Blog Entry

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:37 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:19 pm
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Can the Colts draw inspriation from what other team's have done with young QBs? (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Colts and Peyton Manning are done. Which means that the Andrew Luck era began unofficially Wednesday afternoon (assuming, of course, Robert Griffin III doesn't surge to the top of Indy's draft board in the coming weeks). The knee-jerk reaction is to think that a post-Manning Indianapolis will look like something out of "The Book of Eli" -- an apocalyptic NFL wasteland with no hope of salvation anytime soon. Except that there are recent examples from around the league that should give the Colts and their fans hope. (We talked about it in the most recent Pick-6 Podcast, embedded below for your convenience.)


At its most basic, success with a young quarterback comes down to some combination of: a) a good defense, b) a strong special teams, c) a reliable running game, and, oh, it doesn't hurt if said young quarterback is d) mature -- both mentally and physically -- beyond his years.

As it stands, the Colts, should they draft Luck, will have d). It's up to owner Jim Irsay, new GM Ryan Grigson, and new head coach Chuck Pagano to take care of a)-c).  It's a tall order, for sure, but not impossible. Here are five examples that should give the Colts and Luck hope in 2012:

1. Baltimore Ravens

Pagano comes to Indy after serving as the Ravens' defensive coordinator last season. So he knows first-hand just how important a good defense can be for a young quarterback -- particularly one whose offensive coordinator doesn't seem to understand the downfalls of airing it out 50 times a game when the team's best player sits on the bench.

Luckily, Pagano hired Bruce Arians as his coordinator. Arians was Peyton Manning's first quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis, and he spent the last five seasons as Ben Roethlisberger's OC in Pittsburgh. He knows something about bringing along a young, talented quarterback.

Manning era ends in Indy
"[Arians] understands how to develop quarterbacks, especially young quarterbacks," Pagano told CBSSports.com in Indianapolis during Super Bowl week. "Bruce and I go back a long time. His philosophy matches our philosophy, and the pieces we're going to put around him [match] his passion and energy. He's a brilliant guy, he thinks outside the box so I feel really fortunate that Bruce is with us." 

The first order of business, however, is getting the defense in order. The Colts re-signed Robert Mathis, but appear set to cut Dwight Freeney loose for salary-cap reasons. Pagano will install a 3-4 defense which will replace the soft Cover-2 the team had been running for years. Even a mediocre defense to go along with something resembling a running game would go a long way in making Luck's rookie season manageable.

The last time the Colts started a rookie quarterback was in 1998 after they drafted Manning first overall. The year before, Indy ranked 23rd in total efficiency, according to Football Outsiders' metrics. The offense was 24th, the defense 25th and special teams 25th. In 2011, without Manning, the Colts were similarly awful: 31st overall, 27th in offense, 27th in defense, and 31st in special teams.

Of course, Manning was 3-13 as a rookie but his defense didn't do him any favors: they ranked 28th in '98. If Pagano can cobble together a defense and couple that with a decent running game, Luck's transition to NFL quarterback could go much smoother than conventional wisdom currently suggests.

2. Atlanta Falcons

In 2007, Michael Vick was in a heap of trouble and out of football, first-year Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino quit after 13 games to take the Arkansas job, and the starting quarterbacks that season included Joey Harrington, Chris Redman and Byron Leftwich. It's a miracle they managed four wins.

In 2008, owner Arthur Blank hired Mike Smith and the team drafted Matt Ryan. They won 11 games, and Ryan threw for 3,440 yards (61 percent completion rate), 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

In the Falcons' case, the one-year turnaround wasn't because the defense drastically improved. The unit was 28th in '07 and 25th in '08 -- instead it was the … passing game, which was fourth behind the Chargers, Colts and Saints. Part of that was because then-Falcons OC Mike Mularkey put Ryan in positions to succeed. But it was also a function of Ryan exceeding everyone's expectations.

We talked to him in January 2009, shortly after his rookie season ended, and asked if the Falcons had eased him into the playbook.

