Every week (give or take) during the off-season, we'll be posing one question to our writing staff to ponder. For our first installment of this fireside chat, we'll tackle the following:
"Do you feel better about the Colts now than you did 12 months ago?"
Feel free to chime in with your take in the comments, and, if there's a burning question you'd like for us to answer, post it here or tweet at one of us and we'll tackle it for you!
In short, I have all the same questions. I don't think 2013 answered any questions except, "Was Andrew Luck for real?". I think we all pretty much knew the answer to that one anyway.
Maybe you can add Hilton's play in there as an answered question too.
Still, we don't know who the next WR will be. The defense showed moderate improvement. There are still philosophical issues with the coaching. There are lots of big draft needs and few picks to work with.
All in all, my real confidence for the future was always Andrew Luck. That remains unchanged. So I'd say I feel the same. I expect a 10-11 win team and a shot at a playoff run. I feel better about how bad the AFC is, so I like their chances better, even as I feel the same about the squad.
Not really. I don't feel bad about them either. They won a playoff game after all.
12 months ago, we all saw Ryan Grigson doing a lot of things right. This year though, he wasn't brilliant in the draft or free agency and then of course the Trent Richardson trade.
With all the needs the team has, not having a first round pick is so frustrating. Having just four picks doesn't help either. That makes you wonder if Grigson will try to be aggressive in free agency again. Needless to say, he wasn't amazing in FA in 2013.
Still, having Andrew Luck is reason enough to be optimistic. Guys like T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener improved, and the return of Dwayne Allen and Donald Thomas are reasons to feel a bit better so we'll see how things work out with those guys involved. Maybe even Richardson starts contributing! (heh).
Being in the AFC South definitely helps but who knows what will happen after the draft.
I’m a little bit in Nate’s boat, I think. I don’t feel better about the Colts than I did a year ago, but I don’t feel worse either. The development of some of the young players and the continued excellence of a few veterans is extremely encouraging, but the actions taken last offseason were harmful to sustaining excellence over a long period of time, IMO.
However, this offseason is going to have a huge effect on that sustained excellence, and could rectify some of the earlier mistakes. Similarly, I’m interested to see how Pep Hamilton structures the offense going forward after a year under his belt. So, I’m certainly willing to be patient with them.
In short, I wasn’t more encouraged by 2013 (outside of, as Nate said, Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and a few other bright spots), but I certainly can’t say I feel worse about them. I still think they have a bright future to be one of the AFC’s contending teams for years to come, I just don’t know that we’ll see another run of dominance like we did in the Manning era.
My answer is contingent on the upcoming offseason. Twelve months ago, the Colts’ future looked very bright following an equally memorable and improbable 11-5 season and the flood of promising rookies that helped make it happen.
In many ways, their future really was bright: 11 more wins against a tougher schedule, a division championship, a playoff victory, a franchise record low 14 regular season turnovers, and the continued development of that 2012 draft class.
However, this past offseason was, well, different. There were draft picks that couldn’t stay on the roster, an otherwise promising first rounder who’s really more of a project, and a slew of free agents with baggage (mostly injury-related) who lacked the free-agent-with-baggage discount.
Then, there was The Trade. Even if you feel great about giving up a first round pick for a running back – even if you’re confident that Trent Richardson is destined for an amazing and productive 2014 (Please, Trent, be destined for an amazing and productive 2014. Yours Truly, Colts Fans), paying such a lofty price for a player who wasn’t able to contribute at a high level right away is unsettling.
All that aside, there are still some 2013 draftees and FAs who could prove to be long-term contributors, and if Ryan Grigson can find a little of his 2012 magic with the team’s remaining draft picks, retain some key guys, and nab a couple promising free agents, I’ll give a resounding “Yes, I feel better about the Colts than I did 12 months ago.”
Currently, I have about the same outlook as last year, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but ask me again in the spring. Things could be looking up by then, more so than now.
Not entirely, but certainly a lot.
Luck was awesome. We got more turnovers, actually blew out teams, limited mistakes, and developed a solid 1-2 receiver set. The offensive line was way, way better than in 2012 (Castonzo and Cherilus stand out), despite all the criticism they get - and unlike last year, they look like they're moving in the right direction.
The biggest issues last year (to me) were the kicking game, the ability for the defense to make big plays, and whether Freeney's probable departure would hurt. Now, the position most worrisome to me is ... running back, where we have Vick Ballard and Trent Richardson. Half the league would kill for that 'problem' (two second-year running backs with major potential).
Last year, everyone thought the Colts were majorly overrated. Very few people are echoing that sentiment any more.
It's impossible to argue that the Colts haven't improved in almost every area. Their stats - both advanced and conventional - have improved, they found a way to put together some dominating wins, and they have a ridiculously young core that has shown improvement on a week-to-week basis.
