[caption id="attachment_2343" align="aligncenter" width="512" caption="Caldwell's blank stare is infamous in Indianapolis."]Jim Caldwell
Editor's Note: This post brought to you by occasional Coltsider contributor Stephen Reed. Thanks to him once again.
First off, anyone who says they predicted the Colts would be heading into the bye week winless is lying. No one saw this coming.
However, the Colts are indeed 0-10 and hold a 2 game “lead” in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The Colts have talent on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they have gotten better. Yes, I recognize they rank near the bottom in several categories but when you’re constantly behind by 2, 3 or 4 touchdowns because your offense constantly turns the ball over or goes four and out, there’s not much they can do.
Offensively, they just don’t get the ball to playmakers in positions to make plays. Not everything can be blamed on the quarterback play and yes, I cringe to say that out loud given how bad Collins/Painter/Orlovsky have played.
However, part of the problem is that it is the coaches’ responsibility to help maximize the talent on the team. The question that begs to be asked is has the coaching staff done enough to be retained?
Well, that answer depends on whom you ask. If you ask Bill Polian, he says Caldwell and the staff are safe. If you follow Jim Irsay on Twitter, he cryptically says he’s not sure. If you ask the majority of fans, it’s likely a no. There are some fans that believe this season to be an unforeseen circumstance and the loss of Peyton Manning was too great to overcome, allowing the coaching staff a reprieve.
However, no matter how great of a player Manning is, no matter how many holes he covers, he alone does not account for 10+ wins. Yes, he is great. Yes, this season should cement his status as the best quarterback of this generation. But the Colts have more talent that just Manning, and once again, it’s the coaches’ responsibility to put the team in a position to succeed.
Given that I don’t know Polian or Irsay’s thought process, I will respectfully decline to speculate on their coaching assessments. As a member of the majority, it seems that Caldwell and his staff have not done enough to retain their positions. There are a series of unfortunate events that have led me to come to this conclusion.
First, I take you back to last year. If my memory serves me correctly, in week 4 Jacksonville received the ball in a tie game with about thirty seconds left and seemed content to go to overtime, taking their chances on a coin flip. Then, Jim Caldwell inexplicably calls a timeout allowing Jacksonville to stop the clock and take some shots down the field. As we all know, that led to a long Josh Scobee field goal to win the game.
Fast-forward 14 weeks to the wild card playoff game against the Jets and the Colts enjoying a 16-14 lead. Unfortunately, history repeats itself. Caldwell once again inexplicably calls timeout with 29 seconds left after the Jets have relegated their chances on their kicker knocking down a 50+ yard field goal, when their kicker was very inaccurate from that distance. The next play gets the Jets out of bounds at the Colts 18 yard line, and the rest is history. This pattern of behavior in itself shows that Caldwell does not have the capacity to be an NFL coach.
Throughout this year, he has made poor coaching decisions. He has called unnecessary time outs, failed to throw challenge flags and questionably allocated playing time (I recognize some of you will say personnel decisions regarding playing time are actually Polian’s call). My problem with each of these aforementioned issues is they seem to imply that Caldwell has given up. I don’t know all the rules regarding challengeable calls, but, from a fan’s perspective, it would be nice to see Caldwell throw out the red flag on a close play every once and awhile.
Furthermore, the front office seems to keep Caldwell out of the loop on major personnel decisions, i.e. the Collins signing. When a coach has no idea which players are on his team or no say in any personnel decision it seems that the front office has lost faith in him.
The front office seems to have another “problem.” If one would consider it a problem, the Colts are too loyal. They refused to interview any other coaching candidates after Dungy retired and allowed Caldwell to walk right into his position, a “smooth” transition. Please remember that Mike Tomlin was given a throw away interview for the Steelers, to meet the Rooney Rule requirement, but ended up wowing Dan Rooney. Since that time, the Steelers have been consistently one of the best-coached teams in the NFL. I’m not saying that at that time, the Colts would have hired anyone different but it would have been nice to see at least some considerations.
The usual suspects list of coaching candidates include both Cowher and Gruden, among others. However, what would be their incentive to come to Indianapolis?
Peyton Manning is a question mark. His status will determine what the Colts do in the upcoming NFL draft. Recent tweets by Irsay hint that the Colts will be taking a QB at some point in this draft whether it is Luck, Barkley or someone else. Polian has hinted he prefers Luck, but it could be just a smoke screen to drum up more interest in the top pick, assuming the Colts “earn” it, so he can get a bounty of picks from a needy team, which is looking more like Seattle or Washington now. But what big name, high-profile coach wants to come into an unstable situation like the current Colts? Regardless, every Colts’ decision for the next six months will be based on the crapshoot that is Peyton Manning’s $28 million dollar neck.
When Caldwell took over three years ago, the Colts were still Dungy’s team. They followed Dungy’s principles and stayed true to Dungy’s stoic form. However, this team is Caldwell’s now. And the most damning evidence against him retaining his position as head coach is that Caldwell has lost this team, his team. It has shown every week since the blowout in New Orleans. Once a coach loses a team, it is hard to make a case that he deserves another chance.
It’s hard to make a case Caldwell deserves another chance.
It’s time for a change.