"To my knowledge, we had the full offense in," he said. "… From the start, we had a bunch of different things in, and I had a good amount of responsibility at the line of scrimmage to do some different things. I think as the season went on, we found what we were as an offense. Because there were a bunch of new people working together and trying to find the rhythm of our offense."

While a stout defense and a reliable running game are a young QB's friends, ultimately, it comes down to assimilating a ton of information and making plays you're asked to make.

3. San Francisco 49ers

If there's a blueprint from which Pagano should work, it might be the 49ers. By the 2010 offseason, Alex Smith was roundly considered a bust. The 2005 first-overall pick had, at various points in his career, shared snaps with Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill and Troy Smith, and San Francisco had never won more than eight games in Smith's six seasons heading into 2011. Then Jim Harbaugh replaced Mike Singletary as head coach and everything changed.

But it wasn't that Smith suddenly morphed into a franchise quarterback (it was the best season of his career but he was more game manager than late-game winner). The offense improved to 18th in 2011 from 24th the season before, but it was the defense and special teams that were the difference. The latter improved from 13th to third, and the latter went from 22nd to 2nd.

4. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals dumped chatty veterans (Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco) and were forced to find a new quarterback when Carson Palmer chose retirement over returning to Cincy. So the team took the draft's best wide receiver in Round 1 (A.J. Green), and landed their next franchise quarterback a round later (Andy Dalton).

Dalton was considered a heady player in college and that distinction followed him in the weeks and months leading up to the draft. Turns out, it was true. Like Ryan in Atlanta, Dalton not only knew where to go with the ball, he was accurate and timely with his throws. It's one thing to understand what the defense is trying to do; it's something else entirely for a rookie to actually do it with a blitzing linebacker in his face.

5. Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton wasn't the beneficiary of a good (or even slightly below average) defense and the Panthers, 2-14 the year before he arrived, still won six games. (They lost five games by seven points or less.) His success surprised everybody, even folks whose job it was to breakdown film for a living. Here's NFL Films' Greg Cosell in December 2011:

"What was remarkable about Newton was he demonstrated many of these traits of an NFL passer right away.  Beginning in Week 1 against Arizona, he read coverage, he knew where to go with the football, he was decisive and accurate. The next week he played the Super Bowl champion Packers and was truly impressive, showing NFL attributes beginning with poise and composure in the pocket. More importantly, he did not leave the pocket to run when the bodies started closing it down. He stood tall and delivered the ball in the face of pressure. He showed the willingness to make stick throws into tight windows, a necessary trait in critical long yardage situations against sophisticated NFL coverages."

And Newton came from a run-option offense at Auburn. Luck was in a pro-style offense at Stanford, and although he's plenty athletic, he was a pocket passer.

***

None of this means that the Colts are destined for the playoffs next year. But given how other teams have managed their young quarterbacks, it's reasonable to think that Luck could have early success in Indy. After all, if the only difference in Indy between annual double-digit wins and the playoffs, and last season's 2-14 record is Manning, then why can't the Colts win seven, eight or nine games with Luck in 2012?

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Comments

Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: March 11, 2012 7:08 am
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

Let's see how Collie does without Manning and now no Clark, Garcon, Wayne or Addai to open up the field.  And I bet Donald Brown is going to transform the running game...right.  What does being a white guy have to do with anything?  I don't believe Collie is a #2 or better NFL receiver. Last year isn't exactly fair with no quarterback but 500 yards and 1 TD isn't #1 or #2 caliber. I do think you're right that he will likely start for the Colts now because they are going to have zilch for a receiving core and will be an overall terrible team. Why would a FA want to come here if it's not solely for money now--and they won't wiith other competing offers.  There is zero value proposition in Indy now and if Luck doesn't become the second coming of Manning--there won't be. Let's see, if I'm mid career and I have choices do I want to come to a team with the following:

1) 1/2 of a returning offensive line
2) No receiving core
3) No TEs
4) No RB
5) No LB core
6) Few DBs or Ss
7) Minimal LB core
8) 1 DE (Freeney likely gone)
9) Potentially angry fans


While some of the moves today were actually necessary with injury prone players, if we think we're going to be competitive ala Grigson's Philly dream team approach in FA (I'm guessing that's his plan unless we're going to start about 11 rookies or practice squad quality players). Aren't Diem and Saturday likely to be gone now too? Some of this had to be done sometime but all at once? Are we really going to get a cheaper upgrade at TE and RB than Addai and Clark? If Luck craps out, this is a bad team for a very long time and we'll return to the old days where we'll think a few offseason moves like adding Eric Dickerson will turn the corner.

