts' scoring drives high marks. Great play design, great throws, great catches...just a ton of fun to watch.
Now, just do that EVERY DRIVE and we'll be OK.
I'm going to keep holding hope that this is temporary.
This team just isn't good enough yet to produce many blowouts. They're still learning how to play together, unlike the "old regime" that kept a stunning amount of consistency for a number of years. Stay on individual guys to fix their mistakes but the team as a whole needs to keep their confidence up and "no style points" is as good a mantra as any right now.
It's sad that Mathis has apparently bought into the history rewrite that certain vocal media hacks in Coltsland love to push. As great as Luck is and will be, there's still going to be plenty of sour grapes feeling every time Peyton puts up a great game without a horseshoe on his helmet.
I had the same thoughts when I read his tweet. We don't want the team to apologize for a hard fought W, we want them to do what they can to get better. That does not, and should not, have anything to do with Polian. I don't understand why it always goes back to *evil Polian who ran the franchise into the ground*.
Now there's a classic Greg rant!
The Pagano era will likely be filled with this kind of victory to be blunt. Anyone remember the Ravens teams he helped coach win in blowout fashion regularly? Nope. The fact is this team grinds and will grind.
That said, you've got some legitimate complaints about offensive fluidity. There's no reason this offense should telegraph run and pass plays they way they do with formations. Pep Hamilton is going to have to run out of 1 TE/3 WR sets and pass in the Kings formation. If they're going to be a fullback team they need to get used to the bubble screen and fullback swing pass. That's going to be a factor.
@Roy Hobbson Hey, thanks Roy. That's high praise.
@Ben Savage BEN DID YOU DELETE YOUR TWITTER
@naptown_ninja This is a very good point,. I would counter with two things, and you can tell me how valid/invalid they are:
1) If Mathis is feeling frustrated, I get that, but he could have easily vented his frustrations without bringing up the "Old Regime" in a negative connotation. It's just a strawman, imo. Most "concerned" people I know aren't concerned in the context of "That's not how PEYTON did it."
2) The coverage of this team has been, by-and-large, positive. Even last year, many of these same problems existed, but the team got a pass. But now, there are expectations. People LOVE LUCK. He is one of the 10-best QBs in the league (in my opinion). With great expectations come... great expectations.
I think there is more than enough rudderless positivity for the Colts to counterbalance what I consider to be honesty.
A personal fear of mine: people are going to start looking upon me (and perhaps some other people who write here) in the same light as a certain someone else.
I am not negative. I don't hate Grigson or Luck or anyone associated with the team right now. I'm able to shelve my feelings for the "Old Regime" as I cover the current one. But just because I love this team doesn't mean I'm going to approach them blindly. I hope that comes across. I think I've heaped plenty of praise on this club.
@DougEngland This so much.
It's fine that the "new regime" wants a different philosophy (they should want a different philosophy as the game is constanly changing and so does winning philosphies). I don't agree on all aspects of their new philosophy, but I don't disagree with A different approach in principle.
But why do they have to paint the past so dark? Is the new philosphy not good enough in itself, but has to prove itself by diminishing the past?
Does the "new regime" not aknowledge that most current fans actually came to the team in this damned "old regime"???
@ColtsHead_Ben Reggie's TD in the corner was just sick. I watched it over and over. If that pass/catch doesn't earn style points, there's no such thing as style points
@coltsauth_todd I´m going to paraphrase a certain QB, who always insisted, after being clapped on the back after a 4th quarter comeback or game-winning drive, that the only reason that had been necessary was because the team hadn´t done what it needed to do in the first 3 quarters.
Now of course as fans we´re always satisfied with a win, however it comes. But players, who have to regroup and prepare for the following game? Well, we don´t want players to get caught up in late game heroics. They should be relying on steady excellence, not some kind of special end-of-games mojo.
A team that sees grinding as endgame is setting itself up for disappointment. Coaches smartly know they have to be able to do that, but they should aspire for more, and it appears to me with all the talk about "the running game", this regime is the one that attributes style points to grinding.
@coltsauth_todd This could largely be solved by giving Luck the ability to make all those calls at the line. You know... like that other guy.
@coltsauth_todd It's not like Pagano was insanely conservative. Going for it on 4th down at midfield was the right call, even though it didn't work out. Allen was more conservative and it cost them big time. The only thing the Colts are guilty of is giving up looong offensive drives to Terrell Pryor. Not an inconsiderable sin, but hardly the problem as diagnosed here.
@Ben Savage ALL CAPS BECAUSE THIS IS IMPORTANT
@pierrezombie Funny story: I was going back through some of my old articles last night (2011-2012) and you were there, in the comments. I was thinking about writing you an email today or tomorrow, checking in with you. Site is not the same without you.
