Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Life Below Sea Level

It's been a long time since the Colts were under .500 for more than one week in a season. We are now going on our fourth week below the break even point (after Chicago, 2 weeks after Jacksonville). Demond complained to me that he didn't even want to go to the game Sunday, and it occurred to me that we all might have forgotten what normal life was like in the NFL. We have seen a historic run of playoff football and 10 win teams, and we've forgotten what it was like to follow a franchise that drafts in the top 5 all the time. So here's a fans survival guide for rooting for a mediocre team.

1. Have fun-It sounds simple right? We all watch football because on some level we like it. The problem is, once your team hits a certain level, it's easy to mistakenly think that the only way to have a good season is to win it all. Thus, for whole months at a time you feel bored or tune out, just waiting for the games that really matter. Now? Just go have fun at the games. Realize that your team isn't that good, and that they'll lose some. We have a beautiful stadium and a great down town. Go tailgate, enjoy a lovely fall evening...whatever. Just have fun. The pressure of getting a #1 seed is off.

2. Look on the brightside. Every game means something now? Remember all those useless December games we had last year? They matter now. If you have season tickets and can't make it to a game, you have a chance to sell your ticket for better than face. Plus, because Tom Brady is hurt, a lot of the venom has gone out of this week's Pats game.

3. Remember the bad old days. 3-4? I've been to enough games when we were 1-6, that 3-4 looks good. We root for a team that has some talent and hope for the future. About half the franchises in the NFL would trade places with Indy this season. There were years when 3-4 had everyone excited because if we could just get hot maybe we could finish at 9-7 and make the playoffs. Remember everyone's favorite Colts squad? The 1995 Colts were...9-7.

4. Remember that we won a Super Bowl. I agree with Bill Simmons 5 year moratorium on bitching about the team after winning a title. We won it all. Polian, Dungy, and the rest brought us something we had NEVER seen. This week, if you are the Luke, glance up at the banner and at the Pats on field and smile because we've won more recently than they have.

5. Look to the future. Eventually, even if it's next season, this team will get back to an elite level. For the last 12 months everything that could go wrong has. The following players have had serious injuries:
Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Dwight Freeney, Ryan Lilja, Tony Ugoh, Bob Sanders, Kelvin Hayden, Rob Morris, Tyjuan Hagler, Robert Mathis...oh yeah and two DTs are gone for various reasons.
There is no reason not to assume that in a month or two, or at the worst by next season this team will be right back to where it was. Even if it doesn't happen this year, things will be ok next year. Plus, a weak season this year means better draft picks next year. Woo hoo.

6. Remember the Giants and Steelers. At this point in the season of their Super Bowl runs, both teams seemed to have played their way out of contention. Oops. Don't jump ship just yet. Having said that, there's no reason to play Pollyanna either. It's reasonable to doubt that this incarnation of the Colts will turn things around. They are very average. They have about two weeks of leeway before the shark has officially been jumped on 2008.

7. It could be worse. We could be 5-2 and Peyton Manning could be lost for the year. Everyone critiques every throw by Peyton and blames it on his knee. Imagine what it'll be like for Tom Brady next year? He's coming back to an offense that will have an even older Randy Moss, and there's a good chance he won't have as stellar a season as the media expects. Pats fans can expect to face AT LEAST one more year of nothing but Brady's knee talks. And if he never throws 30 TD passes again (and the odds are against him), they'll hear about his knee forever. Pats fans are in a no win scenario. If they win it all this year with Matt Cassel at QB, their immortal favorite player automatically drops several notches in prestige. If they don't win it all, they'll hear all offseason about Brady's rehab, and have to sweat his comeback well into next year.

We could also be San Diego fans at 3-5. Yikes. Worst of all, we could be Jags fans (if there were such a thing). The Jags are watching the Colts come back to earth just as they always dreamed...and they are muddling along at 3-4 utterly incapable of running the ball. Indy stumbles, and they couldn't take advantage. Ouch. That's got to hurt.

I don't know about you guys...but I think I can be thankful for 3-4. At least a little. At least until 8 o'clock on Sunday night.

Links:
Hugging Harold Reynolds wants to know why #18 so popular with gang bangers

Paul Kuharsky has an EXCELLENT post about the Colts 'window' not being closed. He says if anything, the Colts are too young.

29 comments:

jc said...

If we win it all with Matt Cassel, it's only because a Colt's team with a healthy (Not IR'd) Peyton Manning couldn't come out of the AFC.

