Coaches: Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, Clyde Christensen, Richard Howell, Gene Huey, Ron Meeks, Pete Metzelaars, Tom Moore, Howard Mudd, Mike Murphy, Rod Perry, John Teerlinck, Bill Teerlinck, Ricky Thomas, Jon Torine, and Alan Williams. Front Office: Bill Polian.
Dungy led an injury-riddled team that could have fallen prey to internal strife to the playoffs and used his calming influence to keep the locker room together after a tumultuous 3-4 start, guiding the team to nine straight wins.
Caldwell worked his magic with Peyton Manning, turning his season — and the team's — around and is obviously highly regarded, since he was named as Dungy's successor prior to the 2008 season.
Christensen kept his unit running through Marvin Harrison's inconsistencies and a lack of depth after the starting three and Howell kept the team in prime condition throughout a grueling season.
Huey and Mudd share the blame for the struggles in the running game, but pass protection — from both the linemen and the running backs — kept Manning clean for most of the season.
Moore and Metzelaars kept the offensive machine running and supported Manning with guidance and suggestions, along with solid play calling by Moore. Meeks does not get the credit he deserves due to living in Dungy's shadow, but the Caldwell era will likely give a glimpse into his involvement in the defense and the quality of his services.
Williams and Murphy worked through injuries to field solid units and the Teerlincks did the best they could with the talent on hand.
Bill Polian had some quality draft picks and in-season signings that helped keep the Colts afloat.
Williams and Murphy were certainly the all-stars of the staff, dealing with constant injuries and turmoil to coach a rotating collection of players that performed well. Meeks was also a strong coach on the defensive side of things, but has been jettisoned since Caldwell took over the team.
Polian had another stellar offseason, working with his model of building through the draft, signing key players, not overvaluing free agents whether they are currently on the roster or coming from another team, and making in-season signings to keep the team afloat.
He drafted two starters on the offensive line in Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard, three players with a great deal of potential in Marcus Howard, Philip Wheeler, and kick returner Pierre Garcon, and found some starters and solid contributors in undrafted free agents Curtis Johnson, Jordan Senn, Jamie Silva, and Eric Foster.
Polian also registered a strong hit with the in-season signing of Antonio Johnson, who looks like he will play a prominent role in 2009. The signing of linebacker Buster Davis also paid off, as he was able to fill in when starters went down with injuries.
It would be convenient to say that the offensive coaches have it easy, since the Colts are stocked with talent on that side of the ball. When they fail, the blame falls to the players because they have too much talent to fail.
However, at least some of the blame for the abhorrent performance of the running game in 2008 needs to fall on Huey and Mudd. The Jacksonville Jaguars had more severe injury issues along the offensive line and needed to place running back Fred Taylor on injured reserve, but finished 13 spots ahead of the Colts in terms of yards per game even though they did not have the threat of a potent passing game. Tom Moore could have been more creative with his play calling, particularly early in the season when everyone on staff knew that Manning was not 100 percent.
Polian failed to have sufficient contingency plans in place and the defensive line was therefore crippled by the retirement of Quinn Pitcock and Ed Johnson's release. He eventually found Antonio Johnson, but the unit floundered and was understaffed through the early part of the season.
It is unrealistic to expect Polian to be perfect, but his inability to find suitable replacements held Indianapolis back for the first half of the season.
Jim Caldwell has already made a couple of moves, choosing not to re-sign former special teams coach Russ Purnell, and hiring Frank Reich as quarterbacks coach. Meeks resigned, reportedly under pressure from the team, and Christensen is still in consideration for the offensive coordinator job with the 49ers — although San Francisco has interviewed seven candidates, including Dan Reeves. As the carousel continues to spin — Jon Gruden and Herm Edwards were both fired last week — and new coaches appoint new staffs, more coaches and assistants may fall.
Polian needs to address free agents before the deadline on February 27th, including veteran starters such as Jeff Saturday and Kelvin Hayden. After that, preparation begins in earnest for the 2009 draft.
He needs to bolster depth at key positions, including offensive line, defensive tackle, and linebacker. He has a daunting task ahead of him, but at least there are no marquee players up for renewal, so he can be more surgical in his approach.