Andrew Luck Practices: Indy Rejoices

Yes, it actually happened.  You didn’t dream it.  It wasn’t a hallucination.

After 4 weeks of the NFL regular season, and months after the Colts originally said that he would, Andrew Luck returned to the practice field for the first time since his offseason shoulder surgery.  He stretched, threw a couple, and dropped back.  Nothing too exciting, but at this point of the season, just seeing #12 back in the red jersey at W. 56th St is cause for rejoice.

In a season that has not been what anyone hoped for, it’s positives like Luck returning to practice that this fan base needs.  Don’t get too excited though.  The Colts have continued to make it known that they aren’t expecting him to be ready to start until around Week 7.  That means at least 2 more games with Jacoby Brissett behind center for the Colts.

Brissett has been a welcome surprise to many.  Acquired through a trade with New England, he has seemed to be able to work pretty smoothly into this offense.  Sure, the coaching staff seems to have simplified the playbook in an effort to get Brissett on the field sooner rather than later, but even so, Brissett has looked solid while keeping the seat warm for Luck.

Some fans have suggested that the Colts just hang Luck up for the season, in an effort to not only get healthy, but because the offensive line is still very lackluster.  Through 4 weeks of play, the Colts offensive line is ranked 30th in run blocking and 29th in pass protection, according to FootballOutsiders.comProFootballFocus has the Colts pass protection just slightly higher than Football Outsiders, ranking the Colts line at 28th.  It’s for this reason that many fans are fearful that if Luck comes back, it will just be to get injured again.

While the Colts O-line is bad, no doubt about it, I don’t believe that the team can sensibly consider benching Luck.  The Colts offensive line is going to be subpar for the foreseeable future.  That’s just a reality.  Waiting for 2018 to have Luck come back would have no effect.  This line is not going to be fixed in one offseason.  So, if the Colts were to bench Luck, they’d just be wasting yet another season of this man’s NFL career.  Luck gives this team the best chance to win.  He is one of the best QBs in the NFL and a true competitor, and if he isn’t on the field, then he will certainly find some other place that will put him out there.

Which brings me to what is happening in Indianapolis this weekend.  This week has been called “Manning Week” by several in the local sports media.

If you aren’t aware, the Colts are unveiling a statue outside of Lucas Oil Stadium (The House That Peyton Built) of Peyton Manning on Sunday, as well as inducting him into the “Ring of Honor” and retiring the famed #18.  This is an honor that everyone in and around Indianapolis has been waiting for since Manning announced his retirement from football back in 2016.

Peyton Manning is the reason that many people around Indy are Colts fans.  Before Peyton was drafted in 1998, the Colts history in Indianapolis wasn’t the greatest.  Okay, that’s an understatement.  The Colts hadn’t been good.  The only memory I have of the Colts before 1998, is the game against the Steelers in 1995 with Jim Harbaugh.  Manning successfully switched Indiana from a “basketball state”, to a football one.  All of a sudden, people were naming their kids after Peyton.  High School football peaked.  Little league football blew up.  Everyone wanted to grow up and be like Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, etc.  During Manning’s time in a Colts uniform, the city came alive every Sunday from August until January, and sometimes February.  The city of Indianapolis is eternally greatful to Peyton Manning, and paying respect to him in the fashion that they are this weekend is 100% warranted.

I believe it’s the relationship with Peyton Manning that has the Colts fan base so weary about Andrew Luck.  Luck was drafted with the weight of a city on his shoulders.  He was the guy that this organization chose to take the reigns from one of the greatest of all time.  Then, the injuries came.  Specifically this latest one.  Anytime that your star gets a major surgery, it’s cause for concern.  However, Manning’s neck surgery is still fresh in everyone’s minds.  We remember the days of wondering whether Manning would ever return to the gridiron.  He did, and in spectacular fashion for the Denver Broncos, but that’s okay.  The concern is with Andrew Luck now.  It remains to be seen how Andrew will be able to sling the ball following this surgery.  We all certainly hope that he can return to pre-surgery form, and lead this team back to the level of play that Manning spoiled us with for so many years.

