Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Dec 2006

Dungy Defends Beleaguered Meeks

It looks like Colts' defensive coordinator Ron Meeks has at least one supporter in Indianapolis and it's the head coach. Tony Dungy says he hasn't lost confidence in Meeks: "Last year we were No. 2 in scoring defense and doing a lot of good things. What's different? Nothing's different other than last year we lost two (games) and this we've lost four.'' If by "nothing" Dungy mean "a lot of stuff," then I agree. The Colts were 8th in defensive DVOA in 2005 (4th against the pass, 17th against the run) and this year they rank 26th (19th against the pass, 31st against the run). Granted, the team has been without Corey Simon and Bob Sanders for virtually the entire season, but the defense's inability to tackle seems to be more of an issue than the injuries.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 28 Dec 2006

77 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2006, 5:37pm by doktarr

Comments

1
by Andy S. (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 2:50pm

What's Tony going to do, throw him under the bus? Isn't that Peyton's job?

2
by OMO (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 2:56pm

Dungy quote: "Last year we were No. 2 in scoring defense and doing a lot of good things. What's different? Nothing's different other than last year we lost two (games) and this we've lost four.''

I would expect Dungy to defend his coach...but this quote is beyond stupid.

As Ryan points out...not only are they 18th spots worse as a defense...the inability of the defense to stop the running game is killing the most potent offense in the game.

The Colts had 6 possessions in the Texans game. Six!

What I can't understand is why Dungy and Meeks don't sell out the run and make the opponent beat you with the passing game.

The inability of Dungy and Meeks to make defensive adjustments during the game like the Colts offense does is the main reason why both should be let go.

Everyone knows everyone knows how to beat the Colts, yet the defense game plan is virtually the same every week.

Looks like Lemon is going to start for the Phins this week...if Dungy and Meeks don't make this kid beat them with his arm, I would fire them at halftime.

3
by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:19pm

To put the Colts run defense into perspective.

They are currently giving up 174+ yards per game on the ground.

I've only made it back to the mid-1980s in the record book, but so far that is the worst run defense I've found. I suspect that if the 174 yard average holds up in the final game, we may be looking at the worst run defense in the history of the NFL.

Polian and Dungy can minimize it all they want. Wrong cleats. Lack of intensity. A league trend towards power running. Whatever. None of those excuses come close to rationalize an historically bad run defense.

4
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:30pm

I guess he's not inheriting the earth...

5
by Dan Led (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:40pm

I guess this is a good spot to make my second stop on the "Maybe it's not the coach's fault" World Tour. As a Browns fan, I've seen my share of bad tackling. In the second game against the Ravens in 2003, the defense schemed 8 and 9 guys in the box all the time doing anything to stop Jamal Lewis. He still ran for 205 yards on 22 carries. Bad tackling has a way of overcoming any defensive gameplan. It seems quite possible that no matter what the Colts show, the best move for the Dolphins could still be running Ronnie Brown all day. I'm not saying I love what Ron Meeks is doing, but it seems trying to judge him based largely on what this year's team has done is pretty useless.

6
by Ch V Kalyan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:47pm

i have to look up but if colts are 31st against the run, which team is last and how bad are they that they are worse than the colts run defense?

7
by RF (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:48pm

I certainly admire Tony Dungy as a man, and his defending Meeks is consistent with everything we've come to know and expect from Dungy.

But isn't it sad that this faith in the people around him is one of his greatest weaknesses as a coach? He has faith in his players to improve, his defensive coordinator to figure out the problems. He looks at the good data points (last year's scoring defense) whlie ignoring other, more valuable ones.

Is it troubling to anybody else that the qualities we might look for in a friend, family-member, a man are different than those we would want from somebody like a head coach? It's troubling, but I can reconcile it.

It still contend that the Colts should move on. Dungy is not going to get them over-the-top. See link in my name, I wrote a little about it (if you're interested).

8
by Ch V Kalyan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:53pm

we are the jets
we are the jets
worse than the colts
'cause no run defense

man, my english teacher in primary school was right, i have as much talent writing poems as the colts having stopping the run this season!

9
by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:54pm

The problem with firing Dungy is that the organization would have to find another "yes-man" coach who is content to sit in the shadows while Polian and Manning run the team.

How many good NFL coaches would stand there and take it when their QB repeatedly waves off the field goal team?

10
by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:55pm

The Colts are giving up 20 yards more per game rushing than the next worst run defense in the NFL.

