Analysis: Colts' Continuity Means 8 Men Out?

Since head coach Chuck Pagano received a new four-year contract on Jan. 4, eight of his assistant coaches have been sent packing.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay’s explanation for keeping head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson began with one word.

“Yes, continuity plays a role, it’s important,” Irsay said on Jan. 4. “You like to have continuity when you can have it.”

Despite a disappointing 8-8 record and no-playoff season that fell far short of Irsay’s expectation, Pagano received four more years and Grigson was given a three-year contract extension. Pagano called it, “absolutely the best day of my life.”

Since that day, eight Colts assistant coaches have lost their jobs. Heads started rolling the next day.

My understanding of the definition of continuity required a quick online search: “The unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.” OK, that’s what I thought it meant.

What are we to think of this offseason overhaul of the coaching staff? The decision to not retain so many coaches means they were considered part of the problem, not the solution.

The three men running this ship obviously know more about these assistants than anyone else. But until we see the 2016 Colts, how the roster is reshaped and “coached up,” it’s fair to question the wisdom in what has recently transpired.

Pagano was supposed to be more hands-on with the defense in 2015, so how was defensive coordinator Greg Manusky to blame for a unit that regressed to the bottom third in the most important statistics?

The same question can be asked about linebackers coach Jeff Fitzgerald, safeties coach Roy Anderson and secondary coach Mike Gillhamer. The Colts had an inconsistent pass rush, which means when defenders didn’t pressure the pocket, cover guys were exposed in coverage.

Inside linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman piled up tackle totals; Jackson was second in the league. When healthy, safety Mike Adams was solid, especially when it came to coming up with turnovers. Safety Dwight Lowery had a decent season as a one-year rental.

Cornerback Vontae Davis gave up seven touchdown passes a year after he went to his first Pro Bowl. Cornerback Greg Toler was picked on, as in the past, and the source of much frustration when it came to giving up pass plays. That’s because of Gillhamer and not the team’s struggles to generate a stronger pass rush? 

On offense, O-line coach Hal Hunter, tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts and running backs coach Charlie Williams weren’t retained. 

It became painfully obvious, as Colts quarterbacks took 116 hits, Grigson failed to adequately address the ongoing No. 1 concern of bolstering the offensive line. They can blame Hunter for that, but again, coaches work with what they’re given and Colts quarterbacks have taken 450 hits in four seasons.

The lack of a consistent running game was a byproduct of the O-line. Nobody can convince me running back Frank Gore is washed up. The guy played with as much tenacity as anyone on the roster. But he couldn’t gain 1,000 yards. Good luck selling that was because of coaching. Gore has been in the league 11 years and is a proven commodity. We saw flashes of what he can do when given running lanes. They just weren’t there often enough.

Because the Colts needed to use the tight ends to block more than ever before in this four-year run, Dwayne Allen became invisible as a pass catcher. Last year, Allen and Coby Fleener each caught eight touchdown passes. They were obvious red-zone threats. They combined for just four touchdowns this past season. And both had extra motivation to put up numbers in 2015, the last year of their contracts. How is Roberts responsible for Allen catching just 16 passes and being targeted just 29 times in 13 games?

“I don’t think I was used the way I should have been used,” Allen said.

The tight ends coach doesn’t call the plays, folks.

Lastly, after the Colts endured their share of injuries, head strength and conditioning coach Roger Marandino wasn’t retained. This might be the toughest sell of all because while it’s easy to blame this coach for when bodies break, they fail every season. It’s the nature of the NFL. Athletes are pushed to the maximum to succeed and injuries happen.

Quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t get hurt because his strength and conditioning was lacking. He suffered a lacerated kidney, partially torn abdominal muscle, shoulder and rib injuries from taking nasty hits. Forty-year-old backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck racked up his own list of issues, neck, back, ribs, shoulder.

If you’re so inclined to give the Colts the benefit of the doubt on these decisions, OK, it’s possible the team decided it could find better coaches for each position. So be it.

Maybe the Colts will return to postseason form next season and whatever behind-the-scenes problems we didn’t know all the facts about will be solved. 

But if not, we’ll be asking if the problems put on eight assistant coaches actually fall just as much if not more on the three men calling the shots. The eight men out were merely fall guys for others not doing their jobs well enough.

Then we’ll be questioning this organization’s continuity, yet again, won’t we?

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.


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