Colts owner Jim Irsay’s statements about the Colts of the past and the new model the team has pursued have drawn the ire of many, including Peyton Manning’s current head coach John Fox and former Colts general manager Bill Polian. The media hype surrounding some relatively mundane quotes has spoiled an otherwise exciting homecoming that will see Peyton Manning, the past, battle Andrew Luck, the future.
"(Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these (championship rings)," Irsay told USA Today. "Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two and we had one. That leaves you frustrated.
"You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this (referring to his Super Bowl ring)."
Irsay isn’t completely off base in trying to rebuild the Colts in a more stable way. During the Peyton Manning era, the Colts sported possibly the most explosive offense in the NFL, but the Colts consistently lacked the ability to play any form of shutdown defense. In fact, the lone championship the Colts won with Manning at the helm came when the Colts’ defense stepped up in the playoffs, playing great defense and allowing the Colts’ offense to take care of opponents without worrying about scoring massive amounts of points.
Now the Colts have a new model centered on a balanced offense with solid defensive play, and that’s great, but it also doesn’t guarantee championships.
In the NFL, teams must be able to score huge sums of points, especially in the postseason, to even get to the Super Bowl. Running a balanced offense is great, but with an elite quarterback taking snaps, there’s no reason to actually run such an offense. Sure, the Ravens won the Super Bowl by running a balanced offense, but Joe Flacco was lights out in the playoffs last year.
The one point the Colts may have nailed is providing an offense for Andrew Luck to work with. Peyton Manning rarely had support from the other side of the ball in his time with the Colts. At that point, Indianapolis’ defense was more about maintaining the lead Manning provided, not winning games by itself as the Colts’ current defense is able to do.
Elite quarterbacks win despite, or sometimes in spite, of the players around them on offense. Tom Brady has three rings and five championship appearances because the Patriots could play defense, not because Brady balanced the Patriots’ offense. This season, for instance, the Patriots are still a contender simply because Brady is willing his team to win on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense is limiting opponents enough to get the job done.
If anything, the Colts’ new offensive approach will stymie Andrew Luck’s development as an elite quarterback. The Colts should be running a pass heavy offense that uses the run to keep the defense honest. With the right quarterback, running the ball becomes less of a necessity, and if the critics are right, the Colts have the right quarterback.
Jim Irsay seems exceptionally adept at putting the right people in the right places to make a positive impact on the Colts’ organization, but slamming the regime that netted his team two Super Bowl appearances and one championship isn’t exactly the classy course of action. The Colts once again have a group of young players that may be able to take the team back to the promise land, and should they win a Super Bowl, that’s a great achievement for the current regime, but it takes away nothing from the Colts of the past. All models have flaws, and the Colts’ current model is no different.