The Colts rushing defense is inconceivably bad.

11
by RF (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:57pm

#9

I certaintly don't see Dungy as a yes man, nor do I see Polian and Manning asking a coach to be that. I see Dungy as a man of conviction. I don't know that supporting a defensive coordinator you can easily denegrate is being a yes-man.

I certainly think tons of coaches would want an opportunity to work with Peyton Manning should Dungy elect to or have to move on. It's really a once in a coaching-lifetime experience.

12
by Sam! (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 4:17pm

#2:
When the Jags put up 375 yards on the Colts' alleged run defense, they often had 8 guys in the box. At least on one play I remember, there were 9. What else can a coach do?

13
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 4:23pm

Re: 4

Nice. lol

14
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 4:31pm

#3: I think they ARE playing the run more than normal. Frightening, I know....

#4: No, he ain't....

#5: Whose job is it to tackle? The players. Whose job is it to teach them and get the most out of them, make sure they are in the right spot, take the right angles to maximize the physics of the tackle? I hang some on the coaches here. (And some on the lack of depth, injury bug--they are missing 3 DTs from last year's decent squad, and 2 starting safeties and a starting LB--that's a big deal--half your starting D is gone via free agency or injured. With Reagor and Simon back next year rotating with Booger, and if Sanders is healthy, they're maybe one good rookie LB away from being about average, which is all anyone asks of them.

#7: Same as with lawyers or surgeons--do you want a guy you'd like to have a beer with, or a guy who is heartless and precise and perfect. I am a Colt fan of about 37 years and if I had to pick a next door neighbor or godfather to my kids, it would be Dungy. If I were to pick a coach for my pro football team, he'd probably be a top five choice, but not #1.

#9: No offense, but that is assinine. If you are basing it on one play in last year's playoffs, maybe you need a bigger N. The GM is the boss of the organization. The coach is the boss of the team. The QB is the boss of the O when it is on the field. They all know their roles. And every QB lobbies to go for it on 4th down.

Sometimes the coaches acquiesce, sometimes they say no. Sometimes they are super clever like Jeff Fisher vs Indy a few weeks ago when he was about to punt on 4th until Indy burned a TO, meaning that if Bironas missed the 60-yard FG, Indy would have no timeouts left. Once Indy called a TO on D, Fisher rethought things and went for it successfully. Was he knuckling under, yes-man-like to the all powerful kicker's lobby? Hardly. It's called strategy. Indy has the lowest rate of going for it on 4th down this season: I believe once vs Dallas. Man that Ole Stepinfetchit Dungy does whatever Manning says, doesn't he?

Sadly, your comments at #3 and #10 are right on the money.

Their D problems this year and not solely D problems: they a team built around a mighty O, and if the O is clicking on all cylinders, the D is asked to "manage" their end of the game. The design calls for the O to open up a 2 TD lead by the 3rd qtr and the D to not to have to face that much rushing after that. This season,t he O has been struggling, compared to the past couple years, and that has put more pressure on the D. The D's struggles have put more pressure on the O. And so on. It's a holistic team problem, from all sides of the ball (including ST). Better health would certainly make things better, better depth, I suppose (insert your favorite comment about spending too much money on O stars here).

15
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 4:42pm

hwc, you honestly believe good coaches wouldn't want Peyton Manning as their quarterback? Wow.

16
by RF (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 4:54pm

The only scenarios I can think of where somebody would not coach Peyton Manning:

1.) Not inclined to be an NFL coach (think college coach who loves his situation).

2.) Not available to coach the Colts (think under contract elsewhere).

3.) REALLY does not like Indianapolis as a location.

Other than those reasons, this is a dream job. A great player, a challenge, well compensated. If anything, the presence of an obvious flaw might be attractive (in a weird kind of way).

17
by OMO (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:00pm

I've watched the Jags game repeatedly via DVR and I never saw a 9 man front...except on both goal line situations.

I saw 8 man very rarely...

80%-90% of the time...Meeks has them in base cover 2 with a standard 7 man front and to be crazy...the MLB pinches the line to give the appearance of pressure...but the majority of the time it's a bluff and is 5 yards back by the time of the snap.

Seriously...I don't have other team data...but I would wager that the Colts are the least "different" defense in the league. Same formation, same structure, same futility against the run.

18
by OMO (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:01pm

MDS...no one honestly believes that unless they have a Manning-bone-to-pick.

Which on this board is about 89% of the posters.