On the flip side, Bill Belichick will officially become the greatest coach of all time.

Pick your poison sucker!

Deshawn Zombie said...

If the Pats win it all, it's because Tom Brady is less important to his team than about 10 injured players are to the Colts. People will have to shut up about all Brady's 'rings' because it'll just show that Belichick can win with a guy who hasn't played since high school, and maybe we've been crediting Tommy Boy with a little too much for all these years.

Belichick already basically is the greatest coach of all time. He's right there in my mind with Lombardi and Walsh. He's an ass, but an amazing coach.

I'm VERY close to rooting for the Pats for the rest of the year. I realize now, that most of my hatred for that club revolves around him.

jc said...

Well at least I checkmated you into admitting that.

I'll take it.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Colts fans have always had two choices: Give Belichick credit for the Pats success or give Brady credit. I think Brady is fine player, and a Hall of Fame QB. I've never been convinced he was one of the 5 best of all time.

If that's the conclusion, then one HAS to admit that Belichick is one of the greatest coaches ever. There has been a movement a foot in the media for about a year to say, "What did BB ever win without TB?" I always thought that was bogus. BB is the real heart and soul of that team. He's morally reprobate, and I wouldn't want my son to play for him, but I think what he's done is amazing. In fact, the only thing that keeps even with the others on the coaching Rushmore is that his ego effed up their perfect season. He pushed his players too hard when it didn't matter, and it killed them on the last Sunday of the year. Because of that, I don't think I can put him ahead of Walsh who changed football for 20 years, or Lombardi who they named the championship after, but I've always freely admitted that he belongs right there with them.

If he wins it all this year, I don't think you'll ever find anyone argue over him again.

This Pats team isn't any good. You and I both know it. That being said, if you send a BB team (even a s****y one)up against Mike Tomlin in January, will you really feel comfortable betting on the black and gold? I wouldn't...

You didn't checkmate me, dude. The Pats did by winning three Super Bowls. Someone on that club had to be an all time great. I chose the coach.

jc said...

Yo:

You guys should SMOKE US on Sunday.

And you'll get to watch Cassel throw behind people, low, crawl into his shell a la Drew Bl***oe when his first read isn't there and all the other things he does that suck.

The only full Colts game I watched this year was Houston so I know you guys aren't the Colts of last year or '06.....but you still have Peyton Manning and we have Adam Sandler from The Longest Yard.

It should be a blowout. But that's why they play the games.

Westside Rob said...

JC,
I'll try to overcome my Dungy complex (though you'll have to point out to me where that comes from...). BB is clearly one if not the best Football tacticians of all time. Anyone that disputes that is a moron. I think he failed in Cleveland because he didn't have a cast of personalities that could deal with his and therefore never bought into his system.
In NE he and Paoli(sp?) have built a team of good to great talent with the added benefit of having a mental ability to deal with BB and focus on winning. Most all of the regulars here also acknowledge that Brady is the 2nd best QB in the league, and a solid Hall of Fame player regardless of how many SBs he would have won. My only contention has ever been that Manning is more important to his team then Brady, and that the Colts without Peyton would have been below .500 for the last 10 years, and NE without Brady would probably have still been Playoff contenders as we've seen this year.

jc said...

We'll see.

We've beaten KC, STL, NYJ, the Niners and the biggest frauds in the league, the Denver Broncos.

Not exactly the 27 Yankees of the NFL.

We'll see if Matt Cassel can come back from down 10 in the fourth quarter on the road against the Colts and win the game.

And we'll see how we handle Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Remember....we have the statitically worst schedule in the league and it's living up to that title.

jc said...

And did you guys ever consider this?

As soon as Tom Brady was paired with an HOF receiver, he had the best statistical year a QB has ever had.

Over the years while he was throwing to Troy Brown, David Givens, Deion Branch, David Patten, Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell, Doug Gabriel and other first ballot clowns (some of whose present teams I asked Shake to link to two weeks ago) we were winning 12-14 games a year.

Sure we had a great defense and kicker, and coach, but that little graphic that comes across the bottom of the screen and infuriates you guys every time you see it, the one that says "Tom Brady , most comeback wins in 4th Quarter or Overtime since 2001" says something.

Meanwhile.....as soon as 88 loses a step (which you've all begrudgingly acknowledged), Peyton seems to be mortal.

Does it coincide with his knee? Maybe. Is the line terrible? I guess.

