Trounced. Demolished. Crushed. Whatever word you want to use, the Colts were soundly defeated in every phase of the game Sunday night in New Orleans.
This loss was the worst I have ever seen the Colts take, and as it goes, the worst in franchise history in Indianapolis. Can one guy really make that much of a difference for any team? While there is no doubt that Peyton Manning would have had a drastic impact on the outcome of the game, it’s really difficult to argue that with him Indianapolis would have escaped Bourbon Street with a win.
Where does a franchise go from here? How do they move forward? What does a loss like this one mean?
Frankly, it means that there are a lot of very difficult questions that have been posed since the team started the season 0-6 that have even tougher answers. This is the time for a lot to change in Indianapolis and the likelihood that those changes will occur increased significantly when the Colts left the Super Dome Sunday night.
There are very good football players on this team who can be built around. This group of linebackers is probably the best the team has had in many years. While they were gashed, as was the defensive line and secondary, in the air and on the ground, they are still significantly better than the team’s past groups.
Players like Antoine Bethea, Jerraud Powers, Pat Angerer, Kavell Conner, Philip Wheeler, Ernie Sims, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Jamaal Anderson, Tyler Brayton, Drake Nevis, and Fili Moala are building blocks for a solid defense. Their talent is absolutely not a concern for the team now, and moving forward under different leadership or circumstances.
Players like Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark, Anthony Castonzo, Benjamin Ijalana, Jeff Saturday, and potentially Donald Brown (Peyton Manning of course, if he returns) could be more than enough of a start to a solid offense, no matter who leads them into the future.
The questions have to be aimed on who will lead. There is little arguing at this point that Jim Caldwell, Larry Coyer, and Ray Rychleski have failed to prove that their influence on the team has yielded positive results. If this is true and you’re sitting in Jim Irsay’s seat, how do you not make it a priority to make the changes necessary to right the ship?
No matter who takes over, the best option is to bring them in for the remainder of the 2011 season. Allow them to put their stamp on the organization in the remainder of the games. Allow them to evaluate available talent and determine who they wish to retain as the team moves forward in 2012.
What about Peyton Manning? What should the team do with the franchise quarterback, the four-time MVP, possibly the greatest QB to every play the game?
With Andrew Luck potentially staring the team in its face and the fan base crushed by the poor performances in 2011 that have followed a decade of dominance, the easy business decision is to cut Manning and allow him to move on, draft Luck, and use the money saved by the Manning move to improve the roster at positions of weakness.
At this point, the pressure to win Super Bowls every year has created a fan base with expectations that are all but impossible to satisfy. Bring in Luck and start rebuilding at other positions and the team could still remain competitive but the Super Bowl pressure will drop significantly for the next couple of years.
Re-energize the fan base. Give the season ticket holders something to look forward to and distract from the train wreck that has been the 2011 season. Turn over a new leaf. Become spring and move on from autumn.
None of these decisions and realities are easy to face. None of them are even written in stone. There are options for Colts ownership and its front office. The problem is, performances like this one will not quickly fade from the memory of diehard Colts fans.
There will need to be some action if Irsay wishes to retain support from Indianapolis and all over the world. A competitive game in New Orleans could have bought some time and allowed for some leeway. A trouncing like this affords nothing.
There will be movement in the Colts coaching staff or front office very soon or the entire fan base will become extremely restless. Frankly, after an embarrassing defeat like that, little justification will be required.
It’s your move Mr. Irsay. It’s your move Mr. Polian. It’s your move Indianapolis Colts. What will you do from here? The future of the franchise rides on your actions.