19
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:04pm

Bobman, the colts offense has been struggling? They've got 33% offensive DVOA. THeyre the best in the league by a huge margin.

The defense sucks.

Now, Dungy is a defensive coach, and doesnt touch the offense..so what is he really bringing to the team at this point?

20
by RF (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:08pm

#18

Good point. Way to put the comments in perspective.

21
by OMO (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:13pm

The offense has been struggling?

54.1% Passing DVOA. Almost double of #2 (cincy 27.3%).

33% DVOA Total Offense.

5th Rushing DVOA...and all that with the fewest amounts of offensive possessions in the league.

(Trying keeping an offensive rhythm when you have been sitting on your ass watching Ron "CottonBall" Dayne fleece your offense for 9+ minutes.

22
by Frick (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:19pm

The offense is extremely good, but has struggled, especially witht he lack of Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokely.

As someone mentioned above, other than NE, how many teams could lose three DTs, both safeties and a starting LB without dropping. For the Colts that drop goes from the middle of the pack to the bottom. Chicago hasn't looked as good on D lately, due to missing their starting DTs.

23
by skeezer (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:19pm

the colts sold out to stop the run vs the steelers in the playoffs last year, and we all saw how that worked out

24
by RF (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:34pm

#23

You act like the Colts got blown out. They had a chance to win that game. Granted, Bettis's fumble might have made that game closer than it appeared, but you can't just throw that out there without context.

25
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:49pm

It's not a pro coach's job to teach someone who's been playing football since he was 6 how to tackle.

It is, however, that coach's job to place his players in the correct position to make the plays.

26
by johnt (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:52pm

23: Actually it worked pretty well. Had the Colts offensive line not totally imploded they would have likely tied the game and perhaps won. The defense let up some points but it was hardly the culprit.

27
by RF (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:54pm

#25

I also think it's the coach's job to make accurate assessments as to whether players are capable of doing their jobs. Perhaps this Week #17 (er, Week #14) isn't the week to have to make such assessments, but Dungy needs to take responsibility for having faith in this collection of players/coaches.

28
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:54pm

COLTS OFFENSE
With one game remaining, the Indianapolis Colts offense leads the league in third down efficiency, at 56.1%. Dallas is a distant second at 48.2%. Since 2001, only three teams have broken the 50% barrier, none higher than 52.3%. Even if the Colts offense goes 0 for 12 on third downs in their season finale, they will have the highest third down conversion rate this decade.

Interestingly, the Colts are just 0 for 4 on fourth down conversions. Didn't someone throw Manning under the bus for often waving the punt/FG team off of the field? (Grow a pair & go for it once in awhile, Tony!) In comparison, the Patriots have been successful on 15 of 19 4th down attempts. Since 2001, only one other team, the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles, failed to successfully convert a fourth down over an entire season (also 0 for 4).

COLTS DEFENSE
On the other side of the ball, the Colts defense is ranked dead-last, allowing successful conversions on 46.6% of third down attempts (which would rank 3rd best among NFL offenses). Over the past five seasons, only two other teams have allowed a higher third down conversion rate than the 2006 Colts.

Colts' opponents have enjoyed similar success on fourth down, successfully converting 78.6% (11 of 14) of attempts, compared to 49.5% for the rest of the league.

29
by Frick (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:57pm

Re: 23

Didn't the Steelers throw the ball on most first downs in that game? It wasn't until the 2nd half when they went really run crazy, and didn't the Colts make the game close after being behind at half time?

In that game Bettis had 46 yards and a TD and Parker had 59 yards, both had 17 carries.

105 yards on 34 carries, not quite the same as this year's suckitude.

30
by Craigers (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 6:42pm

#3... the 1984 Houston Oilers also allowed 174+ yards per game. The Oilers finished 3-13.

31
by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 7:00pm

Okay, the flashing color ad on the right is so bad I've had to put a piece of paper on the screen so I can block it out and read the content...

[goes off to buy FO swag...]

32
by Balaji (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 7:48pm

#24: At the same time, the game probably would never have been as close as it was if the refs had ruled correctly on Polamalu's interception. Of course, we don't know that for sure, but Indy certainly wouldn't have scored in the next three plays, since they'd be back on defense deep in their own territory.