But it's something to consider....

Westside Rob said...

Marvin was totally out last year and Peyton was still great, though clearly out of sync with the replacements. I do think that Marvin made Peyton better and vice versa. I also think that knowing your defense is likely to force the other team to punt on 2 out of 3 possessions allows you to be more conservative on offense then Peyton typically has been able to be.

BTW: If my Dungy complex is shown in the fact that I wish the Colts would give Peyton a little less freedom at the line at times then guilty as charged. I wonder if part of the problems we're seeing is the league has caught up to the Moore/Manning call the play at the line strategy. In essence with everyone knowing that doesn't it give them the ability to "steer" the Colts into plays the Defense feels is desirable for them in that situation. I've always felt that the Colts should play a mix of this is the play we are going to run it, and let's see what the defense shows before we decide. I know DZ thinks I'm a crack, but once and a while I just wish Manning would walk up to the line and hike the ball. Giving Manning the ability to audible out of running so much also tends to bite us. Monday night we were running the ball pretty effectively yet on critical plays we were throwing low percentage passes. I just don't get that.

I am a little tired of the people who suggest that A.) because we are being critical of the team we aren't true fans and B.) if we aren't total and absolute experts on the intricacies of the Colts offense we have no right to critique them. Both of those concepts are total BS.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Brady didn't just hook up with any HoF receiver. He hooked up with the most freakish offense force in history (when he wants to). He hooked up with a guy who turned Randall Cunningham into Johnny Unitas and Dante Culpepper into an MVP. Several statistical analysis sites rank Manning 04 ahead of Brady 08 anyway. Better QB rating, YPA, TD%.

All that aside, Rob, you are well within your right to question things...I just think you're on crack (lol). With a million other things wrong with this team, questioning the fundamental bedrock of it seems unnecessary at this point. This isn't a healthy, fully functioning team that can't score. It's a mix match hodge podge each week. If anything, the fact that Manning has played behind a DIFFERENT O-line EVERY SINGLE WEEK this year, has hampered his ability to go no huddle and call stuff at the line (according to Polian). It may be that the problem isn't too many audibles, but rather too few.

Shake'n'bake said...

3 Colts CB's missed practice today. None of the were named Kelvin Hayden.

Bob and Joe are back too.

buzz said...

Its funny watching many of my friends that are Pats fans slowly coming around to the fact that the Pats probably could have been big time winners over the past couple of years with any above average quarterback. It really helps when you are better than most every other team at almost every position (including coach). I will also admit that I have always believed that Belichick has always been one of the best coaches in the league, we won't get into the argument about how much of that is due to spygate or Ernie Adams (I actually think he is at least half of Belichick/Paoli's knowledge - just like all of the Theo Epstein like stat guys in baseball, but stats in football aren't "cool" so he doesn't get recognition).

The point is that most of my Pats friends, granted I dont have many, have finally come around and it is funny listening to those that haven't. Seattle and Cincy have imploded without their stud Qb's. The Colts are basically a .500 team without "superhuman" and about where they would have every year with an average qb. The Pats bring in a way below average qb (similar to the qb's that seattle and cincy have brought in) and they are still atop their division.
Just saying.

Adam said...

Someone, who might be Bill Walsh, once said that players start to tune out coaches after a couple of years. I think what we've gotten to at this point is people tuning Dungy out. Some of the core contributors have been around for a few years and have officially heard it all before. It happens to every coach eventually. My point is, it's time for Dungy to retire. Between the nonsense of this past offseason and this season, I think he's run his course in Indianapolis.

As much as I hate to admit it, it's clear that Marvin has lost a couple of steps as well. Peyton is throwing the ball to where he SHOULD be, but he's always a step or two behind. This is a young team that should be in contention as long as #18 is behind center.

We can hypothetically make the playoffs as a Wild Card, get hot, and win a Super Bowl, i.e. the Giants or Steelers, but statistically that's not likely to happen, especially with an AFC that's so clustered in the middle.

I'm permanently set at "Pessmism" these days. I'll have to see a lot more before I move to "Cautious Optimism".

Deshawn Zombie said...

It was Larry Bird and he was talking about basketball.

What nonsense this offseason?

Seriously, why is it so hard to accept that a team with this many rookies and injuries is struggling just because of the injuries? The Colts came out ready to play this week. They collapsed in the second half because their secondary was decimated by injuries, and Jeff Fischer is a great coach who was smart enough to stop running and just throw.