All that said, I don't feel good about the team: holes everywhere (OL, WR, RB(??), DL, LB, and in the secondary), no first round pick and few draft picks total, and last year's FA spending spree didn't convince me that Grigson was the GM who could buck the "FA is a bad way to build your team" trends.
Finally, I like some of the pieces in place (Luck, Hilton, Castonzo, Fleener, Allen, Cherilus, Freeman, Davis) but the organization's guiding principles and philosophies scare the heck out of me (from a fan perspective).
If you're building your team based on your philosophies, and the Colts' philosophy is to run the ball and stop the run, I believe they are doomed to flawed roster building.
Finally, they are going to let superior players - Antoine Bethea, Donald Brown and perhaps Pat McAfee - walk to make room for inferior players.
The good news is, Andrew Luck is one of the 10-best QBs in the NFL and the AFC South is one of the top-1 worst divisions in all of sports, so we've got that going for us, which is nice. But unless the Colts have a tremendous run of luck (health, match-ups, etc...) I don't fancy them as true Title Contenders next year or the year after.
The whole article needs a like button. I don't necessarily want to comment on every article I read, just say I liked one and move on with my browsing. I enjoyed this one, and would like to see you guys continue it. Maybe even take questions from the peanut gallery?
I always like these sorts of questions as the year closes out. A lot of opinions are expressed and some of them are even right. Of course the team is better. We played a tougher schedule, won a playoff game, beat both Super Bowl contestants, and all with a ton of injuries.
Do we need to improve? Every team does. But where? The answers are easier than people make them out to be. Suppose we could get Richard Sherman for free. Would he be the same player we saw in the playoffs? No. Why? Because our defensive line sucks. Want to find great CBs and Safetys in the league? Find teams with great defensive lines. It is one of the reasons why so many free agents in the secondary are a bust. They realign with a team that has cap space to pay a lot, but then they have a d-line that gives the QB 30 seconds on every play.
The o-line is the same. While great QBs (Manning, Marino, etc.) can hide a poor o-line, for the most part QBs, RBs, TEs and WRs all suck when the o-line sucks. Obligatory Brady statement: he sucked when his o-line sucked. The Pats are smart enough to provide a solid o-line and d-line most years and it serves them well.
George Allen said it 40+ years ago. The game is played in the trenches. Ignore all the off-season moves except the trenches. Go out and pay for the best Center we can get. And then let's get another starting guard. The get some interior d-linemen and ILBs. Use the draft to get future players including WR.
I feel worse. Going in to this season, I had one great draft and an interesting free agency period to go on as a judge of Grigson's ability as a general manager. It was all optimism and rainbows. Now, I'm not so sure he's the good to great GM I thought he was. Similarly with the coaching staff, it was all optimism coming in to the season, and they had a few virtuoso performances, but a lot of massive stinkers, too. Grigson's off season was generally a bomb. That leaves me to wonder if he's the Grigs that stole TY in the third or the guy that's done pretty much everything else since. And when I look at it that way, It doesn't sound promising.
I think I roughly broke even on players. Luck looks great, I'm not sure about Fleener, T.Y. looks like he's making progress, and I hope to GOD that Mathis and Wayne can hold it together a little longer. But great GMs and great coaches make teams in this league. If those guys aren't at least good, not just above average, you're not going anywhere. We watched John Fox get mopped up by Pete Carroll and his staff in the Superbowl and Pagano get creamed by Belichick in the divisional round. While it's not fair to compare anyone to Darth Hoodie, who, to me, is unquestionably the best coach in the league, he's the reason why the Pats are so consistent. You have a guy like that and your personnel all look better. I'm not sure that this staff is there.
I feel better about the players and coaches as a whole because they've now put together two playoff seasons, including a win. This year showed that last year wasn't just a fluke fueled by the emotions surrounding Pagano's illness.
On the other hand, I have less confidence in Grigson. Last year he looked like a miracle worker, at least in the draft. This year I'm hoping he can learn from his mistakes, and probably bring in someone who specializes in evaluating veteran talent. That seems to be a major weakness.
I feel pretty conflicted. If I knew what sort of offense the Colts were going to run my feelings would be much less conflicted. If, for instance, if they run the offense from the last couple weeks of the season, I think they have a shot at being a dominant team with only minor improvements. If the go back to conservative play calls and 2 yard runs well...To me the defense is the real problem. If the Colts actually just let Luck fling it and made aggressive calls (which they will do as a last resort) the team could have a very good offense.
The defense, however, needs a lot more talent. Outside of Mathis there are simply no really good players on the side of the ball. That needs to change if the Colts want to be dominant. I don't mind Pagano's scheme or his defensive approach, but I don't think he is a guy who can consistently field a great defense with such limited talent. If Grigson goes out and actually gets two or three really talented guys for the defense then I'll believe the Colts have a short at a playoff run.