33
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 8:03pm

Balaji, that's certainly true, but I've always found it fascinating that there were two horrible, possession-changing calls in that game, one favoring each side, and people only mention the Polamalu interception. No one mentions that Faneca false started on a fourth-and-1, the officials saw it, blew the whistle...and then claimed they didn't see anything. The Steelers converted there on fourth-and-1 whereas they would have punted if the officials had correctly called the penalty and it had been fourth-and-6. That was a badly officiated game, but I don't think either side gained an advantage.

34
by RF (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 8:05pm

#32

True. I think somebody else brought up the fact that Pittsburgh made it through the AFC on Ben's arm last year, not their running game. For all the responses the original comment received, it may not be the best example of that poster's point.

35
by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 9:15pm

Thank you Bobman for some needed sanity.

I could not name you a single coach in this league I'd rather have than Dungy.

I think he has been very successful, and winning a Superbowl only 1 out of 32 teams do a year.

Ultimately this is a game, and I'd rather like the players and coaches, then theoretically have this "cold heartless coach" that's been brought up.

If we never win a Super Bowl with Manning and this coaching staff it will be sad, but not some sort of disgrace. We've been put in good positions and failed. It happens.

36
by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 9:17pm

#33, agree entirely. That game was a mulligan in terms of officiating with bad game changing calls occuring.

It's impossible to predict what would have happened. We lost, it was an interesting game, and that's that.

37
by Sisyphus (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 10:30pm

The Colts simply flat out are not tackling and not playing gap discipline. That is a function of coaching but frankly tackling in the NFL seems to be at an all-time worse in the forty or so years I have been watching the league. Wrapping up just doesn't happen and hitting running backs with a shoulder isn't likely to be very successful.

38
by Francisco (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 11:02pm

#14:

You remained a Colt fan through their move from Baltimore to Indy?

39
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 11:38pm

33, 36 - those two calls cannot under any circumstances be considered a wash.

A correct call in the case of the Polamalu interception would have given the ball directly to the Steelers where Troy caught it. The play-by-play says that had the ruling been upheld the Steelers would have recieved the ball on their own 48 - eight yards downfield from where the Colts snapped it.

A correct call in the case of the Faneca false start would have moved the ball back five yards and lead to the Steelers punting. Chris Gardocki's average punt in that game went 41.6 yards, and the average Indianapolis return was negligibly backwards. So the Steelers would have gained 37 yards of field position.

Take both together, cancel out the turnovers, and the Steelers lost 29 yards of field position on the two calls. If we add that on to Indianapolis' final drive, this puts Vanderjagt back attempting a 75 yard field goal, which I humbly submit is out of his range.

40
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 11:56pm

In terms of yardage, you're right, Ilanin, but you're forgetting about time: The officials' screw-up on the Faneca false start allowed the Steelers to run a lot more time off the clock. If that had been called correctly, Vanderjagt's kick wouldn't have been at the end of the game.

There's no way of knowing how the game would have gone differently if the officiating had been correct. I just find it odd that both teams got screwed by absolutely horrendous calls, but one of those calls is discussed much more than the other.

41
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 1:10am

Wait, wait. DVOA thinks there's a run defense worse than that of the Colts this year? I knew this whole Football Outsiders thing was a scam.

42
by Paul (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 1:31am

What's worse about the false start, and even then I question whether it was worth throwing a flag, is that a Colt jumped across the line to force a flag before the snap. The call should have either been false start or encroachment, not a do over.
The play definitely deserved a flag and at that point it would have been judgment call which side got it. If the refs missed Faneca's flinch, IND should have been flagged. If they saw it, then PIT should have been flagged. At no point should it have been a no call.
This was not the only game poorly reffed, but it was very blatant that many of the refs on the field that day should consider a new weekend job.

43
by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 1:56am

Re: 35

"I could not name you a single coach in this league I’d rather have than Dungy."

That my friends, is a classic case of Colts Slappy Syndrome (CSS) that makes Stan blush.

To say that you would rather have Tony "Underachieve in the Playoffs" Dungy coaching your team than oh...I don't know...how about BILL FREAKIN BELICHICK is insane and homerism at its best.

Sorry...great guy...but I'm not looking for role models for my sons on the football field...I'm looking for football victories and a cheesy Colts Super Bowl Champs sweatshirt that I can wear until the neck and sleeves fray and my GD wife throws it away when I'm on a business trip and claim the washer ate it.

44
by Catfish (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 2:09am

If I remember, the Jets were the ones with the comically bad run D earlier in the year. They must still be coasting off of that. I bet Indy would be worse in WDVOA.

