Counter Point-Stay the Course

This is part two of a two point series called Point Counter Point.  I hope to make it a regular feature. In part one, Nick Pease argued the that the Indianapolis Colts should go ‘all in’.  This is my response:

While it is tempting to think that the Colts’ ‘window is closing’ and that they need to go ‘all in’ presumably by securing free agents or making some kind of big trade, I would argue that nothing could be further from the truth.

While I agree that Peyton Manning has at most 5-6 more years left, 5-6 years is an eternity in the NFL.  Consider the Green Bay Packers.  They only have 13 players on their roster who have been in the league more than five years.  The Colts won the Super Bowl four seasons ago, and only have 17 players left on the roster from that team.  The fact is that over the next few years, the entire roster will turn over on its own. That’s how the NFL works.

As both the Packers and Steelers illustrated, building through the draft is the best path to a title and long term success. Free agency does not typically produce good results.  If the Colts were to go top heavy and sign several aging vets, they might get a temporary boost for next season, but would actually be worse in 2012 and beyond.  In fact, if the priority is to get as many shots at the title as possible, the best, most sane way to do it is to stay the course and build through the draft. 

In fact, there is no real urgency for the Colts other than the urgency that always exists to win.  How bad the Colts’ problems are and how radical the solution needs to be depends on how you view the 2010 season.

If you think the the Colts were a bad team in 2010 that lacked talent, the temptation would be to radically overhaul not only the roster, but the manner in which it was constructed.

If you think the Colts were an elite team that suffered a crippling number of injuries, but still won 10 games and was one covered kick from advancing in the playoffs, then there’s no reason to change anything.  The Colts should try to improve in the same way they always do.

The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, but if the Giants had figured out how to punt the ball out of bounds against Philly, the Packers would not have made the playoffs.  Three times in those playoffs, the other team had the ball with a chance to tie the game on the final possession, and three time the Packers got the big stop.  The line between oblivion and a title is thin.  While I won’t mind if the Colts sign a player this offseason, I don’t favor a radical departure from past strategy.

The Colts were a couple of plays from a 12-4 or 13-3 season. You could argue that they were one Austin Collie concussion away from a dramatically better season.  While I want the Colts to fix the problems on defense, my hope is that that would come in the form of drafting a good elite defender, even if it means a trade of a pick or two.  A truly elite defender would then be good for the next five seasons.  Signing a free agent who might produce for maybe a season or two is foolish.

There’s not much evidence that the Colts have radically declined, nor that their window is closing.  Going all in guarantees nothing and risks Indy’s best chance at another Super Bowl: actually making the playoffs every year.  

Personally, I felt the 2010 Colts were a deep and talented team heading into the season.  I do feel the defense was exposed against Houston (before injuries started to pile up), but nothing else that happened in 2010 did anything to dissuade me from the conviction that the Colts are on the right track.  If I were to advise Bill Polian, I would beg him to invest heavily on the defensive side of the football through the draft.  I wouldn’t worry too much about the running backs or the offensive line, because as the Super Bowl continues to show, teams with suspect lines and weak run games keep making and even winning the title.  A good passing game and a great passing defense is enough to get it done.

The Colts should draft safeties and tackles who can get pressure on the quarterback.  They should be alert for other ways to improve the team, but any kind of radical ‘All in” move would likely waste years of Manning’s career, not save them.

Just ask the Minnesota Vikings what the year after “All in” looks like.

In 2014, the Colts can go All in.

In 2011, they should stay the course.

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