So Andrew Luck is back on the practice field, and Peyton Manning will be back in Lucas Oil Stadfium this Sunday.  Enjoy it.  This week is a good one.

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What To Expect Sunday (w/ Raymond Wright)

**A few days ago, I had someone on Twitter approach me about possibly trying to do a collaboration post.  Sort of a point/counter-point post.  I really liked the idea, so I had him write up something, and we’re going to see how this turns out.  I do request that you comment either on Facebook or Twitter, and let me know how you like this.  If it turns out really positive, I may make this a weekly thing.**

It’s another NFL Sunday.  Week 2.  Week 1 was rough for the Indianapolis Colts.  Actually, it was worse than rough.  No one, not a single fan, player, coach, or executive, could have predicted how bad the Colts would play against the Rams.  Now the Cardinals are coming into town.  What do we expect to happen today?  Here’s my take, and a special guest take from Raymond Wright, or @RizayW on Twitter.

Raymond:

You never want to be the team that others look at and say “at least we didn’t lose THAT bad”.  The Rams domination of the Colts was easily the biggest beat down of the week and that makes predicting how they’ll respond a difficult task.

Or does it?

In a drubbing, such as the Colts received last Sunday, there’s always plenty of blame to be passed around.  It appears that most of that blame was taken by poor Scott Tolzien.  Tolzien, the hapless career back-up, became a starter and was thrust into the starting role behind an offensive line that was declared “fixed” by the omniscient Jim Irsay. Scott “Touchdown” Tolzien has been benched in favor of 12-day Colt Jacoby Brissett.  It was all his fault.  Right?

Looking forward to this Sunday.  We have to think it’ll be a better product on the field than last week.  It couldn’t possibly be any worse.  I think it could be.  I don’t expect much out of Jacoby Brissett.  He’s proven he has talent, but he still doesn’t know the playbook.  Some fans write that off and say, “He’d still be better than Tolzien”, but I don’t think many people realize what not knowing the playbook entails.  He drops back to pass and he doesn’t know where the receivers will be.  He doesn’t know which side to hand the ball off on.  He doesn’t even know how to call the plays.  It’s possible he’s learned quite a bit this week, but we shouldn’t expect much offense this Sunday. “But he led the Colts only TD drive last week!”  Listen, he heaved the ball in the air and it was so overthrown that Donte Moncrief had to bail him out, making a great catch while fighting off a defender.  Jeff George could have done that.

So, if we won’t expect much offense we’ll have to rely on the defense right?  That idea makes every Colts fan cringe.  I was impressed with the defense for a few plays last week.  Don’t pay attention to the numbers.  The Rams had bad rushing numbers, but it was because they were running out the clock the entire second half.  What I was impressed with was that they showed up in difficult situations.  T.Y. Hilton fumbled on the Colts OWN 25 and they end up forcing the Rams to punt.  They did get a sack, and newcomer John Simon did a great job setting the edge on rush plays.

What will we see this week?

The Cardinals like to throw.  They like to throw deep and if it’s not there they like to dump it off to their running backs.  Can anyone name the Arizona Cardinals tight end?  With David Johnson out, expect Carson Palmer to have to drive the offense.  That’s an advantage for the Colts.  Palmer has become a statue.  If the Colts secondary can cover the short routes, the rush will get there.  Even if the rush doesn’t get there, Palmer will have to dump it off to someone not named David Johnson.  I’m okay with that.

I expect the Colts offense to struggle.  The playbook will be severely limited for Brissett. Expect a lot of run plays and plays designed to get him out of the pocket and look downfield.  It’s hard to imagine the Colts’ line being able to give him time to stand back there making reads.  It’ll be 3-step drops or rolling out on most pass plays.  We’ll see a lot of draw plays, and if the offense really struggles, they may even bring Tolzien(GASP!) in for a series or two.

