Bill Simmons and his minions at The Ringer, AKA Grantland 2.0, are notorious for being an acquired taste, but there’s no denying they come up with some intriguing stuff. Case in point – today, when staff writer Danny Kelly grilled up his "Which Teams Won (and Lost) the NFL Offseason?"
Danny’s a great writer and the whole piece is well worth your time – The Ringer helpfully estimates it will only take 8 minutes to read! – but here’s the most relevant part for the New England Patriots:
The Indianapolis Colts "lost" the offseason.
And this isn’t a list of "offseason winners and losers", Danny Kelly picked one "winner" (it was the Jags, if you care), and one "loser". Meaning that he had 32 choices for a winner, and 32 choices for a loser, and basically decided that the Colts faceplanted worse than anyone else this offseason.
That’s right, the team that started DeflateGate by whining to the NFL about an unfounded ball-pressure rumor and inadvertently creating a year-long (and counting) game of CLUE somehow found a way to screw up the offseason so badly that The Ringer says 31 other teams have had better offseasons than the Indianapolis Colts did.
Where to begin with Indy’s problems? Let’s start with this kick straight to Ryan Grigson’s face:
"Andrew Luck’s long-term extension being the only impressive move for the Colts this offseason feels like a microcosm of Ryan Grigson’s entire tenure as GM in Indianapolis. Drafting Luck remains far and away Grigson’s best decision, and giving Luck $140 million over six years was as obvious of a choice as was drafting the Stanford star no. 1 overall in 2012. Grigson has been consistent in believing in Luck; unfortunately for Colts fans, he’s also been consistent in not giving Luck the support he needs on either side of the ball."
But Andrew Luck is still a pretty good, if not great quite yet, quarterback, so clearly, he’s not the problem. What is the problem?
According to Danny Kelly’s eye-test, pretty much everyone else.
Starting with management and coaching!
"Handing out big extensions to Grigson and Pagano feels a little like having a kid to try to save a relationship that’s clearly broken."
The draft isn’t going great either!
"The draft is the lifeblood of every NFL roster, helping teams build depth at every position, amass future stars, and do so on cheap rookie contracts. The lackluster drafting from 2012 to 2014 has caught up with the Colts: They needed upgrades to their pass rush, to their secondary, and at running back, and absolutely needed to address some of those holes via free agency after failing to do so in Chicago."
Geez, it’s almost like Kelly is unleashing burn after glorious, merciless burn without even asking the Colts if they want some ice for that burn.
There’s also the minor issue of some of Indy’s most productive dudes leaving:
"It’s not as if the Colts lacked holes to plug. They lost tight end Coby Fleener to the Saints while retaining Dwayne Allen on what looks to be a massive overpay, and they lost their best linebacker in Jerrell Freeman (to the Bears), plus fellow LB Jonathan Newsome, center Khaled Holmes, safety Dwight Lowery, and cornerback Greg Toler."
…which means the defense isn’t looking great.
"Over the past four seasons, Indy’s defense has never finished better than 13th in DVOA, and its rush offense has finished 30th, 27th, 11th, and 18th in that metric going back to 2012. Much of that can be attributed to bad drafting. None of Grigson’s defensive draft picks from 2012 to 2014 remains on the roster, and the decision to trade a first-round pick for Trent Richardson in 2013 remains an all-time flop."
The Houston Texans signed Brock Osweiler – BROCK OSWEILER! – to starting-QB money, and apparently even that was a smarter choice than whatever the Colts are doing.
"The Jaguars added a ton of pieces, the Titans look like they could do some fun things in the division, and the reigning division champion Texans remain a real contender even with a huge question mark in quarterback Brock Osweiler. While everyone else in the South makes strides, the Colts seem content to keep taking baby steps — or worse, stepping backward."
If you’re keeping score at home, this is basically exactly what happened to Indy’s conference rivals, the Tennessee Titans, a few years ago. The Titans got rid of Jeff Fisher, good players left town without replacements, and Tennessee’s American-Express-black-card free agency spending blew up in their face when guys like Andy LeVitre, Michael Oher, and Kamerion Wimbley didn’t work out. Things completely hit the fan in Tennessee when they went 2-14 in 2014 and they lucked into a pick good enough to draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, and now they’ve got to put a team around him if they want to actually compete.
In the meantime, where this gets particularly interesting is that New England’s other big AFC rival, the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, have the exact opposite problem. As everyone saw in the Super Bowl can tell you, the Broncos are about as close to a gnarly, terrifyingly complete team as you can get – but either Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch is going to be slinging the rock for Denver this season.
To bring this back to the Indianapolis Colts, though, it seems like Danny Kelly is one of many people that are looking at the team and going "What would you say…you do here?"