The Colts week 15 loss to the Texans, while expected and predicted by many, was frustrating. Their defense performed better than expected, and their offense had the ball with a chance to take the lead in the 3rd quarter, but, as is often the case with young teams, they just couldn't get out of their own way, and their mistakes eventually did them in.
While they'll likely look back on yesterday and wonder, "what if?", their pontificating will have to wait, for now they must put the loss behind them and focus on the here and now: beating Kansas City and clinching a playoff berth.
There's not much to break down from the game: block JJ Watt, cover Andre Johnson, clean up the penalties, and what the heck Bruce Arians? Instead, after the jump, we'll talk about some interesting stats and off-season awards.
Those Lucky Colts
I don't doubt that the Colts have had some things bounce their way this year, but I think labeling this Colts team as a lucky team surviving a soft schedule isn't entirely fair. Consider the following stats:
First, courtesy of Colts Authority's Scott Kacsmar, yesterday was the first time all year Andrew Luck and the Colts had the ball in the 4th quarter with a chance to go ahead or tie and failed. The Colts were 7-for-7 in those opportunities before failing to even get to midfield in that situation yesterday.
Second, courtesy of me – and I'm surprised I'm the first one to mention this – yesterday was the first time all year the Colts failed to have a lead in a game. I'm not entirely sure what that says about the Colts, but I think it's something positive, and I'm pretty impressed by it.
Maybe the Colts are lucky. Maybe we all got it wrong and their best players are better than we thought they'd be. Either way, I expect the Colts – especially on offense – to be much better next year, after Ryan Grigson completely revamps the offensive line.
Speaking of Ryan Grigson's off-season tasks, the post-season award talk – Executive of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc… – has been heating up recently, and there are plenty of Colts on the top of lists.
The first thing I'd like to say is I believe that Ryan Grigson, Bruce Arians, and Andrew Luck all deserve their respective awards. Second, and more impfortantly (to me), these discussions highlight why these awards are so cheapened in my mind.
Let's look at Grigson, first. I believe that Ryan Grigson deserves the Executive of the Year award for the following reasons:
1) He had, in my opinion, the best draft of the 2012 season: Luck, Hilton, Allen, Ballard, Fleener are not only playing prominent roles, but their rookie performances make you believe that Grigson may have, in one draft, put together the core of a dynamic, top-5 NFL offense.
2) If you're going to rebuild, you have to do it the way Grigson did. He didn't fall into the trap of trying to keep Manning while also drafting Luck. Maybe it was mandated from Irsay, but either way, I believe trying to keep both QBs would have been disastrous for the Colts and set the franchise back years.
3) While "wiping that slate clean", Grigson made the decision to re-sign two vets: Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne. Not only have both men been 2 of the best players on the team, but they signed insanely cheap, Colts-friendly contracts to stay.
4) Grigson had some nice hits in FA and trades: Justice was a success prior to injuries, Redding is a success, if only a minor one, and Jerrell Freeman is the steal of the off-season.
Now, the argument against Grigson: 3 of the 5 starters on the worst unit on the team – offensive line – are Grigson guys. The Satele and McGlynn signings look especially horrible in light of their 2012 performances. He also failed to put together even an average secondary: Cassius Vaughn, his #2 CB, would likely be nothing more than a special teams player on most teams. And the Vontae Davis trade, to this point, looks like a major mistake.
Notice what I didn't mention in that discussion? The Colts 9-5 record. It should be meaningless in this discussion. I wouldn't think less of Grigson's draft or his decision to re-sign Wayne and Mathis if the Colts were 4-10 instead of 9-5 (a pretty easy "what if" given their record in 1-score games). He's my executive of the year for what he did in the office, not what the Colts are doing on the field.
I have major issues with Bruce Arians in-game coaching. I don't like his play-calling, I don't like his challenges, I don't like his use of timeouts, and I'm not fond of his situational awareness. But no one, not even me, can complain about the job he does from Monday through Saturday and during halftime on Sunday. Arians has been able to get the Colts – a group of youngsters that are probably easily distracted – focused on football, not their record and not the illness of their head coach. You also can't ignore just how well the rookies are performing this year. While Grigson gets credit for drafting them, the coaches must certainly get credit for developing them. Finally, the Colts have been a really good second half team, and that's in large part due to the coaching adjustments that Arians and the staff have made during intermission.
But you notice what I didn't mention there? The dearth of talent for Arians/Pagano to work with. First, that argument severely undermines Grigson – if the Colts have no talent, how good was Grigson's off-season? Second, I'm not sure it's entirely true. Sure, the Colts have issues on the OL and in the secondary, and I expect a lot of turnover on this roster as Grigson spends to the cap next year, but still, there's talent on this team, and arguing otherwise seems like an overly dramatic stance taken to prop up Arians' CotY candidacy.
Luck and Rookie of the Year:
You can already feel the narrative/momentum going against him. Despite the fact that he's going to set a bunch of rookie passing records, despite the fact that he's most likely going to lead his team to 10 or 11 wins (a year after the same team went 2-14), and despite the fact that he's been really really good despite being one of the most rushed, hit, and sacked QBs in the NFL, he's just not flashy enough for the people pushing the vote. In fact, if voting took place right now, I think Andrew Luck would finish 3rd behind both Russel Wilson and RGIII.
It's a shame. When it's announced, I'll have a momentary flash of anger and tweet out some sarcastic, condescending commentary on what I think is a bad decision. But in the end, it doesn't matter. It's a make believe award handed out by people whose judgment and knowledge I'm constantly questioning. Andrew Luck's season, career, and success aren't/won't be defined by the rookie of the year award.
Besides, we all know the Colts will trade for a real superstar QB in the off-season. Welcome to Indy, Kirk Cousins!