Predictions:

Daniel:

I looked at last Sunday as an indictment on this organization.  For several years now, Jim Irsay hasn’t done what has been apparent to the fans.  The leadership with this team is atrocious.  Sure, the players like their coach, but who cares?  This is the NFL.  If the players are so fragile that they need a coach that is nice to them, takes it easy on them, and congratulates them on something as small as a preseason win, then I don’t want them on my football team.

This week, Brissett should be starting.  He better be starting.  However, again showing the ineptness of this coaching staff, Chuck Pagano has not officially announced the starter.  The Colts cannot afford to try to trot Scott Tolzien back out there, when they take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium at 1pm.  Unless, the goal is to get booed before kickoff.

The Colts caught a huge break this week when the Cardinals moved David Johnson to the Injured Reserve.  Had David Johnson been healthy for this game, this game wouldn’t be close.  He would easily put up almost 200 yards on the ground, and multiple TDs.  Fortunately, the Colts instead get a rapidly aging Carson Palmer, a rapidly aging Larry Fitzgerald, and virtually unknowns in the running game.

In order for the Colts to have a shot at winning this game, Brissett has to shine.  He has to come out commanding this team, leading from the first kickoff.  He can’t turn the ball over, as any sort of mistake might give Pagano a stupid idea, and result in Tolzien coming into the game.

The defense has to take advantage of the Cardinals age.  They can’t give Palmer time to find his receivers.  They need to be rushing the QB from the on-set.  The Cardinals running backs are capable, but I don’t believe that they are something that the Colts should really stress about.  If the Cardinals win this game, it’s going to be by taking advantage of the Colts awful defensive backs.

The Colts offense will be better than last week.  The defense needs to be stronger than last week.  The struggle is going to be overcoming the awful gameplan and playcalling, something that the Colts have had to try and overcome since Chuck Pagano came to town.  The Colts cannot afford to get down by two scores before they start to play, because Brissett is not Andrew Luck.  All in all though, the Colts will lose.  Chuck Pagano doesn’t win within the first two weeks of the season.

Predictions:

  • Brissett contributes 2 TDs
  • Marlon Mack shines
  • Palmer looks young again
  • Cardinals win 27-21

NFL RUMOR: Andrew Luck Wants Out Of Indy?

This morning on ESPN’s Mike Greenberg(Greeny) of Mike & Mike reported a rumor that Andrew Luck is not happy with the Indianapolis Colts, and even went so far as to suggest that he may ask the team to be traded.  Greenberg stated that this rumor was “common knowledge” among NFL writers, and that while he wasn’t saying it’s true, it’s basically true.

Luck’s agent later said Wednesday that the claim is completely untrue, and that Luck is committed to the Indianapolis Colts.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since Luck just signed a 5-year extension, making him the highest paid player in the NFL at the time, last year.

While these claims are completely unfounded, I can’t help but question just how possible this is.  The Colts are going nowhere fast.  The offensive line is still a dumpster fire despite the front office repeatedly stating that they have “fixed the line”.  The defense still has seen very little improvement despite Pagano being a “defensive minded” coach.  In what should be the prime of Andrew Luck’s career in the NFL, he is dealing with a surgically repaired shoulder, an O-line that is seemingly trying to get him killed, a coach that is going to be fired at some point this season or off-season, a brand new GM, and an owner that seems to be more interested in his own profile, rather than the team’s.

I can’t say I would blame Luck at all if he did decide that he wanted out of Indianapolis.

That being said, Luck is a fantastic man.  He has never struck me as someone who would speak ill of his teammates, coaches, or organization.  Does he get frustrated?  Who wouldn’t?  However, he appears to be committed to the mission that the Colts laid out for him when they drafted him 1st overall in 2012.  He wants to win championships here, and I truly believe that once he gets healthy, and Chris Ballard has an opportunity to really rebuild this team, they can threaten for championships like we saw in the mid 2000s.

