12/30/2011 8:45 PM
This season has been an embarrassing one for any die-hard Indianapolis Colts fans like me. Going 13 weeks without a win is something that just didn’t happen to a team driven by star quarterback Peyton Manning, but with Manning out due to a surgery he had during off-season, this season brought a lot of misfortune. For the first time all season, a part of me wants to see the Colts lose this weekend. Sunday they play the Jacksonville Jaguars at 1 p.m., and with no chance at the playoffs, I can’t help but think their main priority should be securing their first draft pick for 2012: Andrew Luck.
Manning is an unbelievable football player who is capable of making anyone else on his field look like great, simply because he gets the ball where it needs to be. But, without a guaranteed recovery, Manning’s career is far from stable and the Colts cannot afford to have another season like this one.
We watched Chris Painter step in early this season and struggled, which is a major understatement, to pull the offense together. They were sloppy and never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Painter eventually got booted and Dan Orlovsky took the field.
Orlovsky lost nine games in a row, but ultimately saved the team from the embarrassment of going 0-16. He led the Colts to two victories last week, one over the Tennessee Titans and the other over the Houston Texans, taking their winless record to 2-13.
Normally, this would be big news, but it seems the Colts are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. The St. Louis Rams have the same record, but because of other stipulations the Colts would still receive the first pick in the event that their records stay tied. A loss by the Colts would automatically guarantee them the first pick in the draft.
For this reason, a lot of people think the Colts should throw the game on Sunday, and while I’m not exactly hoping for a win, I don’t want to see them quit. They’ve worked too hard to find victory this season, not to mention there’s far too much on the lines for the players and staff.
There are a lot of necks on the chopping block right now. Coach Jim Caldwell, team vice chairman Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian are all at risk of losing their jobs at the end of this season.
“Whether you are coaching or playing, it is always the same, and that doesn’t matter if it is in Week 10 and you’re 9-1 or whatever it might be,” Caldwell said. “Nothing is promised to you and there are no guarantees. So I think everybody that has played the game understands that, particularly at this level, and everybody that has coached it, we all coach on one-year contracts for (our) entire career.”
In addition to the staff, there are more than a dozen players set to become restricted or unrestricted free agents, including former Pro Bowlers Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Jeff Saturday. These are not guys the team can afford to lose, and it doesn’t sound like they think Caldwell should be penalized or to blame for their less-than-satisfactory season.
“I think Coach Caldwell has done a very good job this season. He has gotten the most out of his players,” Saturday said. “There have just been times that we haven’t played well, so from that standpoint that will be up to Mr. Irsay [team owner] and whatever he decides to do. But I think Coach Caldwell did a good job, and you’ve just got to keep battling and playing. You just go in, play as hard as you can and hope you get a win.”
Orlovsky also has an expiring contract with Indy, so obviously he’s not planning on risking his future in football to snag the runner-up for this year’s Heisman trophy. That would no doubt put him out of a job.
“Every week is an audition in this league,” Orlovsky said Thursday, one day after the birth of his triplet sons. “There are 32 teams that watch, so it’s important to have a good body of work and Sunday’s game is the last piece of that body of work for this season.”
The Colts will have to make a lot of big decisions over the next few weeks. Who will be staying? Who’s getting booted? Will they choose to pay four-time league MVP Peyton Manning a $28 million bonus, work out a new deal or cut him loose as a free agent? But, the determining factor of many of those decisions will come with the final score of Sunday’s game. One thing is for sure. They won’t be throwing Sunday’s game. Even if it costs them their “Luck” next season, these players are battling it out until the very end.
“Honestly, I think you’re fighting for your job every single week in this league and it should be that way,” Orlovsky said. “It’s a very privileged job. But you can’t think about it that way. You just have to go out and prepare for each game and do the best you can.”
Sources: Washington Post
Photo Source: Wikipedia, Wikipedia