November 05, 2015 - Michael Freas
The Scapegoat: Pep Hamilton
Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts decided to relieve their Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton from his duties and have promoted Rob Chudzinski. While the move is not unwarranted, it should be noted that Pep Hamilton was not the reason for the Colts putrid start to the season, but he will be the scapegoat for it. Chud probably would have been the preferred candidate for the OC position after Arians left for Arizona given his NFL pedigree, his accomplishments in Carolina, and what he was able to do in one year with the Browns. Regardless, Pep Hamilton didn't assemble this 3-5 roster which had promise but glaring holes going into the off season. The blame alone falls on the shoulders of their General Manager, Ryan Grigson. Grigson has been under much scrutiny this past season due to the Colts poor play. There have been reports of him and Coach Chuck Pagano butting heads and not seeing eye to eye. Pagano is on the last year of his contract and will most likely not be renewed if he even makes it through the remainder of the Colts' season. So how did the Colts go from AFC Championship game last year to where they are now? Too Much Influence/Involvement with Coaching Staff There have been rumblings out of Indy that Grigson has been too involved with coaching decisions with regards to personnel. He was supposedly the one who urged for the Colts to switch centers last year and did not give Pagano the freedom to select his own Offensive Coordinator once Bruce Arians left. Grigson was the one who decided to hire Luck's former Offensive Coordinator from Stanford who had no prior NFL Experience. Stephen Holder of the Indianalpolis Star sums it up quite well with this quote from yesterday. "Additionally, one of the issues that still exists is involvement by the front office in the coaching staff's decision-making, up to and including lineup decisions. Grigson, multiple sources say, is still heavily influencing moves on the coaching side, particularly on offense. Hamilton's performance appears to have been affected by some of those outside decisions, making it difficult to know what is attributable to him and what isn't." Too Dependent on Free Agency The most successful franchises build perennial winners through the draft and not free agency. Ron Wolfe called it the "Packer Way". We have all seen teams try to get over the hump and attempt to buy their way to a Super Bowl caliber team (i.e. The Philadelphia Eagles "Dream Team"). It is important to learn from history and Grigson should have looked at his former team and learned from their mistakes. This past off season Grigson once again neglected addressing the Colts' biggest weaknesses: their suspect defense and offensive line. He, instead, tried making a big splash bringing in aging and declining veterans like Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Mike Adams, and Trent Cole. While I agree with the Gore signing, the Andre Johnson signing was puzzling given the Colts already had weapons such as T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief , Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Even more puzzling was the Colts spending their first round pick on University Miami speedster Philip Dorsett, when they had more pressing needs. They brought in aging and declining Todd Herremans to help bolster the offensive line, even though his play had dropped off drastically the past few years in Philadelphia. The Colts tried to make a big splash signing heralded skill position players instead of addressing their real weakness. Neglect of Offensive Line Andrew Luck is a franchise quarterback who has been put into danger this season due to the porous offensive line Grigson assembled. While I agree Luck can make an average line look better, he can not make a terrible offensive line look average. Instead of protecting their franchise quarterback, Grigson has put him in danger. Luck has already had a shoulder injury this year that caused him to miss 2 games, and he now has broken ribs. Luck has regressed after showing much improvement last season, and a lot of that is because of the big men up front trying to protect him. He is not only taking big hits but not getting the necessary time to let plays develop or go through his progressions, and that has lead him to force the ball and rush decisions. Luck understands the offensive line can no longer protect him, and it has impacted his confidence and hindered his decision making. The pressure opposing defenses are getting has led Luck to be receive Pro Football Focus's worst grade among Quarterbacks this season with a score 42.1. Neglect of Defense If there was an area of the ball the Colts needed to address after they were dismantled by the Pats in the AFC Championship game, it was the defense. Yet, Grigson again decided to forgo drafting defensive players in the draft, instead opting to select wide receiver Philip Dorsett, which was not a position of need whatsoever. He didn't make any paramount moves in free agency, instead settling for aging and declining players like Trent Cole and Kendall Langford. The Colts defense currently ranks 29th in the NFL in yards allowed, giving up an astounding 404.9 yards per game. Outside of Vontae Davis, Mike Adams (hurt), and D'Qwell Jackson, this defensive unit lacks playmakers. Awful Drafting Bill Polian left this team in great hands, and Grigson has done nothing but run it to the ground. While it is still too early to fully grade his drafts, his last 3 drafts do not offer much hope. Outside of Jack Mewhort, Donte Moncrief and Bjorn Werner, not many of the players drafted the past 3 years have made an impact. It will be interesting to see how the Colts' season ends up, given that they are 3-5 and still tied for 1st since they play in a very weak AFC South division. Regardless, Pep Hamilton wont be the last coach to be let go. It is only a matter of time before Pagano reaches that same fate. I am not giving Pagano or Hamilton a pardon, but a coach can only do so much with the talent, or lack thereof, given to him. Grigson's seat might not be so hot now, but it should be, because ultimately, he constructed this under achieving roster. It is interesting to think where this Colts team would be if they left Bill Polian in charge.