The Colts season is over. No repeat, no chance to end the perfect season, no three extra weeks of awesome football for the fans. Did I scream obscenities and throw things? Only during the Cromartie INT return. Did I cry like a baby? No. Do I feel like we lost to a better team? No, but they outplayed the Colts yesterday. Am I searching for a scapegoat? No, there's a large share of blame at everyone's feet today. The D regressed, they generated no pass rush and committed stupid penalties. The Offense turned the ball over three times while in scoring position and failed to put the ball in the endzone from inside the 10 for the win, but I'm over all of that now. There are football fans dwelling on the loss, some tastefully and rationally, others likely less so. I'm sure between the two groups everything the can be said (no matter how right or wrong) will be said about the game, so instead I'm taking the more optimistic angle : What do the Colts need to do over the long 7 months until next season? The playoff loss is still fresh in my mind and it would be ridiculous to ignore the game that eliminated the Colts so it will be part of the analysis, but it isn't the focus.
I'm breaking down the offseason into 4 parts that I'll cover in detail later (there are 7 months until next season I'm sure I'll beat them all to death)
What to change? (offseason plans/goals)
Changes on the offense
The 2007 Colts were done in by injuries and poor execution, so nothing resembling the offseason overhaul many teams need is required for the Colts. On offense inexperience and poor execution were the problems, but that doesn't mean no changes are needed. Kenton Keith showed the he can run the ball at an NFL level and was good in pass protection, but he cannot catch the football well enough to be a runningback in the Colts system. Keith is more likely to have a successful run (58%) than catch a pass thrown to him (57%). Best of luck to you elsewhere (likely in the NFL) in a system that doesn't require you to be a good receiver. The Colts need a new backup RB (Dom Rhodes, you still out there). The receiving corps is excellent if healthy, but depth is poor. If Marvin returns and recovers from his knee injury (please, please, please, please recover and return Marvin) then WR is an afterthought, with an elite top 3 in Marvin, Reggie and Gonzo. The O line struggled with injuries and both guards are free agents. Howard Mudd consistently turns middle to late rounders into NFL level guards so neither will return if they want big money. Tony Ugoh was a force when healthy and smashed the level of expectations set for a second round rookie starting at Left Tackle from day one. "The left tackle was defined by his weakest moment. He wasn't measured by his body of work, but by the outliers" (The Blind Side, Michael Lewis). Ugoh was at his weakest when it mattered most. Up against one of the top pass rushers in the game Ugoh contained him for 59 minutes, zero sacks from Merriman (the botched draw play was counted as Manning run), but on that final drive he was beaten with the game on the line. That moment reminded us all that he was still a rookie. He'll get better and maybe next season will stone Merriman in that final minute.
The offense needs to get the guard position settled and find a back with good hands to pair with Addai and they are set for another run.
Note: I know there are at least a few people out there reading. I'm not above talking to myself, but talking to actual people is better. If you disagree with anything I say or want to add or whatever please feel free to comment.