Colts Close Out Season With a "Great" Win vs. Jaguars
"What a great win. What a great start to 2017. First win of 2017. Couldn't be more proud of this football team."
These were the words of Chuck Pagano after a 24-20 season-finale win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It was a great win, no doubt about that. Trailing 17-3 at halftime, the Indianapolis Colts, like they've done so often, fought their way back. With only nine seconds reaming and down by three points, Andrew Luck found Jack Doyle in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. It would be hard to find a better way to start the new year. The first win of 2017 marked the last win for Robert Mathis, who played in his final game on Sunday. It was a fitting way to send out the career Colt, who terrified any quarterback who came to line up against him during his 13 years in the NFL. It was a great ending to the regular season.
Context is very important. Sunday's win against Jacksonville was the final game for the Colts this season. For the second consecutive year, the team will miss the playoffs, something they have not done since 1997 and 1998. Pride was all that was left to play for. It would be hard to tell, though. From the post-game locker room celebrations to the head coach of a 8-8 team proclaiming a tremendous start to 2017, one would be confused to find out that this is the same team that will be watching the playoffs from home once again. This does not look or sound like a team that has regressed from last season, despite having their franchise quarterback healthy and playing the best he ever has.
This is the current reality of the Colts. A world where words have no meaning and actions come without consequence. What was once perceived to be as resiliency and grit, may have merely been general unpreparedness covered up by a generational talent behind center. Even I was fooled.
The broken record played all season long. Countless times we were told that the defense needed to do a better job at tackling, while the offensive line needed to keep Luck on his feet. The receivers had to stop dropping so many balls, and there needed to be a way to limit big plays against. Even Luck had to make better decisions with the football. The "things to work on" list continued to grow, and while everyone was well aware of the problems, no one really seemed to work on them. Talk is cheap.
Change seems inevitable at this point. Come Monday morning, the Colts may look a lot different than they do at the present moment. Whether it is a new head coach, a new general manager, or both, the winds of change are roaring loudly. Speculation of Peyton Manning, the man who built Lucas Oil Stadium, joining the front office in a football operations-type role has brought excitement to fans who have had little to cheer for over the past two seasons.
For now, however, Pagano remains the head coach of the Colts, and Ryan Grigson remains the general manager. All signs pointed to a change last season, which instead turned out to be the complete opposite of what actually happened. The coach and the GM remained, and the team regressed following a season where they lost their starting quarterback to a lacerated kidney, among other injuries.
There is plenty for owner Jim Irsay to ponder as his team's season comes to an end after a "great" win. His expectations for his team have always been clear. Winning, which the Colts have been used to doing over the past 20 years, is the only things that matters. Clearly, Sunday's win is not what he means by winning, however. As unpredictable as the man has been in the past, his next decision seems almost set in stone. The era of unaccountability may have finally come to its merciful end.
Jeff Tibbins covers the Indianapolis Colts for Pro Football Spot. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jeff_tibbins.
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