The Colts made a bit of a surprising move on Tuesday, firing head coach Jim Caldwell after three seasons. Was this move more about the past (Indy went 2-14 in 2011) or the future (big decisions looming on Peyton Manning and the No. 1 pick)? And where do the Colts go from here?
The beginning of a new era in Indy ... without Peyton?To me it's another signal that the team is going younger and rebuilding, at least in the short term. The franchise is ushering in a new era, building around the first overall pick and young general manager Ryan Grigson.
Blowing out this staff will be read by a lot of people as another indication that more change is in the air; yes, the Manning era could be next to end. Are we to expect that, despite all of Manning's health problems, the Colts plan to pony up $36 million for another season with the iconic quarterback at the helm, just to sit Andrew Luck and stunt the progress of what's clearly an organization in transition (new coaches, new GM)? Yeah, that just doesn't add up to me.
Mornhinweg could be Indy's next head coachNo surprise. A new GM wants his own guy. And I would guess that guy would probably be Marty Mornhinweg, the Eagles offensive coordinator who failed miserably in his first head-coaching stint with Detroit, but certainly has grown. The new coach could work with Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, with the emphasis on Luck, since Caldwell's firing is probably just the start of the house cleaning.
Farewell, Peyton -- this is Andrew Luck's teamThis move is about the future, and I mean the next-year future. They're drafting Andrew Luck. Jim Caldwell has shown he has no talent for developing QBs. He stuck with a terrible Curtis Painter far too long, while Dan Orlovsky toiled away on the bench. When he finally turned to Orlovsky, it was clear he should've been the guy all along. That was what killed Caldwell in Indy.
You're going to need a new regime for the Andrew Luck era, which I maintain will begin next season with Peyton Manning somewhere else. (Look, Eli's a smart guy -- he's not waxing in detail about his brother coming to New York unless it's a possibility. Eli talks to the media all the time and knows what power his words have.) Peyton coming back to Indy would be like when Luke went back home to see his aunt and uncle in Star Wars ... only to find them burned up. He knew then he had to leave, as there was nothing there for him anymore. Farewell, Tatooine and the old Colts! Reggie Wayne could be a goner, Dallas Clark is hurt, they're in salary-cap hell thanks to bad signings, and they've drafted poorly. That about sum it up? This isn't a Colts team on the verge of contending again. Indy hit its peak with this core group in 2008 and have steadily declined since. They're starting over.
The guy I go out and get is Rob Chudzinski. He turned Derek Anderson into a Pro Bowler in Cleveland and helped make Cam Newton into a superstar in his rookie season. There's no one with a better resume that's available for Indianapolis. I go get him now before someone else snaps him up. I believe you have to keep getting your franchise QB help in the draft with weapons, but you have to also get him the coaching help to succeed as well.
Caldwell fired for a myriad of reasonsYou can't definitively say this decision was based on one or the other. This is much like diagnosing an injury -- e.g., sometimes a hamstring problem is actually caused by an issue with the hips or back. Many seemingly different events in life are in bed together, with Caldwell's firing being no different. The won-loss record, roster changes, coaching style ... all of it is woven into the fabric of where the Colts have been (last place) and where Jim Irsay wants them to be (Super Bowl champs). To single out one reason is to ignore another.
Let's remember that Caldwell's hiring was all about continuity. He was the guy who would continue the Dungy way and keep the Colts train on the tracks, so to speak. With personnel decisions to be made on Peyton Manning, Robert Mathis, Jeff Saturday and Reggie Wayne, and a general roster overhaul looming, it's safe to say this won't be the same Colts train. Therein lies the "future" angle of this decision.
"The past" comes into play in that Caldwell led a one-and-done playoff team last year, and was never considered to be a genius on either side of the ball. As a head coach, he couldn't have one player going down to injury be an excuse for a 2-14 campaign. Look no further than the Packers winning it all last year with 15 guys on IR. Or even this season's Chiefs, who managed a 7-9 record despite having several of their best players go down with season-ending injuries.
New GM Grigson probably already has a coach in mindThe termination of Jim Caldwell is more about the future than the past. New GM Ryan Grigson has to use this honeymoon period to build his program. The Caldwell decision could also play a big factor in whether or not the Colts will keep Peyton Manning. I don't believe the Colts would release Caldwell without knowing their options. I think we'll see a head coach signed within a few days. It should be a guy Grigson already knows and he better have the ability to coach a rookie QB.