Westside Rob asked me a question on Thursday afternoon.
“Would you rather Fleener be gone when the Colts pick and live with doubt about the new regime, or do you want him to be available and have them pass on him?”
I didn’t hesitate.
“I hope he’s there. I hope they take him. I refuse to give up hope.”
Rob asked me the question because he knows full well I’ve been despondent over the direction of the team thanks to ominous comments made by Chuck Pagano a few months ago. I had grave concerns about the future of the team. The modern NFL is built on the passing game, and only fools and the Cleveland Browns think otherwise.
While the first pick on Thursday was the one that will ultimately define the future course of the Colts franchise, the first pick on Friday was the one that will most influence the short term. Coby Fleener represented a fork in the road. Would the Colts take a dynamic receiving weapon or go with Courtney Upshaw, a dynamic defensive weapon?
As Coby Fleener sat on the draft board, we all wondered the same thing: Will they take him?
When the Colts moved on Fleener, there was euphoria in Indianapolis, but some doubt still lingered in my mind. After all, taking a tight end doesn’t exactly portend a modern passing offense. I’ll grant you that Fleener is about as modern as a tight end gets (that means he can’t block for crap), but whatever. There was still room for doubt.
After the pick of Dwayne Allen, however, I was positively giddy. Allen was the second ranked tight end in the draft, and many had him graded higher than Fleener. His selection instantly gave the Colts an identity. I always felt that the move away from two tight ends after the 2006 season was a huge mistake. The Colts during the first eight years of Manning’s career were always a two tight end team.
In just two picks, the Colts had managed to create an offensive identity, and instantly provided Andrew Luck with someone to throw the ball to, but it got better from there. They moved up in the end of the third round to land T.Y. Hilton, a slot receiver.
There was no question about what the Colts were trying to do: build a passing offense.
They finished out the best first five picks possible by taking Josh Chapman, a credible nose tackle. As much as fans worried about corners (and I worried about safeties), nose tackle was the one position where the Colts had no options at all. At every other position, they could at least ‘fake it’, but none of the nose options on the roster made any sense.
While the last five picks didn’t wow me, it really doesn’t matter. The first five were solid gold and revealed a team that has its head screwed on straight. Offense, particularly passing offense, is the way to build a consistent winner. The Colts last decade was built on surrounding Peyton Manning with as much offensive talent as possible and maximizing his skills. It would have made no sense at all to take Luck and then neuter him by selecting a gaggle of guards and fullbacks.
The defense will obviously need help before the team becomes a contender. This is still just a four-win roster, despite a good draft. However, with one more draft and a solid free agency period next year to plug some holes, and the Colts will be on their way to a competitive season.
I still have deep, deep concerns about Chuck Pagano, and I have reason to believe that he very much meant what he said about ‘run the ball and stop the run’. However, I’m not worried about Ryan Grigson at all anymore. He’s obviously bright and in tune with where the NFL is going. He’s taken a major step toward building the Colts the right way, the way they were built before. Coaches come and go, but the front office is where success is born. Chuck Pagano can be an offensive neanderthal for all I care. I survived Jim Mora; I can outlast Pagano too.
This draft gave me hope for the future, and I’m thrilled to say I was wrong. When you watch the shenanigans of the Browns, you realize how hopeless things are when you have a terrible front office.
It’s probably too much to ask for another offensive golden age in Indianapolis, but it looks like we are about to embark on the Silver Age of football in Colts country.
I was wrong, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.