Could be a brilliant move by Irsay to get the city to pay for stadium while the team returns to futility so he can go to LA where he really wants to be anyway.





 



Since: Jan 23, 2007
Posted on: March 10, 2012 8:12 pm
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

@Demunn- Collie was highly prepared, turning heads, and ready to contribute from his first day in Colts training camp. He was the most precise route-runner in the draft, and set many school records at BYU. Manning didn't 'make' him, he was ready to play from day one. You don't know what you're talking about. Check out Collie's stats his rookie year and learn something.
The fact is he should never have been a fourth-round pick, he was much better than that, and had the best production of rookie WR in the NFL that year. Just another case of Polian finding another steal in the draft. He won AFC rookie of the week honors several times. Even Manning couldn't have done that overnight.
Manning has bought Collie's plane ticket for him to come work out with him all this offseason in NC and LA, that's how good he is.
The only reason Collie plays the slot was that he had two first-round picks and Garcon, who runs a sub 4.5 40, ahead of him on the depth chart.
He doesn't compare to White who will never be anything but a back-up, and all Colts fans know that and don't mention them in the same breath. Oh, except I guess they're both white guys so they must not be good athletes or something, right?
Collie is a fine reciever, and will be starting for years no matter who he plays for, as long as the concussions don't keep occuring.



Since: Jan 17, 2012
Posted on: March 10, 2012 4:21 pm
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12


None of this means that the Colts are destined for the playoffs next year. But given how other teams have managed their young quarterbacks, it's reasonable to think that Luck could have early success in Indy. After all, if the only difference in Indy between annual double-digit wins and the playoffs, and last season's 2-14 record is Manning, then why can't the Colts win seven, eight or nine games with Luck in 2012? 

Do you know why they aren't even going to win 5 games, let alone 7,8,or 9?

They just got rid of all the weapons Luck was supposed to have, Reggie's going to go wherever Peyton goes, Garcon is going to be snached up by a different team, and He is going to have no offensive line. He's going to get murdered on the field. I actually feel badly for Luck.

I would rather have RGIII, if I were the C olts. then again, they only go for name brands.

The question underlined does not deserve to even be asked. Ridiculous. 



Since: May 24, 2010
Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:22 pm
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

Whoever thinks Andrew Luck is going to be a savior for Indy is highly mistaken.
HOMERCLUB...

I agree with most of what you said besides this comment!  I do think he can be a savior but only eventually and only if many other pieces are in place as you alluded too.  I think that Peyton Manning not playing in 2011 showed us how truly valuable he was because to took essentially the same cast of characters and lead them to the playoffs year after year.  This is not to slight other QB's but imagine if Drew Brees went down for the year or Aaron Rodgers couldn't play and Matt Flynn had to step in, is there any way those teams would be as bad as the 2011 Colts were?  Okay, just having a little fun with the Matt Flynn comment but you get the point!  That also should show us that there is no way in h*** that Andrew Luck can come in next year and lead that team of players to anything more than a few wins.  I like your plan, trading that #1 pick for as many picks in order to fix all the holes but I had an even crazier idea.  Since they likely wouldn't win a title with Manning at the helm in 2012 with the same players from 2011 then why not find a way to work it out where the bonus was restructured with the understanding that they would move Manning as well.  I know Colts fans wouldn't want another year like 2011 but what if you even could get a 2nd and 3rd for Manning and then a lot of picks from Washington for them to move up to #1?  If they did this and had a "bite the bullet" mentality for a couple years then all those picks they would gather in trades may payoffs in a few years and they could have another nice 12 year run once they drafted a franchise guy in say 2014.  Obviously it is hard to advocate this to the fans but you just have to say, hey we are going young and going to get picks and let the young guys develop.  Sounds easy in theory and guys are always hit or miss in the draft but heck, sign and trade Dwight Freeney and next year if you get the #1 pick again then drop down and pick up more picks then too.  A few years of this and come 2016 they may be ready for that next 12 years of success run, crazy idea huh?  Of course in real life it may not work that way but this year trade down with Washington, pick up their #6 pick, their second and a 2nd next year at least, then deal the #6 pick and drop down and keep piling up picks because out of the 22 guys they start, only about 6 were worth a d***.