45
by hwc (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 5:28am

hwc, you honestly believe good coaches wouldn’t want Peyton Manning as their quarterback? Wow.

I don't believe I wrote that. A good coach would love to coach Manning. He would bench Manning for the rest of the game on the spot the first time he waved off the punt team. Pecking order established, things would be fine.

The problem is that Polian and Irsay wouldn't hire a coach who would do what needs to be done with Manning.

If you haven't noticed, Polian loves his offense and loves having the spotlight on him.

46
by Matt Weiner (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 11:20am

The Polamalu interception was ruled correctly on the field and then overturned on replay, when there wasn't a scrap of evidence that Polamalu didn't retain possession. That's a far far worse call than the Faneca call, which wasn't replayed. (I'm accepting for the sake of argument that it was a false start as opposed to a neutral zone infraction as #42 argues.)

Also, the non-call on the false start wasn't enough to cause the Steelers to keep possession. There had to be both a non-call and a 4th down conversion by the Steelers. The blown call on the INT was enough, by itself, to give Indy the ball back; they didn't have to make a play to keep the ball. If you want to say that the result of the drive after the blown call shouldn't count, then you have to put a lot of time back on the clock for the false start and erase the TD Indy got on the interception drive; which is still a lot worse for Indy.

47
by William (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 12:06pm

I have a hard time blaming Ron Meeks or Tony Dungy for the collapse of Indy's defense this year. Last year Indy's defense was rightly considered one of the best in the league. It's since lost, by my count, 4 starters (Thornton, Tripplett, Simon, and, essentially, Sanders). Replacements for those players haven't played as well. I've only seen Indy play 3 or 4 times this year, but it would seem to me that Occam's Razor applies here. This would happen to any team--look at what happened to the Patriots in the first half of last year, when they started Monty Beisel, Chad Brown, and Duane Starks for several games.

48
by Dan L. F. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 12:10pm

46. Good point. To say those two bad calls equal each other is unconvincing.

Furthermore: As I recall, the referee discussion following the "false start/encroachment" had to do with whether a Colts player was making illegal sounds (I'm not kidding -- this really is a rule) to distract Steeler players from the snap count. And as this couldn't be determined, they went with the strange call they made, to just do it over.

Not saying that that was the right thing to do.

In any event, the Steelers beat the Colts more handily than the final score indicated, really. They were up 21-3 at one point, and would have won the game by double-digits had the Colts received not ONE but TWO miracles -- the Polamalu call and the Bettis fumble.

49
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 12:14pm

"look at what happened to the Patriots in the first half of last year, when they started Monty Beisel, Chad Brown, and Duane Starks for several games."

They were still MUCH MUCH better than the colts defense is now. Honestly, the patriots right now have more hurt defensive starters than the colts do. The colts just apparantly have absolutely no depth, and thats polian/dungy's fault.

Dungy is an absolutely awful in-game coach.

50
by William (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 12:29pm

49,

I'm a Pats fan, and as such, obviously, I utterly loathe Bill Polian, and I am sure he deserves some blame for not providing depth. But simply put, when you lose starters it's going to hurt. I am not sure of the stats, but I know our defense in the first half of last year gave up 40 to SD and Indy, 30 to the Schaub-led Falcons, and 28 to Denver...in the first half. Any way you slice it, it was a bad defense. Even Belichick couldn't do anything with it. I think those years that the Pats lost all those guys and still won Super Bowls were an aberration; it's not often that replacements play that well that consistently.

51
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 12:38pm

What, no one else took the bait?

10: hwc, I don't think that word means what you think it means. :)

Seriously, I think many other coaches would jump at the chance to replace Dungy. There are a lot of worse places to be. As RF implied, it even comes with a built-in excuse (Colts will never win the Super Bowl with a high-priced offense and cheap defense).

Yes, it's good that he didn't throw Meeks under the bus. I think it's more an issue of personnel, and I don't think Meeks is responsible for that ...

52
by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 1:16pm

"The problem is that Polian and Irsay wouldn’t hire a coach who would do what needs to be done with Manning."

Exactly what needs to be done with Manning?

53
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 3:02pm

OMO (#52 )--
Exactly what needs to be done with Manning?
Keelhauling?

:-P

54
by zip (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 3:09pm

Do you guys seriously think that Peyton undermining Dungy's authority is making the defense suck? These are two unrelated issues, IMO.