@Goéland It is a shame, but I guess it still beats having a bad owner and a bad QB! But also, to contradict my own point above, with a life as charmed as Irsay's, who needs self criticism?
I think you're probably right, that Irsay really does believe his own bullshit. And I totally agree that this doesn't bode well for the future of the franchise. I liked Irsay as an owner much, much more when he had Polian running the show. (And, it probably goes without saying, before Twitter.)
I imagine that as one of the few downsides to being extremely wealthy: not many people around who will give you an honest reality check when you've gone bonkers.
@pierrezombie @Goéland @naptown_ninja @GregC Great seeing you around, pierrezombie. I think Irsay does believe his hype, unfortunately. I mean, the way he announced there were big things coming before he went out and signed Walden, and his media presence since then... I firmly believe it´s always better for a franchise to not have the owner be its mouthpiece, or at least not a bigger presence than the GM on the business side of things. See also Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, Woody Johnson, etc.
Yeah, that's another thing about Irsay's approach to this that irks me. After a decade of LITERALLY unprecedented success, he's all overblown hype machine about the rebuild. (Even with Luck and last season's amazing... good fortune... it's still a rebuild.) It suggests that he doesn't think we, the fanbase, can handle the truth -- that we wouldn't be satisfied that we might get two great QB's in succession and let the rest play out as it will.
Or, perhaps worse, it suggests that he's so delusional that he actually believes all the hype he projects. I hope not.
@pierrezombie @naptown_ninja @GregC Outstandingly well-said, pierrezombie. And Mathis´tweet may come from knowing the entire organization ´s always eager for that "we left the old regime in the dust" discourse.
Given Irsay´s recent dubious signing spree, you´d think he´d advocate discretion instead of bluster until seeing consistent winning from his team, but alas..
@naptown_ninja @GregC I'm inclined to give any current player a really wide margin for error on this kind of stuff. (Particularly for what they say on Twitter -- it's not like Mathis called a press conference to denounce Peyton as an Old Regime glory hound, or to say that he carried Freeney for all those years.) Because they are still in it; if characterizing things that way keeps Mathis focused and motivated for next week's game, I can't blame him. For him, it's all about the now, and for him to be any good, let alone as great as he is, it probably has to be.
Less excusable is the Old Regime talk from current coaches and management -- Grigson and Pagano -- because it seems reasonable to expect them to take a slightly longer view, and to realize the potential for alienating the core fan base. They're responsible for that aspect of PR in a way that the current players aren't. Also, maybe a little respect for SB winners and Hall of Famers that preceded them in their jobs? There are so many ways to say you're going to be different without saying (or implying) that the old way was wrong. Especially when they're getting so much of the new way kind of back asswards thus far.
But from Irsay I think it's inexcusable and shows a lack of both graciousness and class. Greg's made this point before, and I'm probably reiterating it poorly, but Irsay's public statements make him seem extremely ungrateful to people like Dungy, Tom Moore, Polian and -- of course -- Peyton. (They were at the worst during the lead up and justification for cutting Peyton. Totally ridiculous.) Far more than anything Irsay himself has ever done -- inheriting the ability to write big checks doesn't count -- those people made his franchise what it is now. He could at least show their approach and efforts some due respect, even if it means finding another way to fire up the current team and get public buy-in to his overly hasty decision to blow everything up and enter rebuilding mode.
@matt_has @gizzardfanny @DougEngland Truthfully? The way I see it is that Irsay talked about "disappointment" in the literal but not perjorative sense of wishing Peyton et. al. got more rings, and the press plus various pundits out there decided to sharpen their knives against Polian and twist Irsay's honest disappointment into proof that he agreed their devil was indeed a devil. To this day, I won't read a Bob Kravitz article because of that needless witch hunting, and we all know of the blogger who's got no class in his attacks.
There might be some lingering questions i.e. "was that old way really the best?", but I don't get the sense that the Colts' administration rejects that past. But I TOTALLY get the sense that certain pundits try to shape it that way.
@matt_has @gizzardfanny @DougEngland Other than the Irsay "disappointment" comment (which could be taken a few different ways IMO, it was certainly disappointing to win 1 Super Bowl for a team that set the record for most wins in a decade, that to me is hard to argue, though the owner probably shouldn't be the one saying it), I can't recall anything specific from the current administration that could be seen as a direct attack on previous Colts teams, perhaps I'm just forgetting them.
Maybe it's just a general impression that making such a dramatic change in philosophy is itself a tacit indictment of the previous philosophy, but that can't really be held against the current management. It's their vision now, for better or worse.
Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this, I maybe am just blocking it out of my memory.