Which brings me back to this rumor.  When I first heard it this morning, I was immediately frustrated.  I personally am not a fan of Mike & Mike, and this kind of “reporting” didn’t do them any favors.  Many people already feel that the show is just there to stir the pot, and not actually provide any sort of facts or insight.  Coming out and saying something like this on a nationally broadcast radio show is just irresponsible.

Mike Greenberg simply wanted to make a huge story (which he could have been trying to divert attention away from the Jemele Hill story, but I’m not touching that).  It worked for him.  The story consumed Indianapolis sports media today.  A story that never should have been.  Greenberg simply wanted to get clicks.  Well done.  He sacrificed credibility, for fame.

Andrew Luck isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Don’t burn the jersey.  Don’t panic.  He’ll be back eventually, and we can hopefully forget this ever happened.

Indianapolis Colts: New GM/Coach?

It’s time.

One year ago today, Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson were resigned as Head Coach and General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts, despite everyone believing that one, if not both, would be sent packing.  Today, following an 8-8 season from the team, and another wasted season of Andrew Luck’s career, many are calling for change.

I’ve compiled a list of several people, for each position, that I think Jim Irsay should go after for the jobs.  These are in no particular order.

Head Coach Candidates:

  • Jim Harbaugh, HC of University of Michigan
    • Harbaugh is at the top of everyone’s list.  Harbaugh seems to make every team that he touches immediately better.  Harbaugh groomed Andrew Luck at Stanford, and has since made a Super Bowl appearance with the 49ers, and more recently led Michigan to one of their best seasons in recent history.  The biggest problem with Harbaugh is that it isn’t very realistic.  He has said that the University of Michigan job was his dream job.  Publicly, he has expressed no desire to leave.  I chock Harbaugh up as a dream.
  • Pete Carmichael, OC of the New Orleans Saints
    • While Carmichael has never served as a Head Coach, his record on the offensive side of the ball is impeccable.  He has been the Offensive Coordinator of the Saints since 2009.  His offenses have never been lower than 6th in total yards.  His passing offense has never been lower than 4th in yards, and has been Top 10 in passing TDs in every season.  The only question about Carmichael, is whether those statistics are more on Sean Payton, or Carmichael.
  • Josh McDaniels, OC of the New England Patriots
    • Josh McDaniels has experience dealing with Hall of Fame-caliber QBs.  I believe that McDaniels could come into Indianapolis and finally get the Colts stagnant offense up to where it should be.  He has Head Coaching experience in Denver back in 2009-2010.  He never had a quality QB during his time in Denver, having to deal with Tim Tebow while he was there.  While coaches that are groomed under Bill Belichick have not historically faired well elsewhere, I believe that McDaniels has a future as a Head Coach.
  • Kyle Shanahan, OC of the Atlanta Falcons
    • Son of Mike Shanahan, Kyle has been an Offensive Coordinator since 2008, being a part of 4 teams during that time.  The past two seasons, he has been with the Atlanta Falcons.  Turning there offense around and into one of the best in the NFL.  It is only a matter of time before Shanahan gets an opportunity as a Head Coach, and in Indianapolis, with Andrew Luck, now may be the time.

General Manager:

  • Peyton Manning, Retired NFL QB
    • Fans want this.  The owner wants this.  However, it remains to be seen whether or not Peyton wants this.  Manning has shown to be an extremely intelligent person, and one day could be a great GM.  That being said, I don’t think he would want to just step into such a high profile role.  He, himself, has said that he would want experience before taking over.  The best idea for Peyton to become GM is for him to come in and sit behind a GM for a year or two, then step into the main role.  That is possible, if the Colts would resign Bill Polian for a short term contract, to have Peyton groom and learn behind one of the best that the Colts have ever seen.  If Manning were hired to step directly into the GM role, I fear that he would be in over his head.
  • Eliot Wolf, Director of Football Operations
    • Wolf is the son of legendary Packers GM, Ron Wolf.  He has been working within the Packers organization since 2004, progressively gaining more and more responsibilities.  Last offseason, teams started showing interest in signing him as GM of their team, but the Packers denied requests for interviews.  Wolf is being interviewed by numerous teams this offseason, and the potential of him being a quality GM is high.  If the Colts want to sign someone who could step in, with experience, and start on Day 1, I believe that Eliot Wolf is the best option for that.