55
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 3:45pm

Maybe another way to look at it is to ask why it is that Peyton has to make that call in the first place (assuming that that's what he's doing and that Moore isn't saying "Coach wants to know what you think"). If you had this Colts' offense at your disposal, even with an average defense, why would you punt in those situations? And with this defense ...

56
by Slimey (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 5:01pm

re: 48

I don't recall the Colts scoring after the Bettis fumble.

57
by Dan L. F. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 5:31pm

56: What I meant was, the Steelers had a first down at the Colts' 2, which is a TD 95% of the time.

My point was that they had a double-digit win locked up if not for the fumble, which allowed the score to remain closer than the game actually was.

I suppose you can say the Bettis fumble was skill, not luck, but I see it as the latter.

58
by JoeT (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 5:36pm

I used to check out FO every day, now I read it maybe once a week and hardly ever read the discussions. People like hwc are why. I don't mind that this is a pro-Patriots site, but hwc takes it to the step where he actually seems to believe that Peyton Manning, one of the two or three best QBs in football, is a player that a good coach wouldn't want on his team. It makes the whole site less fun when that's the level of the discussions.

59
by lanny (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 6:23pm

PREFACE:

I am a long-time Patriots fan. It happens when you grow up in Boston.

I think part of the problems with the Colts defense, is the way they have managed the salary cap.

From an outside perspective, it looks like they have explicitly taken the tack of spending most of their cap resources (and a lot of draft picks) on offense.

This implicitly means that Dungy will have less resources to develop a good defense, and little depth in case of injury (it also hurts when Corey Simon a guy you invest a lot of the defense salary cap dollars in basically quits).

The theory with this type of team is that you can score enough points to compensate for your poor defense.

The Patriots have taken a different tack, where they sacrifice top-line offensive talent, but build a lot of depth throughout the team. Thus reducing the pain of a season ending injury to any particular player.

60
by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 6:55pm

hwc, there's a thread specifically designed for your irrational anti-Manning arguments. My only comment on this non-subject:

Every time Manning has done his "wave the punt unit away" routine, it's been such an obvious go-for-it situation that I would be tempted to fire any coach that didn't go for it. Dungy is waaaay too conservative on 4th, especially considering how good his D is and how bad his O is. I think he's simply decided to let Manning make the call, which makes some sense since he's practically the assistant offensive coordinator.

Dungy is a great guy, and he coached up a championship-caliber defense in Tampa, but he has failed to repeat the job and in fact things have regressed. Injuries alone are not a sufficient excuse. I wouldn't replace Tom Moore or any offensive coaches, but bringing in a new head coach and/or defensive coaches/coordinators might be a good idea. If it's broke, and stays broke, you have to fix it.

61
by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 6:57pm

And when I said, "how good his D is and how bad his O is", I meant the opposite, obviously.

62
by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 7:24pm

Re: 60 et al,

I think part of the problems with the Colts defense, is the way they have managed the salary cap.

From an outside perspective, it looks like they have explicitly taken the tack of spending most of their cap resources (and a lot of draft picks) on offense.

This implicitly means that Dungy will have less resources to develop a good defense, and little depth in case of injury

This is a popular viewpoint, but I just don't think the numbers back it up. I can't find the 2006 numbers, but the 2005 Colts salary cap numbers are accesible. By my best calculations, the Colts used about $45 million of their $85 million on offense. That's all of 53%, and that includes the baloon $9 million payment to Edge. Obviously that's gone now, and the cap is much higher this year.

Now, you still need some players for special teams, and you want to have some flexibility on top of that. But spending 53% of the cap on offense emphatically does NOT cripple your spending on defense. And it's not as if the Colts have a lot of "dead salary" or imminent cuts/retirements to worry about.

Poilan/Dungy/the defensive coaches should be held accountable for not putting together an adequate defense with adequate resources. Anything else is just an excuse.

63
by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 7:26pm

And when I said, "re:60", I meant, "re:59". I really should re-read more than once.

Just to respond to one other thing lanny said that I neglected to mention: a casual look over recent Colts drafts does not reveal any unusual bias towards the offense.

64
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 12/29/2006 - 10:43pm

63: The Colts, in recent years, have built thier defense through the draft, and have not resigned vetran players when thier first contracts expire. I'm under the impression that the major reason for the Colts defensive decline from last year is they lost the majority of their linebackers to free agency, and replaced them with rookies and players of limited experience.

