2009 Gridiron Gab Team Previews: Indianapolis Colts

Colts Practice Manning Football
Change? You call this change? Ha! This ain’t change! Change is going from a Republican white president to a Democratic black one. Change is landline phones to cell phones. Or cell phones to PDA’s. It’s going from fat 1980s Oprah to sleek 2000s Oprah (minus this past year, apparently). Or, on the flip side, going from 1980s Kirstie Alley to current day Kirstie Alley. Now that’s change.

What’s happening with the Indianapolis Colts is not change. At most, it’s some form of multifaceted tweak. Like a Peyton Manning audible, if you will. Now, granted, for perhaps 31 other NFL teams, replacing a Hall of Fame-worthy head coach like Tony Dungy with a former quarterbacks coach who has zero head coaching experience like Jim Caldwell would constitute change. And so would temporarily replacing your offensive coordinator (Tom Moore on hold, Clyde Christensen filling in), defensive coordinator (goodbye Ron Meeks, hello Larry Coyer) and special teams coordinator (Russ Purnell out, Ray Rychelski in). But not for this franchise. Not as long as Jim Irsay is the owner, Bill Polian the president and Peyton Manning the quarterback.

The Colts are still operating within the same general premise of their unshakable system. It’s a system that first focuses on having the right skill position players offensively––something Polian aims to do with first-round investments (see Manning, running back Joseph Addai, wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez and tight end Dallas Clark). Polian has never once in his 12-year tenure whiffed on a first-round offensive player. (Fantasy geeks take note, first-round rookie running back Donald Brown could be a sleeper!) Part of this is due to the fact that his first one in ’98, the aforementioned non-Ryan Leaf quarterback, was a bull’s-eye.

As long as Manning is under center, the Colts offense will be proficient. Of course, there’s still areas to improve in ’09. As Irsay said over the offseason, “Our ability to rush the football was completely unacceptable last year. It was more of a miracle that we were able to disguise the problem so much and go so far and do so much with it being such a problem.” He’s exactly right. The Colts run offense ranked 31st and averaged a wretched 3.4 yards per carry. This offense needs balance (if for no other reason than a strong ground game fosters the lethal play action pass). The selection of Brown, a highly productive, versatile all-around tailback from Connecticut, should provide the necessary rushing boost (as well as a fertile trickle-down effect).

We can elaborate in greater detail later––the general point is that the Colts will have a Super Bowl-caliber offense again in 2009. This is especially true considering that Tom Moore, while technically no longer the offensive coordinator, will return in an influential consultant role (he had to retire, on paper, in order to protect his pension). Same goes for venerated offensive line coach Howard Mudd.

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