There are other options for each position, but I feel like these guys have the most upside and potential to turn the Colts franchise around from the past two seasons.  The Colts organization is still keeping all its fans in limbo, keep quiet about what they will do.  For now, this is all speculation, but we’ll all know before long.

 

NFL Development League?

CBSSports.com reported yesterday that Troy Vincent, the NFL’s Head of Operations, is putting together a proposal for a new development league for the NFL.  The proposal will formally be presented to the Competition Committee, coaches, and NFL Players Association during the offseason.

Many coaches have voiced their support for a development league, or in-season academy, for new players to use to get more experience.  With many NFL offensive and defensive schemes becoming more and more unique, the players are not getting the experience needed in college.  There has also been talk of wanting to get new referees more field time, in an effort to clean up some bad officiating lately.

Personally, I think this idea is unnecessary.  The NFL hasn’t had a formal “developmental league” since the NFL Europe closed in 2007.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ceased the league calling it “the best business decision”.  The NFL reportedly was losing $30 million a year.

Sure, there have been some very big names that spent time developing in NFL Europe, most notably Kurt Warner, Adam Vinatieri, and James Harrison.  However, the great majority of players that spent time in NFL Europe, never became much in the NFL anyway.

With the NFL requiring players to attend college until after their Junior year, they already have a “developmental league”.  The NFL, because of its rules, has created a league in which they have to spend no money.  The teams don’t have to invest in players that potentially turn out to be nothing more than money down the drain.  If the NFL wants to get referees more experience, I’ve long felt that the NFL and NCAA need to partner, when it comes to college football.

College football is a multi-billion dollar industry now, in which the athletes make nothing.  Now, I’m not going to turn this into a “college athletes need to be paid” post. That will undoubtedly come at a later time. I’m merely suggesting that the NCAA and NFL work together. 

The best way to groom these players, is to have the same rules. If college players learn to play within the same spectrum as their professional counterparts, that alone will drastically improve the transition between college and pro. By changing the rules in college to match the NFL rules, you also have the opportunity to groom referees in the college game. 

As long as you have a rule requiring your future athletes to go to a college, those colleges should be doing everything they can to set up those players for success in the future. College is a learning institution, but when it comes to full-ride scholarship athletes, college is merely a stepping stone. 

The NFL already has the best Developmental League in place, they just have to take advantage of it. 

Was Brady’s Suspension a Blessing in Disguise?

When a federal appeals court reinstated Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” suspension back in April, fans of all NFL teams, except the Patriots, rejoiced. Finally, someone was going to pay the price for numerous cheating scandals since Brady and Belichick joined forces in New England. Whether the suspension was correct for the crime, that didn’t matter. It was the fact that the NFL had finally had enough of the Patriots antics. Finally, the Patriots organization was going to get what, many feel, they had coming to them. 

However, we all forgot that this is the Patriots, and Tom Brady. 

Tom Brady is 39 years old. He’s been in the league since 2000. That’s almost 16 seasons of throwing, running, and getting hit(albeit, not much). By this point, quarterbacks are supposed to start slowing down. Balls not fly as far or straight. Prior injuries are supposed to start rearing their heads. More or less, they are supposed to be on the decline in their career, especially across a whole season. Tom Brady is a typical QB though. 