65
by doktarr (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 12:34am

64: They have re-signed some guys (didn't they re-sign Freeney?) and of course they signed Corey Simon (although we all know how well that worked out). But if you read my longer post (#62), you will see that my point was not that the Colts management has been brilliant in the way they have managed their defensive personnel. My point is that they have had an adequate amount of draft picks and cap space allocated to the defense. As such, blaming the offensive cap load for the defensive troubles is a canard.

66
by hwc (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 2:17am

hwc, there’s a thread specifically designed for your irrational anti-Manning arguments.

What anti-Manning arguments. I think Manning leads the best passing offense in the NFL. Great QB throwing to the best wide-receiver in the game.

Having said that, the Colts' problems fundamentally all stem from the entire organization basing decisions around Peyton Manning. The curse of the super-star franchise QB in a game that requires contribution from 53 players.

Example, lord help Manning should have to live with less than the highest paid receivers in the league at all three positions in order to sign something other than stiffs at LB or DT.

67
by doktarr (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 3:04am

RE: 66,

Read my other recent comments. The idea that Manning's salary, or the salary of the offense in general, is holding back the defense, just doesn't hold water. Polian/Dungy/Meeks should be able to put together at least a mediocre defense with between 40% and 45% of the salary cap and half the draft picks.

Also, all three positions? Harrison and Wayne are well-compensated, but Stokley and Clark barely count a million against the cap. There's plenty of third receivers making that sort of money (and TEs making more).

And if you think having a superstar QB is a problem, try watching your favorite team throw money at Mark Brunell. The $9 million or so Manning counts against the cap is a lot, but at least they get value for that investment.

68
by hwc (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 4:08am

Polian/Dungy/Meeks should be able to put together at least a mediocre defense with between 40% and 45% of the salary cap and half the draft picks.

I agree. They should be able to field a mediocre defense. That brings us to the next point: a stubborn commitment to an obsolete defensive scheme with undersized players across the board.

The better offenses in the league lick their chops when playing a pure Cover 2 team. It's like taking candy from a baby. The tough teams all mix it up on defense.

BTW, it's not just salary cap dollars on offense. It's conscious decisions like spending big cap dollars on Freeney -- a player who rushes so aggressively on every play that he is a zero on rush defense. The entire concept is to build a defense that gets gashed with the run game.

69
by doktarr (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 5:34am

I guess my point is that that's not "the next point" - it is, in fact the first point. Any discussion of Manning and/or the offense is irrelevant here. The defense has been given enough draft/cap resources to be judged on its own.

I agree that the better teams all vary their defensive looks more than the Colts do. That said, I wouldn't indict the cover 2 as a whole - it's not like you're not allowed to blitz out of a cover 2. The Bears run a fairly pure cover 2 and have a great defense with adequate variety. (While NE beat Chicago, they scored their 4th-lowest total of the season in doing so.)

Freeney is improved against the run, but he's still not what you would call good. Overall, whatever the reason is, be it lack of size/power, bad choices in free agency, unwillingness to deviate from a vanilla scheme, or poor technique/coaching, the run defense is terrible.

The Colts have had basically the same coaching staff for several years running. In that time, they've had a consistently great offense. The defense has wavered from mediocre to bad, with 2005 looking like an anomaly. Finally, the special teams (aside from kicking FGs) has been consistently terrible - the kick coverage team is ALWAYS one of the worst in the league. Here's the FO "kick" rankings since 2001 (year before Dungy arrived):

2001: 30 (out of 31)
2002: 24 (a banner year!)
2003: 31
2004: 29
2005: 29
2006: 31

To be so consistently bad at one aspect of the game, and not make any changes... I don't get it. I appreciate the value of loyalty, but I don't see why the non-offensive coaches have such job security. Virtually the entire defensive staff, as well as the special teams coach, arrived with Dungy in 2002. Maybe it's time to dump them for Ron Rivera.

70
by RenoColtFan (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 7:15am

Dungy should have been given 3 years to get the Colts to the Superbowl . He was given the best opportunity a coach could hope for and failed . I can't believe people in Indy haven't been calling for his firing . Jeff Fisher would have had this team in the big game twice by now .

71
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 5:29pm

Why does everyone think Jeff Fisher is so great? I really don't get it. While he has been Tennessee's coach, the team was mediocre for several years, then great two years, then good for a few years, then terrible for two years, and now it looks like they're getting better again.

Does that really look like anything other than the typical boom and bust cycle every team goes through?

