Five Potential Colts Head Coach Candidates

As Chuck Pagano is set to coach his final game as Indianapolis’s head coach, questions are already swirling on whom the next coach will be. With Ryan Grigson expected to be retained through at least the search process, the Colts find themselves in a rather peculiar position. Nevertheless, the following will list some of the Colts head coaching options:

Adam Gase: 

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(Photo: Chris Humphreys, USA TODAY Sports)

Gase finds himself as a hot commodity in coaching circles. Two seasons after helping Peyton Manning achieve the greatest statistical season a quarterback has ever had in 2013, Gase became the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. Under Gase this season, Jay Cutler saw his interception ratio go down while his passer rating soared to a career high. The Colts offense struggled for a majority of the season both with and without Luck in the lineup. Gase would inevitably help the Colts offense improve after posting some of its worst statistical finishes since 2011. However, Gase’s lack of experience could be a deterrent. Many also believe that the Colts need more help defensively and that an offensive-minded head coach wouldn’t lend to that cause.

Rob Chudzinski: 

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(Photo: Colts.com)

Chudzinski will likely be interviewed for the Colts vacancy given his in-house credentials. Chudzinski took over play-calling from Pep Hamilton midway through the season and saw limited success despite not using his own offensive system. Chudzinski’s previous experience as head coach of the Browns plays in his favor and his work with Cam Newton as a rookie in 2011 bodes well for him. Ryan Grigson and Jim Irsay may be inclined to start completely over with the coaching staff and given Chudzinski’s ties to Pagano, this could eliminate him from being an option.

Sean Payton: 

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(Photo: ESPN)

Despite Drew Brees and Payton himself stating their commitment to New Orleans, rumors continue to circulate on where the Super Bowl-winning head coach will be next season. Since trades are technically not allowed, a coach would have to consent to move as the draft choice compensation package and have his deal negotiated with the new team. Some are expecting that this package would look similar to the Jon Gruden/Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade that saw four draft picks and eight million dollars in cash go to the Raiders in exchange for Gruden. Payton’s offensive pedigree could help turn Andrew Luck into the MVP-caliber player many expect him to be. His experience in winning a Super Bowl makes him one of the best candidates in this regard as well. However, given the Colts already thin-talent base on the defensive side of the ball, giving up a king’s ransom for Payton could set the Colts back a number of seasons moving forward.

Hue Jackson:

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(Photo: Associated Press)

The former Oakland Raiders head coach and current Bengals offensive coordinator is another name being thrown into the potential head coach’s hat. Andy Dalton took a giant leap forward this season under Jackson, posting a career best passer rating and a career low in interceptions. Jackson’s impressive ability to get the most out of his players would seem to work well with an Indianapolis team that has loads of talent offensively. However there are a few caveats to Jackson’s potential. Many think he desires to have more of a say in personnel choices given his trade for Carson Palmer during his time with Oakland. This would not mesh well with Ryan Grigson, whom was reportedly already at odds with Chuck Pagano over personnel choices. Some have also questioned Jackson’s success this season as a result of having talented players in AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Mohammad Sanu.

Josh McDaniels:

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(Photo: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Like Adam Gase,  Josh McDaniels represents the up and coming generation of offensive coordinators that have seen a level of success. Unfortunately for McDaniels, his time as a head coach saw him be run out of Denver before returning to New England. Like a number of New England coaches, McDaniels struggled outside of Bill Bellichek’s nest. Mcdaniels has seen success as a coordinator however. Tom Brady is in the midst of another successful season with McDaniels at the helm. McDaniels has also shown the vital characteristic to be able to adapt his offense week to week based on whom the team is playing. The Colts and Andrew Luck could benefit from this style of offensive game planning after the same vertical passing attack of 2014 seemed to be thwarted in 2015.While McDaniels failure as head coach may be a deterrent, it could also be seen as a growth opportunity for one of the NFL’s bright, young minds.

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The NFL’s Quarterback Crisis

The NFL has a crisis on its hands. No, it isn’t PR control from deflated footballs or from movies about concussions. Rather, it’s the surprising number of injuries to those that play game’s most important position.

