TMQ (get the title now?) is back. Gregg Easterbrook kicks off the season by looking at the AFC. He starts out his breakdown of the Colts in fine fashion:
Have the Colts fallen off your radar in the two years since their Super Bowl triumph? Put them back on, because last season Indianapolis won nine of its final 10, the sole loss being a playoff defeat, at the hands of the Chargers, during which there were several fluky plays and questionable calls in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Good point, Gregg. That playoff game was full of weird, unrepeatable plays. I'm feeling better all ready. He goes on:
The sole Indianapolis weakness was the center of the team's run defense. Last season, Keyunta Dawson, a defensive end in college, started 14 games for Indianapolis as a defensive tackle -- at 254 pounds. This year he moves to defensive end, while enormous Fili Moala takes over the spot. If the Colts' rush defense can merely be average, TMQ makes this team the AFC favorite.
Hmm, he's sort of right. Ed Johnson will be playing the line, not Moala (who's in the backup rotation). He's got the details wrong, but the main point is valid. An average run defense would make the entire squad formidable. The Colts D is poised to strike. We'll give him a pass and thank him for the kind thoughts toward the Horse. Unfortunately, he kept typing...
Howard Mudd, the Colts' offensive line coach, had been the NFL's longest-serving assistant coach, at 35 years, when he "quit" this offseason. Eleven-year offensive coordinator Tom Moore "quit" too, at age 70. Neither said pension rules were the reason, though that angle got a lot of press.
Warning! Gregg, turn back! Don't go down this road! Nothing good can come of it. Actually, his statement to this point is technically accurate...while being deeply misleading. The pension plan got a lot of press because it was the reason for the retirement. There was no grand press conspiracy here. Here's how it played out:
According to ESPN NFL expert Chris Mortensen, who first reported the story that Mudd may retire, the crux of the issue is this:
Mudd, 67, believes he has to take his entire lump-sum pension payment now because if he does not exercise that right at 65 under the revised plan, he will be allowed only to accept annuity payments upon retirement that will be reduced to 50 percent value for his immediate survivors if he dies, according to sources. Mudd has already maximized his pension because he has surpassed the formula that requires a coach’s age and league tenure to equal 75. He has been an NFL assistant for 36 consecutive seasons.
Kennan, who told the Indianapolis Star that Mudd had asked him to speak for him on the issue, said he has spoken to Mudd extensively about the issue and said the decision to retire was a long process. Kennan described Mudd’s process of reaching the decision to retire as follows:
At the end of the season, somewhere in there, he said, ‘OK, I need to start thinking about retiring. I’m going to find out how much money I have in my retirement, how I go about doing it and if I decide to retire, what it is.’ He got involved in it and found out at one point, if he retired early in the spring, his lump-sum payment he was going to get would be more if he took it now as opposed to after June 1 because the index would change. That interested him, but that wasn’t enough to get him really stirred up.
Then, he found out that a number of teams were underfunded in the pension and if that was the case and he had coached for any of them, then those teams would not be able to give him a lump sum. He would have to take an annuity and he didn’t want to do that because it messes up your social security. People want their money. They don’t want to take an annuity. So, that really got him stirred up. He then decided, ‘OK, I better try to do this.’ He filed his papers and went through that process and in the meantime, about five weeks ago he’s in the middle of deciding and the NFL decides they’re going to change the pension for non-player employees. He’s like, ‘OK, I don’t know if I can get a lump sum and I don’t know what the funding is; now, the league totally disrespected all of us by announcing without any forewarning that our pensions have changed.’ The Colts haven’t changed their pension for this year. They’re going to remain the same, but the whole process just had Howard soured on the whole thing. He said, ‘I’m out of here.’ He has some principles. There has been several people in the leauge say, ‘He’s overreacting.’ Maybe he is, but I would, too, and so would they if they were going through that process and found out all of the stuff he found out.
Kennan said it is his understanding that Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay and Polian are working to find a way to retain Mudd.
That's it. It was the pension plan. There was no hidden agenda by anyone. There's nothing to see here, Gregg. This isn't a stor...oh damn. Easterbrook has taken the bait:
Maybe they were just burned out on football. Maybe because Tony Dungy departed, they decided not to start over with Jim Caldwell. Maybe they felt steamed that Caldwell forced aside their mutual friend, defensive coordinator Ron Meeks; anybody who was Dungy's longtime choice for defensive coordinator must be good. (Meeks took the defensive coordinator post at Carolina.) Maybe they were steamed that after lengthy loyal service to the Colts, Indianapolis did not offer them contract extensions, only one-season arrangements. Maybe they assumed Caldwell would show them the door soon, too. Maybe Indianapolis is in the process of changing from one of the NFL's best-coached teams to a franchise with sideline disarray. And maybe I'm amazed! Anyway, this summer Moore and Mudd came back, with the wonderfully glorified titles of senior offensive coordinator and senior offensive line coach. Perhaps next year, Moore will be offensive coordinator emeritus.
Easterbrook comes up with every possible reason for the two coaches' 'retirement' other than the actual one. In fact, Moore's own words seem to dismiss all the speculation...
"I'll coach as long as someone will hire me,'' said Moore, 70.
I know that Easterbrook's motivation is to create an entertaining read, and a story about coaches getting lofty titles is right up his alley. Still, he played fast and loose with the truth for remarkably little payoff. It sort of makes me regret his earlier endorsement.
(Cue a bevy of whiny pro-Pats comments still griping over the satirical Good v Evil piece he did two years ago)