I feel a little worse about Grigson because last years draft class just stank in the immediate impact department. Werner, Hughes, Holmes and Thorton could redeem him, but man, he's got to do better in the draft and guard his picks more closely. Free agency was a mixed bag. Betting on unproven guys to break out didn't go so well. The lesson I would've learned, in his shoes, is that if you're going to over pay anyway, over pay for someone with can't-miss talent. Seeing Avril have the season he did, from afar, really got me thinking. And seeing Laron Landry's season, first hand, really got me drinking.
I feel alright about Pagano mainly because what he lacks, I believe, is balanced out by Pep, who proved to be more flexible and creative as the year went on.
I feel great about the offense. I think with injured players coming back, and in the 2nd year of the offense, the Colts are poised to drops bombs on opposing defenses.
I feel less great about the defense just because it's still missing pieces. The Franklin, Chapman, Huhges rotation wasn't really getting the job done in run defense or pass rush. Some inside pass rush is up there on my amazon wishlist along with a bigger badder more vicious Bjorn Werner.
Basically, I'm less optimistic than I was a year ago, because the 2013 draft hadn't happened yet and I think my expectations were way too high: I was sure we'd win 11 and the South and win a playoff game, at least. The Trade really devastated my confidence in Grigson's team building chops. I hope he bounces back.
Is it fair to say we feel better and worse? I feel better about the potential of the offense going forward, but man do I feel a lot worse about the overall strategy of the team. I know that they were talking the same talk a year ago about being a run-first team, but I don't think all of us believed it 100%. But now? I think it's pretty clear that Pagano/Grigson/Irsay are all-in on the antiquated team-building concepts of the past. That makes me feel a lot worse.
I feel worse... not because I feel worse about the team per se, but I feel worse about the team's relative place in the AFC. I expect the Texans to bounce back (maybe back to contender) under the new coaching staff. I expect the Pats - who were already winning ridiculously this year - to improve a lot with most of their starters returning from IR. I actually expect Denver to get a little worse. KC might actually contend, and the Chargers and Bengals should likely contend again. There will likely be a surprise contender - is Hoyer going to be healthy for the start of the season?
Anyway... the Colts offense should definitely improve with Allen, Thomas, and presumably Wayne returning. But I never believed in this year's defense; we're at the same point this year where we were last year. I expect Mathis to finally start showing his age; I think he peaked this year. I love Antoine, but my eyes tell me he his beyond his peak. Toler - meh. Landry - meh. D-Line - meh. The only saving grace is that Grigson once again has a lot of money for free agency, but he absolutely can't miss this year.
@GregCowanCA great format. Love it.
Overall I feel Better
1. Even with injuries to key offensive pieces (Wayne, Allen, Ballard, Bradshaw, Thomas) the offense was able to adjust and move the ball.
2. The OL is a C away from being a B to B+ group. Interior OL are much easier to find/replace than OT.
3. Andrew Luck proved his year 1 was no fluke.
4. Robert Mathis is just as good of a rush LB as he was DE.
5. The secondary, when healthy, was solid
6. Overall, the Colts aren't deep, but have the pieces in place to run *most* of their scheme.
7. The coaching staff seems able to modivate this team well.
Concerns still left
1. Grigson being able to admit mistakes, and cut people that need cut.
2. Finding someone else that can rush the passer not wearing 98.
3. Depth at all positions
4. Continued development of the defense.
@hankster I still like Pep Hamilton's big picture.
How could anyone watch the superbowl and not see that if the Broncos could have run the ball more effectively they could have slowed the pass rush and loosened up Seattle's press coverage a little?
In the Colts v. Seattle game it was the threat of the Colts to run (Brown, yes,but mainly Luck) that allowed TY and Reggie to get open against Sherman and Browner. I believe Hamilton's offensive scheme and personnel (including mobile qb) are a better match-up against the Seahawks' aggressive defense than the Broncos'.
Just want to get my 2 cents in on the inevitable "philosophy" discussion
I agree on the defense. More talent on the line, another CB (with a functioning groin), a safety.
Yeah. This is year Grigson proves he either has the chops of be a GM or should be let go. I'm pretty happy Pep and Pagano, but I still don't really know what to think about Grigson or trush his ability to build a team.
@psvirsky Agreed... and forget the whole "run" thing. Seattle showed that you can get by with a so-so offense as long as you have a phenomenal defense. /still crying
@cbainter12 Glad you like it. Think it'll be pretty interesting :)
re:running. It is useful. What I really liked about the last few weeks of the season and the first playoff game is that the Colts came out aggressively throwing and running out of the no-huddle to build a lead and then ran a lot to salt the game away. To me that is the best approach.
As for Luck running. I'd like to see that more too. Maybe not too many designed runs, but definitely more role outs and options to scramble. As you rightly pointed out that played a big part in the offense's effectiveness.