Injuries are a part of the NFL. Each team battles through a number of injuries each year in a test of depth and grit. Yet, the injuries this season to the game’s quarterbacks have arguably reshaped the complexion of the league. The AFC playoffs will feature only 2 QB’s that have started each game this season while 14 of the league’s teams have seen their starting quarterback miss playing time due to injury.

Is this season just an anomaly or are we beginning to see the fruits of one of the ill-advised regulations of the 2011 CBA? One of the aims of the CBA was to promote more player safety by reducing off-season practice times by five weeks. The flip side of the coin appears to be offensive linemen not having enough time to refine their skill. Inevitably, this leads to the linemen not being as sharp when the bullets are live and thus more QB hits and injuries. The CBA isn’t solely to blame however.

Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable told ESPN Radio in May: “I’m not wanting to offend anybody, but college football, offensively, has gotten to be really, really bad fundamentally.” “Unfortunately, I think we’re doing a huge disservice to offensive football players, other than a receiver, that come out of these spread systems. The runners aren’t as good. They aren’t taught how to run. The blockers aren’t as good. The quarterbacks aren’t as good. They don’t know how to read coverage and throw progressions. They have no idea.”

Former NFL head coach Jon Gruden also expressed similar sentiment: “You’re getting a lot of young offensive linemen out of college these days that have never been in a three‑point stance, have never been in a huddle,” Gruden said. “They don’t have a real good background in how to get the stance and get out of a stance and pass protect, let alone pick up stunts, blitzes, handle audibles. It’s a whole new world. I think late in the season, no one’s wearing pads on the practice field. They don’t pad up on the practice field in training camp nearly like they used to. There are a lot of linemen changing teams more so than I’ve ever seen before … I think that’s why you see a lot of teams running dive options with built‑in bubble screens.”

At first, some thought this was partly a quarterback issue as well, particularly with young ones fresh out of the collegiate ranks. Jon Gruden expounded on this also: “I know a lot of quarterbacks have been under siege,” he said. “A lot of quarterbacks have been hit hard. A lot of the poor offensive line play has to do with poor quarterback play. You’ve got to be able to direct these protections. You’ve got to make the right calls. You have to make sure everybody’s on the same page. You also have to throw the ball away and not hold it very long in pro football. So I think the quarterback at times is truly responsible for the negative outcome on some of these plays I’ve seen.”

But this season, it isn’t just young quarterbacks getting punished. Veterans that know a thing or two about deciphering a defense have also taken a beating as well. Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco to name a few. What’s worse, is that a number of these players reflect the stardom power the league holds. As they go down, so does the overall performance of the league.

For the NFL, the implications could be more damaging than expected. Quarterbacks are the league’s most prized possessions. They’ve helped propel the league to a stratosphere never before seen. In the short-term, the NFL may be able to brush this season off as an anomaly, but the signs are becoming clearer and clearer. The NFL has a quarterback crisis.

Where Do The Colts Go From Here?

 

For Colts fans, this season has arguably been one of the toughest to watch. With high expectations, the room for error was slim for a team that appeared ready to take the next step. With a disappointing season drawing to a close, many are wondering where the Colts go from here. Chuck Pagano’s contract is set to expire, with many expecting him to not return. Ryan Grigson is on contract for one more season but Jim Irsay will undoubtedly examine his status as well. But if the Colts hope to return to their winning ways next season, they’ll have to do the following:

Let Chuck Pagano Walk

Pagano came to Indianapolis with a defensive pedigree. His 3rd ranked defense in 2011 with Baltimore helped edify this. That same success has eluded him in Indianapolis. With a defense ranking in 20’s 3 different times and being ranked 29th this season, the writing is on the wall.

It isn’t just the defense however. The team as a whole has come out supremely flat against a number of teams during his tenure. Blowout losses to the Cowboys, Steelers and Patriots in 2014 come to mind as well as mind-boggling losses to the Cardinals and Rams the year prior. This season has only amplified this notion with not-so-close losses to the Steelers, Jaguars and Saints.

Pagano has also failed to beat New England in five meetings, including the postseason. For an organization that prides itself on being able to compete with its biggest rival, losing to the Patriots becomes an even bigger blemish. This season saw the matchup finally be a competitive one. But when one of the worst special teams play’s in NFL history happened, Pagano may have watched his chance to return to Indianapolis next season fade away.