The Pats haven't tuned out BB. The Titans haven't turned out Fischer. Most of the Colts roster has joined in the past three years. There are only 19 players on the roster that were here for the 2005 season. Most of the Colts haven't been around long enough to 'tune out' Dungy.

Tony will be gone soon enough anyway. Some people will be happy about that, but it'll be a long long time before Indy sees the kind of success that he brought here.

We'll rue the day he leaves.

Shake'n'bake said...

Umm, Peyton's been underthrowing Marvin more than anything, at least on the deep balls. That would mean Marv is running faster than Peyton expects.

I don't buy the tuning out argument. Look at the team we just lost to. The last undefeated team in the league. They have the longest tenured head coach in the NFL.

Demond Sanders said...

I am proud to be the world's biggest Peyton apologist, but Shake is right. More often than not Manning has missed Harrison on throws. Case in point: Monday night Harrison had Harper burned but Manning lofted a pass that fell at least ten to fifteen yards short of where it should have been.

Not to mention the several times that Peyton threw to a completely different route.

Also, let's at least let the season play out before we start kicking Tony out the door. We are only 7 games in. Although nothing compares to Kravitz who after week one said the players were tuning Tony out.

Bob M. said...

Westside Rob,
I am with you brother on the play-calling. I don't thinkn any D forces PM into a particular set of audibled plays by giving a certain look, at least not consistently, but I certainly got that feeling 5 years ago or so, esp in games where they struggled and PM put the ball up way too much.

I'd scream at the TV "RUN INTO THE FAKE-STACKED LINE!" instead of audibling into the predictable 7 yard slant. Aw, Jeez. If the D shows 8 in the box and PM audibles then the D shifts to a 3-man line, PM is stuck in a low % play. With good personnel and coaching (Pats and Steelers and Chargers and Cowboys) this seemed to bite us frustratingly often. If he had fake-audibled and run into the stack, it would have changed the D's approach, perhas their whole game plan. Plus, if it was a fake-stack, it would have picked up 6 yards and not 2. But 2 would be okay if it makes the D second-guess and slows their reaction times.

So while I am for 100% autonomy for PM at the line, I also advocate a slight change in philosophy that encourages him to do the unexpected from time to time to keep the D from predicting his changes. Hey, is a 1 yard run any worse than an incomplete pass? It could be infinitely better if it confuses the D next time you show them the same look.

JC, I admit I saw a missing subtext in the otherwise much appreciated post. If we're ridiculing the Jags for being unable to capitalize on our bad season, how does that correspond to the Colts fielding a HOF QB but being unable to capitalize (so far) on the Pats weakest season in a handful of years? Pot, meet Kettle. You're both black. Deal with it.

JC said...

I'm way too drunk to write a good response to that....but don't compare us to the Jags.

Just don't.

Westside Rob said...

DS,
I totally agree with you on Marvin looking like he's lost a step mostly because Peyton keeps under throwing him. I was saying this towards the end of the live blog and the "Colts" fans that were left jumped my shit. Evidently me having that opinion (and that Manning was having a relatively bad game) indicated that I had NO Understanding of football, and should shut up and go away.

Peyton is forcing the ball and when he's not his accuracy just isn't there (on average). He's still making some incredibly sic throws but they are mixed in between a lot of wobbling ducks that are off target. I know Manning has always had more trouble than the average QB in windy situations, probably because he throws that "wobbly spriral" (Reggie Wayne's words not mine), and the last 2 games were in rather windy conditions but he needs to find that zone, make whatever adjustments he needs to make, start completing passes , hand the ball off more, and move the chains.

The injury situation was more valid early in the year but that excuse is starting to wear thin. Every team is dealing with injuries why are we so ill equipped to deal with them? The Giants have lost 3 of the best players on their defense from last year yet are still probably one of the 3 best defense in the NFL this year. I don't know what the problem is with PM or the rest of the team. I just wish they'd get it figured out. I'm not sure what's harder having a team you know is underachieving and is losing games they should win or having a bad team that is playing up to it's potential but just isn't likely to most Sundays. I've been through them all since 1984 and for some reason this "feels" harder to accept than those bad teams of the 80's and 90's (95 being the exception there, though even that team was extremely frustrating to watch during the regular season because they'd play bad for 3 qtrs then get it figured out in the 4th.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Just because we are tired of the injuries, doesn't mean it's not the reason.

