With the news that Jeff Saturday is probably moving on, and that Marvin Harrison may be next, there is little question that this chapter of Colts history has ended. Within a month, the Colts will have lost three vital threads in the fabric of their team. This leaves us all to ponder what’s next.
On the bright side, the Colts still have an abundance of talent. They still have Peyton Manning. They still have Bill Polian running the draft. There is reason to expect the Colts to be in the running for a playoff spot, though probably not a division title. The salary cap has finally come home to roost in Indianapolis, but only in the lightest of ways. Had Gene Upshaw’s death not prevented negotiation on a new CBA, it’s entirely possible that both Harrison and Saturday would still be with the club next year. As it stands, the Colts will potentially only have to release one beloved veteran, and let another one walk at the end of his contract. There will be no ‘cap hell’ for the Colts, and in the event that there is a cap in 2010, the Colts will be in a strong position. The Colts will have one of if not the youngest team in the NFL again next year, and should field a defense that has the potential to be a top 5 scoring D in the league. They have not sacrificed the future of the team on the altar of preserving the past. The moves are painful but necessary, and should pay off in the long run.
On the other hand, Indianapolis simply does not have a championship caliber offensive line. The O-line was a mess in 2008, and the news that Saturday is leaving means that it will likely be worse next year. Yes, some players could improve and take the leap, but I can’t see Indianapolis being a serious title contender with a line made up of Ugoh, Johnson, Richards, Pollack, and Diem …at least not next year. Even if you throw Lilja in there, I don’t see it. The Colts problems running the football had very little to do with the running backs, and everything to do with the fact that the right side of the line was a mess. 2008 resulted in 12 wins largely because of a series of miracle comebacks. It’s not reasonable to expect lighting to strike twice.
We may be witnessing the dawn of a new kind of Colts team. They are going to have win tough low scoring games despite the lack of an O-line or viable run game. Call it the Pittsburgh model. The defense is clearly the better of the two units. We’ve been nervous about next season for several weeks now, and I think it’s becoming clear not that the window has closed, but rather that it’s still a year away from opening. Even with a new influx of offensive talent through the draft, it’s hard for me to accept that things will run smoothly in 2009.
With no Dungy, no Harrison, and no Saturday should Peyton Manning have the Colts anywhere near the post-season, it would have to be his greatest feat yet. I know we have all grown accustomed to chalking up 12 wins a year, but it’s time to come to grips with the fact that 2009 might be pretty rough.
One side note: I like Adam Schefter, but everyone should realize that the gist of his report was wrong last week. He’ll end up looking right (if the Colts cut Harrison), but the story did not play out like he anticipated. Instead of just cutting Marv, the Colts tried to work out a deal to keep him. This is radically different from what Schefter blogged about. He made it sound like the cutting of Marvin was a done deal, but recent events have shown that the club wanted to keep him, and that some kind of real negotiation was taking place. Even so, the recent story doesn’t necessarily mean the end of things, and it might just be a tactic to force the Colts to work harder to keep him. I don’t really buy that, because I think Indy is in a ‘take it or leave it’ position when it comes to what they can offer Harrison, but that still accentuates the point that his exit was not quite as inevitable as it was made to sound.
SHH! Don’t tell anyone, but CHFF is starting to figure it out. As they study the success of their Defensive Hog Index, they find that only Peyton Manning and Tom Brady seem to be good enough to overcome a weak defense. In fact, the only time the Colts entered a game better than their opponent in the CHFF stat was the 2002 Jets game, in which the Colts D crapped the bed to the tune of a 17-0 deficit after the Colts had seen the ball just once on offense (a drive that resulted in a missed FG by Vandy). Read the piece. It’s sort of hilarious to see them back peddle.
By the way, Saturday was the two year anniversary of the first post on 18to88.com. From those humble beginnings, we’ve evolved into the multi-media giant you now see before you. Anyway…thanks for two great years!
Jeff Saturday’s agent prepared a PDF about his play. A great read.