Fire Ryan Grigson

A number of the Colts issues must be traced to Ryan Grigson as well. While his 2012 draft won him Executive of the Year, his subsequent drafts and free agent signings left much to be desired. 2013 first round pick Bjorn Werner has been on the inactive list 6 times this season. Grigson also traded away a first round pick for Trent Richardson. Former free agents Laron Landry, Ricky Jean Francois and Gosder Cherilus fizzled out along with a number of other players.

But Grigson’s biggest mishap lies in his inability to fix an offensive line that has been the team’s biggest positional weakness since his tenure began. He’s selected six different offensive linemen since 2012 but only one has proven to be a viable long-term option in Jack Mewhort. Many thought that Grigson was playing with fire in having a shoddy offensive line and he finally got burned this season with injuries to both Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck. Couple all of this with amid rumors that Grigson over steps his bounds with on-field personnel decisions and you have a GM-Head Coach feud that is ever more believable.

For Jim Irsay and the Colts, it’s time to push the reset button once again. Time will tell if it will work.

Why The GOP Needs To Rally Behind Marco Rubio

Thursday’s night debate confirmed a lot for the GOP. Donald Trump’s brashness for those in the political realm and ineptitude on the issues remains intact. Jeb Bush, whom has received most of the party’s direct financial backing, displayed passiveness and had trouble answering predictable questions, raising fears that he may not be prepared to answer the unpredictable ones that a president undoubtedly has to. But the biggest confirmation for the Republicans was that Marco Rubio needs to be their nominee for President of the United States.

It’s quite simple. If the GOP expects to have a chance to take out Hilary Clinton in 2016, they must prove to the American people that they are not going to put up the same recycled candidates reciting the same recycled mantra’s term after term. Rubio represents this needed change of philosophy in a few different ways.

For one, Rubio’s humble beginning as the son of a bartender and hotel worker present him as genuine and relatable. Rubio unabashedly said “If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck,” That alone separates what ammunition he has in comparison to his fellow candidates.

Rubio’s embodiment of the future is the exact answer the GOP needs to attack Clinton’s aurora of being a part of political dynasties. “If this election is a resume competition, then Hillary Clinton’s going to be the next president, because she’s been in office and in government longer than anybody else here tonight.” Rubio said. Not only is this a tactful response to questions about his lack of experience, it also shows he understands how people perceive the political machine.

Among other traits, Rubio’s ability to relate to the Hispanic community is one his most vital. This would become very important when swing states like Colorado, Nevada and his home state of Florida come into play in the general election. His youthful appearance and fieriness make him standout amongst millennials. His firm stance on conservative issues broadens his appeal to older conservatives as well.

Rubio was the clear victor Thursday night. And for the GOP, it needs to be about winning. It can’t be about the candidate that has the most political experience or the one that has the most financial backing; it has to be about putting up the best candidate that can beat Hilary Clinton. Marco Rubio gives the GOP their best chance to win. The Clinton camp knows that Rubio is their biggest threat. In sports, coaches put in the players that give them the best chance to win and rally behind them. The Democratic Party is already rallying behind its best player. It’s time the Republicans do so for theirs.

Nice Try Mr. Brady

Nice try Mr. Brady. You almost had us convinced that you were innocent. That you weren’t the cheater we all thought you were. That the laws of science don’t apply to footballs. That we were all brainwashed by Roger Goodell into believing that you would deliberately break the rules then lie about it.

Nice try Mr. Brady.

Don’t get me wrong here. What Brady did has no bearing on what he physically accomplished on the field. Under-inflated footballs or not, he’s still an elite quarterback and one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play football. However, as it is in most cases today, perception is reality. People perceive that Brady broke the rules and then tried to cover it up when it came time to face the music. Whether or not athletes feel responsible for it, the content of their character is sometimes weighted as much as their on-field accomplishments in the eyes of people. And with that, a lot of the collective respect NFL fans had for Mr. Brady has quickly evaporated. An innocent man doesn’t destroy his cell phone within a few days of meeting an investigator. But people wanted to give the NFL’s golden boy the benefit of the doubt. And to Brady’s credit, he tried giving them reasons to. From casually avoiding the question and claiming the “truth would come out” in his interview with Bob Costas to appearing before a group of Patriots fans and leading the charge of his own innocence, he made it appear there was no wrongdoing. The owner and head coach he plays for even came to his defense.

