At this point, Indianapolis fans are probably so disgusted with the Colts they are ready to give them back to Baltimore.
That’s how bad things are. Each week the addicted turn on the television set, or show up in Lucas Oil Stadium, and without any reason for belief, begin the 60-minute NFL countdown with the thought the Colts may win again this season.
Not that there is any recent evidence to think so, especially after December, which might equal the worst stretch in team history. Certainly, it was the worst few weeks suffered by any league team this season.
On Dec. 5, after only trailing the Dallas Cowboys 21-19 going into the fourth quarter, the Colts allowed 33 points over the final 15 minutes of play, repeatedly giving the ball away on the way to a 54-19 loss. This gave new definition to the word ugly.
On Dec. 17, facing the Minnesota Vikings somehow, some way, the usually offensively inert Colts exploded for a 33-0 halftime lead. That only allowed Indianapolis to pull off the remarkable feat of losing, 39-36, blowing the largest lead in National Football League history.
But wait, there’s more. Reverting to offensive ineptitude, on Dec. 26, on Monday Night Football, Indianapolis lost to the Los Angeles Chargers, 20-3. The Colts offense scored no touchdowns, went 0-for-10 on third down attempts and saw quarterback Nick Foles throw three interceptions.
The bad news is the Colts, 4-10-1, must play two more games this season before management can seriously begin addressing myriad problems.
Quarterback will be a focal point. Foles, who once helped the Philadelphia Eagles win a Super Bowl, had his shot. Sam Ehlinger, supposedly being nursed into a starter, is already pretty much forgotten. Matt Ryan is going to enter the transfer portal.
As the Colts lurched from one stop-gap starting quarterback to the next one following the abrupt retirement of Andrew Luck, Ryan seemed a sure bet to replicate Philip Rivers’ successful one-year cameo. Only he turned into a turnover machine.
One thing this all proves is that no matter how great a player is in college, there are not enough top-caliber quarterbacks in the world to lead 32 NFL teams. There are not 32 Patrick Mahomes’, Tom Bradys and Joe Burrows out there.
Not enough — particularly on the Monday night broadcast — is being made of the harm done by the sidelining of Jonathan Taylor with an ankle injury. It may be next man up in the NFL, but not just anybody up. Taylor is too good not be missed — and he has been. He is the foundation of the offense.
Supposedly, the Colts had a rock-solid offensive line, but that line has not made holes for anyone besides Taylor and allowed Foles to be sacked seven times against the Chargers. The defense has been viewed as a strong point, but how did such a D give up all of those late points to the Vikings?
Then, of course, there is the head coaching job. Just about everyone felt the Colts would be a playoff team this season, yet midway through the year coach Frank Reich was unemployed.
Owner Jim Irsay hiring favorite son, one-time star and recent broadcaster Jeff Saturday as the next coach might have had feel-good sentiment in-house, the hire fizzled. It is inconceivable the Colts icon will progress beyond interim coach.
“All right, not a lot has changed,” Saturday said after the Chargers’ debacle. “Listen, there’s no excuse. We made way too many errors on third down.”
He saw what everyone saw.
It is easy to say the Colts must blow up the entire team and start over, but the Colts imploded on their own already, making that seem like a redundant policy. Outside of a few defensive players and Taylor, there should be no untouchables in the trade market.
If the goods are on the roster to make good with a playoff run in 2023, the next coach must be an experienced, savvy leader. Andy Reid is not coming from Kansas City. Bill Belichick is not coming from New England. Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and Paul Brown are not coming back from the dead.
The best rumor is whether Jim Harbaugh, one-time Colts quarterback, a member of the team’s ring of honor, can be enticed away from the University of Michigan.
Lew Freedman writes sports columns for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected]