Thursday, December 15, 2016

Exit ramp ahead

No, no, no, Horsey Nation. You've got it all backward about your Indianapolis Colts.

Luck is not about to run out for head Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson, barely a year after Jim Irsay gathered them around, sang "Kumbaya" and gave them both chunky contract extensions. Luck is about the only thing that hasn't run out on them.

That would be Andrew Luck, of course, aka the toughest nerd you'll ever see. Seems he got whacked around (again!) Sunday by the Houston Texans, and yet he vows to play on. The Texans hit him 13 times, leaving him with (as former IU coach Bill Mallory used to put it), a boogered-up shoulder and elbow on his throwing arm. Yet he swears he'll answer the bell up in Minnesota in three days, where the Vikings will no doubt rough him up again.

The slide rule boys at ESPN Stats & Information tell us Luck has been hit 456 times since entering the NFL in 2012, which means he's a very old 27. Over the years he's lacerated a kidney, been concussed and had various other body parts knocked out of round. He's also played behind 32 different offensive line combinations, which brings us back to Pagano and Grigson.

The football team they patched up their differences to put on the field this year stands at 6-7 now, and is in dire peril of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row for the first time in almost two decades. This despite playing in the AFC South, a division so pathetic you could win it with two boxtops from your favorite General Mills cereal. And this despite the contention of some that the Colts should actually be much better than 6-7 for that very reason.

The bad news here is the contention of some is dead wrong.

The Colts, frankly, are exactly what their record says they are. They are not a 6-7 football team with 9-4 talent, or even 8-5 talent. They are a 6-7 football team with 6-7 talent.

They have Luck and they have Frank Gore and they have T.Y. Hilton, and outside of that the cupboard is dust and cobwebs. Their offensive line still can't block a summer breeze. With the possible exception of Vontae Davis when he's healthy, they have no playmakers on defense. Draft-day busts litter the landscape like, well, litter.

This state of affairs is clearly on Grigson, and it's just as clearly not going to get better until he's gone. A man can only blow so many draft picks before you stop believing that this time -- this time, by God -- he'll get right. He's not going to get it right. And so he needs to get gone.

Ditto Pagano. There isn't a human worth the name who doesn't admire the man personally, but he's just not the guy who can turn 6-7 talent into a 9-4 football team. Some coaches can. Some coaches have. But Pagano, saying the same things in the same situations every week, has clearly run out of ideas. And his playcalling has a bad habit of drifting toward the bizarre -- such as that moment last week when Pagano, needing to convert on fourth down to keep a possible game-winning drive alive, dialed up a screen pass to backup running back Robert Turbin.

The first thing wrong with that is it was a screen pass. The second thing wrong was it was to Robert Turbin, the face on the milk carton who passes for depth at running back for the Colts these days.

Pagano tried to correct all this by blowing up his coaching staff last year. But now it has to have become clear even to Irsay that wasn't nearly drastic enough a fix.

Rearranging the deck chairs isn't going to save this Titanic, in other words. It's time to plug the damn hole.

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