72
by Don M (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 9:18pm

Peyton Manning has ruined Indy's run defense! clearly the problem with Indy' run D is that Peyton Manning keeps waving off the punt team (I remember this happening once, and had they one that game it would have been one of the great heart-stopping moments in pro football history.) I'll admit the Colts are my second favorite team (Whodey!) but in some ways that makes more objective about them, and their faults. This is still one of the best offensive units of all time. They're so good passing the ball and on third down that when I watch my beloved Bengals, they look terrible by comparison. I've ran some numbers on the Colts run defense, and the Bengals league worst pass defense. The difference in the numbers is astounding. Take the worst teams in the league in passing defense and throw out their two worst games, and in most cases the move up to the middle of the pack in yards per game and yards per attempt. Take the Colts run defense and throw out their two worst games, and they're still dead last.
The Colst problems include injuries, but they're worse than that, the scheme looks as if other teams have solved it, and they have no mean streak at all. The Colts get out hit almost every game, the offense doesn't seem to mind, but when the defense gets out hit by the opposing offense they often fall apart. These Colts wont win the Superbowl this year.

73
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Sat, 12/30/2006 - 9:29pm

You know, I've bashed Fisher as much as anyone else on this site, for just the same reasons you do, Yaguar. His rep seems to come from his ability to relate to the media as much as anything else, unlike coaches with better records who are more confrontational.

But this year, Fisher deserves his accolades. The Titans were a mess in preseason, handicapped by the McNair fiasco, the status of Billy Volek, and the late rush to get Kerry Collins up to speed. Throw in Albert Haynesworth and the switch to Young midseason, and if you had asked me who would be the first coach fired, I would have said, "Fisher. Before the year is out."

Then he completely turned it around. The same crappy talent is there, only slightly more experienced, but it is definitely playing better football. You have to give the coach credit for that. And even though DVOA bears out the suspicion that this team is closer to the 2004 Bills or 2005 Dolphins than a real contender, it was an achievement to get this mess THAT far. There are five coaches who could win CoY this year; Fisher is one of them, and Reid, Billick, Mangini or Payton (my choice) couldn't really complain if he got it.

74
by doktarr (not verified) :: Sun, 12/31/2006 - 6:34am

RE: 70,

I suppose you could have gotten rid of Dungy after the 2004 season like you suggest, but It was not an obvious thing. Dungy has a track record of building a good defense, and he deserved a chance to put his guys in and let his system mature. Now he's had that chance. I think that, barring a pretty dramatic turnaround, it would be the right thing for Dungy and his people (i.e. the defense and special teams coaches) to move on. As I said before, Ron Rivera seems like the obvious replacement.

75
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Sun, 12/31/2006 - 11:26am

Presumably, if the Colts hire Ron Rivera they will win the Superbowl next year based largely on the fact that Chicago didn't actually change any of the playbook or the playcalls before going into a superbowl showdown with Indianapolis. Right?

76
by Jeff (not verified) :: Sun, 12/31/2006 - 1:47pm

Re:59 & 62

I would say that the biggest problem for Coach Dungy's team is the overall lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Colts lost several key players either through free agency or injuries. None of the players lost were of All Pro caliber in particular but they fit the scheme well. At this point the Colts are using backups and third stringers who quite honestly are not very talented.

Injuries are part of the game
and I have not heard Coach use injuries as an excuse but
clearly once you lose front line starters the defense will struggle. Bill Belichek is a great coach but what helped him during his Super Bowl runs even with injuries is he had quality, VETERAN players and depth to lean on.( ie Bruschi, McGinest, Harrison, Seymour Et al). The Colts never had defensive talent like that in the first place.

What the Colts need to do in the next year or so is concentrate on acquiring talented defensive lineman particularly tackles for the defense. Because as we all know football games are won with the offensive and defensive lines.

77
by doktarr (not verified) :: Sun, 12/31/2006 - 5:37pm

75,

Heh, well, you can't expect everyone to be the Raiders.

I say Rivera is the obvious choice for a few reasons:

1) If your goal is to bring in somebody to revamp the defense but not tinker too much with the offense, you've gotta pick somebody with a pure defensive background.

2) With the rare exception of when a marquee guy (e.g. Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells) is temporarily out of work, I've always been partial to going with a successful coordinator rather than a re-tread or a college guy. My impression is that this usually works out better.

3) Chicago runs a cover-2 system as well, so presumably the Indy personnel is a little better suited to Rivera's approach than it would be to, say, Wade Phillip's approach.