The End of the Colts as We Know Them

By Drew Magary
|  Friday, Feb 24, 2012  |  Updated 11:14 AM PDT
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Quarterback Peyton Manning throws against the Dallas Cowboys during a preseason game at Texas Stadium on August 9, 2007.

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The Indianapolis Colts are not the sort of team to go and panic when things are breaking down, so let’s go ahead and do it for them right now. GAHHHHHHHH THE COLTS ARE FINISHED!

It’s been a lousy stretch for these Colts, who now find themselves a game behind the Jaguars(!) for first place in the AFC South. They’ve lost four of the past five games, and in that stretch Peyton Manning has thrown 13 interceptions. In the past two games alone, Manning has had a whopping FOUR picks housed for TD’s, which practically qualifies him to play quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.

Now, the easy thing to do here is chalk up the Colts’ recent woes to a rash of injuries. They’ve been without Austin Collie, Joe Addai, and Dallas Clark for weeks now. I’ve seen analyst after analyst bend over backwards to justify Peyton Manning’s recent play, blaming his line and his skill position players instead of the man in charge. But Deion Sanders put it best last night when he noted that, “Peyton has two very good healthy wideouts in Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. He has more than enough weapons. He just isn’t getting it done.”

And it’s true. You can only use injuries as an excuse for so long. Every NFL team has them, but the best teams right now (like Pittsburgh) still manage to overcome them. The Colts haven’t. They can’t run the ball. They can’t stop the run. If you block their pass rush, they can’t cover. Their line is porous. And now Manning is turning the ball over. It’s not just an aberration when it’s happening game after game after game. This team really has been as average as it has looked. The question is, are they gonna stay that way?

The Colts can still easily win the mediocre South, given that two of their final four games come against a Titans team that appears to be mailing it in. They get Jacksonville at home in two weeks, and that game will essentially decide the division title. But even if they do make the playoffs, I don’t see any way that this group can beat the likes of the Jets, Steelers, Ravens, or Patriots. They’re lacking in too many areas. They’re too worn out from last year’s deep playoff run. And I wonder if this will be the Colts team you get for many years to come, with Peyton constantly trying to win games by himself and making huge mistakes as a result.

We’re now a year removed from the Tony Dungy Era in Indianapolis, and every year we get farther away from the Dungy Era, the more we learn about Jim Caldwell’s effectiveness as a leader. He went 14-2 last year, but you can pretty much chalk that up to the Seifert Effect. As this team has struggled in recent weeks, they don’t seem to be doing much to try and change what’s wrong. It’s still just, “Let Peyton Outscore The Other Guy.” They seem lacking ingenuity, and that may be something they’re on the verge of losing permanently.

Peyton Manning could play until he’s 50 years old and still pull out big games for the Colts now and then. But this team is beginning to suffer mightily from being a one-man show, particularly when that one man is playing poorly. And if the Colts don’t do something about their many problem areas, they may remain like this for the next half century.

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