Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Domino theory

So, this is all Pep Hamilton's fault.

The 3-5 start going on 3-7, that's on him. Andrew Luck playing quarterback the way you'd imagine  Andrew Carnegie playing it, that's Pep's doing, too. The fumbles, the turnovers, the turnstile offensive line, the Dick-Van-Dyke-tripping-over-the-footstool approach to the first three quarters of most games ...

All Pep. All the offensive coordinator.

That was the message coming out of the Colts' complex on the west side of Indianapolis yesterday, as Hamilton got the axe and everyone else, feeling the air stir as it whistled past, breathed a little easier. Someone had to be the fall guy for this mess of a half-season, and the OC was it. And so of course everything will now immediately get better.

Well, OK. So probably not.

You can blame Hamilton for clinging to an offensive scheme profoundly unsuited to the personnel at his disposal, and you'll be on solid ground. When you have an O-line with the structural integrity of al dente spaghetti, going vertical with the passing game is doomed to failure. And so Luck drops back, Luck waits, Luck gets pressured/hit/sacked, Luck winds up with a dinged shoulder on his throwing arm and dinged ribs. Luck, as a result, descends into serious flinch mode.

The result is an offense that got all sorts of new pieces in the offseason -- pieces with some wear on them, but new pieces nonetheless -- and yet can't get out of neutral. The Colts are 16th in the league in yards per game and 20th in points per game. They've gone scoreless in the first half in almost half their games. And Luck, upon whom the franchise has placed so much of the load since nearly the day he arrived, leads the NFL with 13 turnovers.

He has 13 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. And his QBR (37.6) is little more than half what it was in 2014 (61.5).

This is all Pep's fault.

Oh, if only that were so.

The bad news for the Colts is this isn't all Pep's fault, and therefore showing him the road is less a quick fix than no fix at all. There are issues with this team that go beyond the offensive coordinator, that wash up on shore at the feet of head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson. One put a deeply flawed roster together; the other has not had it ready to play when the bell sounded on Sunday afternoon or Monday night.

That means Pep Hamilton only started the dominoes falling, the first victim in what's likely to be an serial bloodletting. Shedding Hamilton might solve part of the problem -- what needs to happen now is to install a short-drop, short-route offense that keeps Luck upright and enables the ball to come out of his hand more quickly -- but it doesn't solve the fact that the Broncos are coming in with the scariest defense in the league in four days.  And that is exactly not what the rickety Colts need to see right now.

Bottom line: Pep Hamilton only bought everyone else a little time. And the clock is now running on Pagano and Grigson.

Tick, tick, tick.


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