Into the Great Wide Open

Foxsports.com scout Ed Thompson has an interesting claim today.  In discussing seven key issues for ’09, he addresses the Colts.  At first blush, he seems to have conquered one of our AIaSA Tests.

His initial claim is that barring injuries, the ’09 Colts will be better than the ’08 Colts.  At this point, that has become the prevailing opinion around here.  In fact, the Colts can even withstand some injuries, just nothing like the wave of carnage they had last year, and for the second half of ’07.  Thompson rightly looks at the Colts roster, and sees a contender.

He goes a step further and says the coaching change will be a good thing for the Colts.  Specifically, he cites the dismissal of Purnell and Meeks.  He blames the two for problems the Colts have had on special teams and defense.  While I understand his position, I disagree.  The Colts defense has been remarkably solid for the last two years, and the problems that were present with both units essentially came down to a lack of (healthy) personnel.  Still, it’s a popular and reasonable enough position, so I’m not going to argue it here.  The changes are probably for the best, regardless.

I think that as long as Caldwell proves a competant in-game coach (to which we have little evidence either way), he’ll be excellent, and the Colts will have success, as Thompson asserts.  The one area I would take issue with him is that he feels the Colts offense needs to be more aggressive.  His exact words are:

Peyton Manning threw 49 touchdown passes in 2004, but the defense was just awful. Since then, Manning has been lulled into a more patient approach, throwing for an average of 29 touchdowns over the last four seasons.

Caldwell needs to let his franchise quarterback aggressively attack his opponents like he did back in 2004. Anything less than that robs the Colts of their full potential.

To start, Manning has averaged 29 TD passes in just 15 games a season (he basically sat two games in ’05, 1 in ’07, and 1 in ’08.  29 TD passes is a lot of TDs. The notion that Dungy was tamping down the Colts offense is silly as Manning was 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the NFL in YPA in ’05-’07, before dropping this past year thanks to a terrible offensive line.

In the last four years, Manning has won a Super Bowl and an MVP award.  He has had, in my opinion, his three finest seasons (’08, ’07, ’05).  The ’04 Colts were far from the best Colts team, and probably no better than the third or fourth best team in football that year.  I’m not totally sure they were even the best Colts offense.  The ’06 team won a tough second round road game by running the clock out on Baltimore in the fourth quarter, whereas the ’04 team lost a similar game in New England.

Manning’s TD numbers have dropped to reasonable levels for a couple of reasons.

1.  Crazy numbers always drop to reasonable levels. Dan Marino dropped from 48 to 30 TDs from 1984-5.  Then he threw 44 in ’86, but only passed the 30 TD mark one other time in his entire career.  It is not reasonable to expect any QB to follow a mark of 48-50 TDs with a similar season.

2.  Teams changed the way they play the Colts’ defense.  Since 2004, the league entered the ‘slow down’ mode against Indy when on offense.  Manning has had far fewer possessions to work with than he used to.  In 2004, the Colts had 166 offensive drives.  Since then, they’ve had 156, 148, 158, and 144.  In other words, one small reason Manning threw so many more TDs in ’04 was that he had 20 more possessions to work with.  If he had had 166 possessions in each of the last four seasons, he would likely have averaged around 33 TDs a season.  That’s still less than 48, but hardly a number to complain about (as if 29 was).

3.  Teams changed the way they play the Colts offense.  The ‘book’ on Manning prior to 2005 was that he would get impatient and not take the check downs.  Teams made a conscience effort to take away deep plays down field, and force Manning to go on 10-15 play drives to score.  The result was that Manning took what was given, and the Colts offense remained the most efficient in the NFL.  The consequence, however, was fewer TD passes more Peyton. 

The Colts did not reach their full potential until they began to control games on offense and reached the point where they could win an outdoor road game in January against a stout defense.  That occurred in 2006, NOT 2004.

Links:

Sorry about no post yesterday, I was working behind the scenes to finish up the 18 Best Games list.  Even if you’ve been there in the last week, you’ll see I’ve finally finished all the write-ups.  Thanks to Paul Kuharsky for the link up yesterday.

I think this is a good list by Oehser.  I don’t agree about his #1 issue. I  don’t think the Colts need a third receiver, and won’t be surprised if they don’t use one very heavily.  I would substitute “Is Jim Caldwell a good game manager?”.  It’s a huge unknown.  Dungy had become a very good manager of football situations, and had figured out that it’s almost always best to go for it on fourth down.  It is hard for a new coach to take those kinds of risks, but they are the key to winning games.  I have full confidence in Caldwell “The Team Leader”, and think he’ll be excellent.  There’s just no way to know if he can make the right in game moves until the moment comes, however.

Uh, Rick…you’re forgetting one.  Reilly lists 5 reasons people can’t be happy for Kobe Bryant.  How about this one:  HE’S A RAPIST.  He himself said,

“After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

Ok, so you raped her then.  Listen, if a woman didn’t give consent…it’s rape.  Regardless of whether he was convicted for the crime, he ADMITTED IT.  I’m sorry, I don’t see a famous athlete or great ball player when I see Kobe.  I see an admitted rapist who walks free.  I don’t give a crap about Shaq or the officials.  I don’t like Kobe because he raped a girl.  I can’t possibly be the only one.  I’d think that would make your list there, Rick.

Yikes.  The Broncos are in full scale free fall.

The circle is now complete.  Finally, the last of the elusive Roiders is implicated.  I didn’t want Sosa to get off the hook just because there was no eye witness or positive test.  He deserves to go down with the others in the Big Seven (Sosa, McGwire, Palmero, Clemens, Bonds, Manny, ARod).

Great piece on Payne Stewart’s boy.  Hard to believe it’s been 10 years.

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