Nice try Mr. Brady.

Brady and co. could’ve easily avoided this. When the accusation rolled out before the Super Bowl, Brady could have come forth and simply stated the truth. Come clean and the league likely gives him a slap on the wrist and fines the organization for not being aware. Americans are forgiving by nature. We’ve forgiven plenty of athletes and the likes that’ve made mistakes and given them second chances. But instead, Brady’s arrogance led him to believe he was above reproach. He made it appear that by denying and lying about what happened, he could somehow get Roger Goodell to give up this tug-of-war game and convince all of us that he was untouchable.

Nice try Mr. Brady.

With the NFLPA receiving Brady’s permission to go ahead and file suit, his reputation is sealed. Regardless of the outcome of the case, Brady will have shown all of us that even though you may cheat and get punished for it, you can still end up a winner in court. Personally, I’ve had a lot of respect for what Brady has accomplished in the NFL. Up and until he tried to convince me that he wasn’t a cheater.

Nice try Mr. Brady.

4 Burning Questions Before Colts Training Camp

1. How will the Colts defensive line look?

Since Chuck Pagano’s arrival to Indianapolis, the defensive-minded coach has seen his defensive line be an Achilles Heel for the team. Former 1st round pick Bjorn Werner has yet to live up to expectations. Cory Redding will be playing in a different uniform while Josh Chapman has yet to record a sack since entering the league. The Colts made an attempt to bolster their defensive line in signing former St. Louis Rams player Kendall Langford. Langford will be in the 3-4 since 2011 with Miami where he claims to have played at his best. It will also be interesting to see how fellow rookies David Parry and Henry Anderson are implemented as well. But given that they are first year players, expectations should be tempered. The X factor in all of this will be Arthur Jones. Last season, an injury limited him to 9 games and visibly slowed him when he did play. However, when healthy, he is the Colts best interior defensive lineman. If the Colts plan to take the next step and win a world championship, a large part of that hinges on the play of their defensive line.

2. Who will stand out amongst a talented group of wide receivers?

Right now, the Colts most talent latent position is also one its most intriguing. Speedy rookie Phillip Dorsett turned heads at OTA’s while Andre Johnson looks to step in as the team’s replacement to Reggie Wayne. The Colts hope that Johnson can give them the same type of veteran presence that Wayne had given them. Second year upstart receiver Donte’ Moncrief is also looking to take a leap after showing promise his rookie year. Add this in with intriguing CFL product Duron Carter and you get a wide receiver competition that will be amongst the league’s most watched during training camp. And of course, this all without mentioning the team’s best receiver in T.Y. Hilton, whom has his spot securely locked as Luck’s primary weapon.

3. How will the Colts rushing attack take shape?

Much to the dismay of Colts fans everywhere, the Colts released Trent Richardson in the offseason (might just be a tad bit of sarcasm in there). With Richardson out, former 49er’s running back Frank Gore is in. It’s fair to assume that Gore will be the workhorse back but the real question lies in who’s behind him. Ahmad Bradshaw is gone as well and given his age, injuries and off field incident this offseason, it’s likely the Colts don’t bring him back. Vick Ballard returns in a contract year after two devastating knee injuries the past couple of seasons. It’ll be interesting to see what he has left in the tank after his rookie year showed some upside. Daniel “Boom” Herron returns after showing a few flashes towards of the end of the regular season. The Colts will keep a close on eye on Herron to see if his fumbling issue has improved. Zurlon Tipton looks to get more playing time after playing sparingly last season along with rookie Josh Robinson out of Mississippi State. All in all, the Colts running back position will be an interesting one to see develop.