The Colts are particularly ill-equipped, they've just had more of them than everyone else. In the past year the Colts have lost at some point:

EVERY member of the D line
EVERY member of the O line
2 Starting Line backers
1/2 the secondary
Their RB
Their #1 WR
4 different #2 TEs
and the QB missed all of training camp with a surgery.

No team has had injuries like that.

Just because we are tired of it, doesn't mean it's not still the reason. Over time those injuries keep killing you after players come back. There's no cohesiveness because guys miss practice and games. Some of the guys who do come back are playing hurt (Saturday). I've never seen or heard of a team getting hit with a 12 month run of injuries (plus Johnson/Pitcock) like this.

Deshawn Zombie said...

that should read:

The Colts aren't particularly ill-equipped

Deshawn Zombie said...

Actually, that list should read:

3 starting LBs,
and I forgot Clark and Gonzo both missed time as well.

In fact, the only starters that have played every game the last year are:

Manning, Wayne, Brackett, Bethea and Marlin Jackson.

5 of 22 have started every game. In that time (since Tampa when Marvin got hurt), Indy has gone 12-8 (including the playoffs)

Shake'n'bake said...

You can scratch Jackson off the list soon. He's done for the year.

link

Deshawn Zombie said...

I want to puke.

Westside Rob said...

Do we really know that we've had more injuries than anyone else? It seems every team is facing huge injury problems this year. It doesn't seem like the Colts have had that many more injuries this year than most year, so why so many more problems this year? Granted an injury to Manning is a big deal, and not having most of the projected starting line early really hurts but I'm not "convinced" we've had that much more injury problems than other teams. I'm probably wrong but is there anywhere we could get some data on this?

Losing Jackson is huge. He's the 2nd most important player in the secondary behind Bob. Getting Hayden back will help but now who's going to play the slot in the Nickel? Probably Hayden I'm guessing.

Deshawn Zombie said...

I did some checking but I couldn't find the stats. I do know for a fact that Indy lead the league in lost starts due to injury by a wide margin last year. I saw a table after last season, and Indy lost about 12 more games than the next closest team.

Rob, if you can name another team that has experienced the depth of injuries at virtually every position, then I'll listen. I look at this year's list (and I include the two DTs we lost though not due to injury), and can't believe we won any games.

Every team has injuries. Not every team loses this many players. Just this season, the Colts have lost games by three different Pro Bowl players (from LAST year's Pro Bowl!).

Oh, and amid all the injuries I listed, I STILL FORGOT TJ Rushing.

We can only hope that MJax is out for the year the way Kelvin Hayden was 'out for the year'.

Shake'n'bake said...

PFP08 had the Colts as the most injured team last year, and over the last 3 years. And losing Rushing hurts more than you would think. With the improvement in the coverage teams the Colts special teams would be above average if Rushing was returning kickoffs and punts at the same level as last year.

Westside Rob said...

Hey maybe your right and we are far more injured than other teams. The one team that comes to mind this year is Dallas but they just prove your point even more because since their injuries started mounting they've REALLY gone in the Tank.

I think you know that I've bought into the whole injuries were why we got bounced last year. I was in agreement for the injuries affecting our play early this year. But it seemed like on offense other than Addai we were pretty healthy, the Line was giving Manning time, and getting open lanes for Rhodes, and yet we still couldn't effectively move the ball.

I think on Monday it's fair to say that injuries and losing your 2 top DTs explains a lot of why the defense couldn't get Tenn off the field in the 2nd half, you'll get NO argument from me there. I think the thing I've been trying to say is how much healthier do the Colts need to get on offense before we start seeing the production that the talent and salaries from that side of the ball should be producing.

Deshawn Zombie said...

I think the offense is finally as healthy as it's ever going to be. Monday still featured a lot of 'bust runs' (as Shake points out in his piece I linked to today), and it was windy, and Manning has a lot of 'bad habits' to undo because of playing under duress for 6 weeks. Just looking at the offense, I'd say you're right. Injuries won't be much of an excuse in a week or two.

They are killing the D, however. If the D comes up with a stop in the 3rd or early 4th quarter, maybe the O compliments them with another score.

This season has been weird in that neither the O nor the D has done what they had to in key spots. When the D needs a big stop...they don't get it. When the O needs a good solid drive (ala 3rd Q of Jville), they don't get it. The injuries explain why what's happening is happening, but if the O doesn't turn it around once everyone is back, we'll have to look for other explanations. I just don't think that time has come yet.