Since: Dec 9, 2006
Posted on: March 8, 2012 10:58 am
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

Whoever thinks Andrew Luck is going to be a savior for Indy is highly mistaken.
The Colts are gonna be an aweful team for many years to come. Lets start out with they have no receivers.
The running games is probably one of the worst in football and well that defense of there's is pretty bad.

They should have kept Manning maybe tried to work something out with him. Traded the number 1 pick for a handfull of picks.
They could have built a team and then in the next couple of years landed another quarterback.
I understand the importance of a QB but there is still 21 other guys on the field and when the rest is mediocre at best.
That will result in a bad team!!!! Just sayin.... 



Since: Oct 11, 2006
Posted on: March 8, 2012 1:41 am
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

I don't see any of those combos equalling Wayne and Garcon (although I think Garcon is highly overrated and drops way too many catchable balls).
i dont know, i think Meachem is underrated and if they sign Meachem somehow and then somehow drafting Alshon Jeffery and (if i am right) they still have Collie and then maybe sign a lesser free agent or use another pick on a WR, then they are set, i think Meachem is better than Garcon, though your right, he's no Wayne, with that said, i am not talking it out of the question either that Garcon stays, Indy could lure him back with a ton of money and remember i am just throwing out guesses, there are more WRs than Meachem and Colston, though (like i said) i dont see many big ones being Colts. i see the Bears getting a go to WR, the Redskins getting one or two, the Dolphins and maybe Arizona too.
Even then, what about a 3 or 4 receiver? Manning basically made White and Collie into NFL receivers.
well, Collie is still a good 3rd WR in my book, with or without Manning and if Luck is as good as people have said, then he will be fine with that kind of group, plus they could still also have Dallas Clark.
Again, anything better than 0-16 is probably better than I expect. 

true, though i dont see them being that bad, my prediction (if Luck's healthy and doesnt suffer a major injury) is that they likely go 7 and 9, remember it's a weak division, the Jaguars are bad, we dont know what will happen with the Titans and the Texans are the team to beat.



Since: Dec 8, 2011
Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:21 am
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

Seriously, 1 year of 17 touchdowns and some wins against a soft schedule and all of a sudden Alex Smith isn't a bust?  Even a bad quarterback can have 1 decent season.  (See: Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel)  I assume that since they won the division and will face stiffer competition, the real Alex Smith shows up this year.

Since when is going 6-10 considered a solid year?  Panthers on the list here was a real reach.



Since: Jan 7, 2007
Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:08 pm
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

in 1998 after they drafted Manning second overall
He was drafted 1st overall.



Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:56 pm
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

I don't see any of those combos equalling Wayne and Garcon (although I think Garcon is highly overrated and drops way too many catchable balls).  Even then, what about a 3 or 4 receiver? Manning basically made White and Collie into NFL receivers. Again, anything better than 0-16 is probably better than I expect. 



Since: Oct 11, 2006
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:45 pm
 

Luck, Colts could be better than we think in '12

Who exactly will be catching the ball with Wayne and Garcon gone?
it's free agency, there are others besides Wayne and Garcon, there's also the draft. what if, they sign Colston (doubt it) or Meachem (could be signed)???? What if they sign Jerome Simpson and/or Early Doucet??? i'm not one to say things like who will catch until free agency ends because of this reason. with that said, i do see them getting a WR in free agency and maybe even with their 2nd round pick, like Alshon Jeffery.


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