4. Will the Colts offensive line finally click?

Arguably the biggest question heading into camp this year is how the Colts offensive line will take form. For much of last season, problems with protecting Andrew Luck remained at the forefront. It wasn’t until later in the year that the unit started to gel, with its best performance coming in the wildcard playoff game against the Bengals. Anthony Castanzo was the lone consistency on an otherwise roller coaster offensive line. Outside of Castanzo though, there are many questions to be answered. For one, how will Jack Mewhort fair at the right tackle position? Given the Colts decision to release Gosder Cherilius, it’s apparent that the Colts feel confident with Mewhort at that spot. Another position on the line to watch will be the center position. Last season, the position was a revolving door between A.Q. Shipley, Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison. It appears that the job is Holmes’s to lose heading into camp so we’ll see if he holds on to it. The Colts brought in longtime Philadelphia Eagle Todd Herremans to likely fill the right guard position. However, given his age, it’s fair to wonder if he will remain there all season. Lastly, the left guard position is up for grabs. While Hugh Thornton has played there, Lance Louis should also be looked at to start at a position that is notably its most weakest.

The Colts open camp to the public on Sunday August 2nd.

Why We Should Expect An MVP Season From Andrew Luck

When Andrew Luck entered the NFL in 2012, he was the most heralded quarterback to enter the league since the quarterback he would go on to succeed in Indianapolis. His rookie season saw him set the NFL record for rookie passing yards amongst others. As Luck would progress through his 2nd and 3rd seasons, his statistics would only improve. He would raise his quarterback rating and completion percentage each season. But now, after advancing his team to the AFC Championship game a season ago, the expectations for Luck are going even higher this season. So why should we expect an MVP season from Luck? Here’s a few reasons:

Experience

In the NFL, quarterbacks progress at a yearly rate and start to hit their stride around their 4th and 5th seasons. In Luck’s rookie campaign, he lead an unprecedented seven game-winning drives. In his 2nd season, he lead the Colts to their first post-season win since his arrival while beating 4 playoff teams during the regular season. Last season, the Colts made the playoff once again under Luck’s helm, winning 2 playoff games in the process. Andrew Luck will be entering his 4th year and given the consistency of his progress since his arrival in the NFL, one should expect nothing but improvement this year in all aspects of his game. But the experience he’s gaining isn’t just statistically related. Each season Luck has progressed his team a step further in the post-season as well. Playoff experience isn’t something that will show up in statistics or measures but it cannot be discounted. These experiences help a quarterback in battling adversity in tough situations. Given Luck’s experience to this point in them, it should only benefit him moving forward.

New Weapons

This past offseason, the Colts acquired longtime Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. Since his arrival in Indianapolis, the 13 year wideout has had nothing but praise for Andrew Luck, going as far to call him the best quarterback in the game. While Johnson isn’t quite the same receiver he was earlier in his career, he gives the Colts a steady option at the outside receiver position that has been lacking since the beginning of Luck’s career. The Colts also drafted speedy wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who has been turning heads at OTA’s, to add to a crowded crop of receivers. Add these new pieces along with an intriguing prospect in Duron Carter and upstart second year wideout Donte Moncrief and you have one of the deepest wide receiver cores in the entire NFL for Andrew Luck to throw to. Of course, this is all without mentioning T.Y. Hilton, who has quickly become of the league’s premier receivers. But it isn’t just the receiver position that has gotten a boost.

An Improved Running Game

Among the Colts offseason acquisitions, Frank Gore appears to be one the least talked about. A workhorse in San Francisco, Gore faced 8 man fronts a whopping 76.2% of the time last season, with the next closest player being DeMarco Murray at 58.3% of the time. Despite facing these fronts, Gore continued to produce without missing any games in the past four seasons. In Indianapolis, one should realistically expect for Gore to see less 8 man box fronts, giving the bruising running back more room to work and take pressure off of Andrew Luck. Given Gore’s age as well, it will greatly benefit him to see less stacked boxes over the long haul of a grueling NFL season. One of the major flaws with the Colts offense last year was an inconsistent rushing attack (see Trent Richardson). Towards the end of the season however, the Colts running game started to improve in part because of Boom Herron getting majority of the snaps. While Herron is serviceable, his skillset doesn’t match that of Gore’s. Gore’s underrated ability to protect the quarterback in passing situations should benefit Andrew Luck greatly.

If all these are able to mix all together correctly, the finished result could be one special season for Andrew Luck and the Colts.