Through 3 games this season, Brady is completing over 73% of his passes, for 1,319 yards, 12 TDs, and 0 INTS. He has a QB rating of 133.9. True, this is through only a small sampling so far this season, but regardless, Brady is off to have the best season of his career……at 39 years old. 

Peyton Manning looked like a QB at the end of his career last season. His body couldn’t handle a 16-game regular season, and playoff games on top of that. That is a typical QB. Even the future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, couldn’t survive the fight with Father Time. So why hasn’t Brady fallen off…at all?

A couple explanations are possible. It could be the lack of big hits that he’s taken in his career. It could be that, for the most part, Brady has never been the “big long bomb” kind of QB. Whatever the explanation, something is different. 

Personally, I think that the 4-game suspension this season, will come back to bite the NFL. Brady and the Patriots are mad, and on top of that, he’s 4 games fresher than every other starting QB in the league. That means, 4 games less wear and tear on his body. That means when it comes time for the playoffs, Brady is going to be playing better, and fresher, than everyone else. Anyone that isn’t a Patriots fan, may absolutely hate this NFL season from here on out. 

If Brady and Patriots do win the Super Bowl, it will be Brady’s fifth, and he will have been to 7 Super Bowls in just 15 full seasons. That’s unheard of. 

When people ask me to rank the Top 5 QBs of All Time, it’s always been Joe Montana at #1. If Brady somehow turns this season into another Super Bowl appearance, and another Lombardi Trophy, there will be no doubt, that he is the best ever at his position. 

We may be watching history folks. Try to enjoy it.

Colts Continue To Fail

Andrew Luck is a great player, on a bad team, with an even worse coach.  There is no other way to look at it.  The Colts don’t deserve a player like Luck.  The receivers don’t deserve a thrower like Luck.  The defense doesn’t deserve a hero like Luck.  The coaches certainly don’t deserve a player like Luck, to mask their shortcomings.

Sunday was bad.  Play-calling was bad.  Blocking was bad.  Tackling was bad.  Catching was bad.  The only positives were Frank Gore and Andrew Luck.  That’s it.  It feels like every receiver dropped a wide open pass.  Blocking was awful, which is a HUGE testament to how good Luck and Gore are at making plays.  When Gore decided to come to Indy, he had high hopes for a Super Bowl appearance, now he’s just hoping for a playoff appearance.

This team isn’t improved from last season, they are worse.  I tend not to blame the GM, because the personnel hasn’t changed that much.  I blame the coaches, and more specifically, Chuck Pagano.  When the 0-3 Jacksonville Jaguars make your gameplan look silly, you have a problem.  Chuck continues to call short little plays, when they need big yards.  It almost feels like he feels bad, when the Colts are winning.

I mean really, if the Colts are going to have a bad defense, why not bring in an offensive-minded coach, and just try to outscore the other team.  At least then, Andrew Luck would get the appreciation that he deserves.  It’s bad people.  It’s bad when I’m actually finding myself rooting for the Colts to lose, just so Jim Irsay might finally do what he should have done back in January.  I don’t want the Colts to lose, but I want Chuck gone.  I’ve wanted him gone since the 2014 season AFC Championship game where the Colts looked like they hadn’t prepared at all.  I wanted him gone before that, but Andrew Luck was making him look good, so no one would say it.

The only saving grace yesterday, was that the Colts at least fought back, like they always do.  Someone has to get to this team and explain that if you play the first 3 quarters, you won’t have to be superheroes in the 4th.  This idea of waiting until the 4th Quarter for the coaches to let Andrew Luck out of his cage is idiotic.  No other team in the league gameplans like the Colts.  Come out slow, and then when everyone has given up on us, try to make a comeback.  Being known for late game heroics is cute for awhile, now it’s a seriously problem.

Andrew Luck deserves better.  Frank Gore deserves better.  Most of the Indianapolis Colts deserve better.  Indianapolis Colts fans deserve better.  The only thing Chuck Pagano deserves, is to be fired.