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No love for Addai

What does Joe Addai have to do to get some love from Colts fans?

Just weeks after an outstanding effort in the Super Bowl, and coming off a gritty ‘do whatever was asked of him’ kind of season, some people already want to kick Joe to the curb in favor of Darren Sproles.

The first and most obvious problem with the scenario posted in the article is the following premise:

If the issue is too much money wrapped up in running backs, I would have no problem seeing Joseph Addai cut in favor of making room for Sproles

Again, the next time any one suggests cutting a popular Colt, they really need to check the salary cap page first.  Addai is only slated to make $2.2 million next year, and about $958 K of that is guaranteed bonus money.  Cutting Addai would save the Colts only about $1.3 million, and mean the team would be paying $900 K for a player that wouldn’t be playing for them.  Even if the Colts wanted to bring Sproles on, they wouldn’t save nearly enough by cutting Addai to do so. Moreover, there is no salary cap, which means the Colts would have to make such a move strictly to save money, which has never been the way the team has been run.

Beyond that, the concept of cutting Addai to bring on Sproles hinges on two ideas:

1.  Brown is ready to take on the role of lead back

2.  Brown and Sproles as a running back duo is better than Addai and Brown when Sproles special teams abilities are factored in.

Let’s deal with each:

1.  Brown is a long way from showing he can handle the job as the #1 running back.

The argument seems to be:  the Colts took him in the first round, so he should be ready to be the #1 back.  To me, the only thing on his resume that commends Brown as a #1 back is his draft status.  Draft status becomes irrelevant the day after the draft.  Brown had a poor rookie year by any standard.  He struggled with injuries.  He struggled with pass protection.  He struggled to run the ball.  There’s not much left for him to struggle with.  He might still prove to be a great NFL back, but I saw no reason to anoint him as capable of being the lead back next year.

2. Even with special teams abilities are factored in, there is no way that Sproles and Brown are better than Addai and Brown, mostly because Sproles isn’t a good running back.

For this equation to work, Sproles the RB + Sproles the returner has to be better than Addai the RB + Colts returners.  One thing is clear:  Sproles the RB is worse than Addai the RB.  If you just want to go with conventional stats, Addai had more carries, more yards, more touchdowns, a better YPC, and more catches than Sproles.  Sproles had more yards receiving and one more receiving TD.  Most alarmingly, Sproles only rushed for 340 yards last year on 93 carries.  Were the Colts to elect to go with this plan, they would have two running backs who COMBINED for just 181 carries last year, or 40 fewer than Addai by himself (who was hardly overworked).

Advanced stats aren’t kind to Sproles either.  Addai’s DVOA was 7.7%.  Sproles was -15.3%.  That means were the Colts to try this experiment, they would be dumping the 14th most efficient back in football in favor of running a tandem package of two guys who finished 12 and 15% WORSE than an average NFL back.

Still, to be fair, the point was that you have to factor in Sproles influence on the return game in order to gauge his true impact.  Last year, with Sproles returning kicks, the Chargers had a DVOA of 0.0% in the kick return game and -0.7% in the punt return game.  In other words, they were dead average in both areas.  Granted the Colts were below average in both, but clearly Sproles is not the kind of game changing return man who merits cutting a productive back in order to sign him.

Do I favor signing Sproules? Absolutely.  We need a kick returner, and he fits the bill.  Even an average returner is better than what we had this year.

Bringing in a guy with 199 career carries to replace Joe Addai, however would be suicide.  It would instantly make the Colts worse in the run game.  That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the injury risk to player who is running back kicks AND trying to be the #2 back in what will hopefully be a true two back offense.

Joe Addai doesn’t need me to defend him any more.  There is no way he’d get cut to make room for Sproles.  There’s no statistical justification for the move, and it would be disaster for the team.

Note:  I would have mentioned this earlier, but at first I read that Sproles had been cut.  Because he’s an unrestricted free agent, the Colts cannot sign unrestricted free agents unless they are cut by another team.  That makes the whole point moot.