The Indianapolis Colts’ 2017 season went on life support back in Week 4 when the team allowed the Seahawks to score 28 unanswered points en route to a 46–18 loss on Sunday Night Football. Indianapolis slid to 1–3 with Andrew Luck’s return nowhere in sight.
The season could have been ruled dead last week, when the then 2–4 Colts announced Luck had a setback in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. He won’t throw for a few more weeks, and then it would likely take nearly another month with no setbacks for him to get on the playing field.
So if the Colts were already dead, what do we call the botched fourth-and-two play from Jacksonville’s six-yard line on Sunday? Perhaps it’s the taking of the gravestone. Coming out of a timeout and as close to the goal line as Indianapolis would get all day, a clearly hobbled Jacoby Brissett quickly called for the snap (with confusion among some of his teammates) and attempted to sneak for the first. He got zero yards and Indianapolis, ultimately the 27–0 home loser, was shut out in a regular season game for the first time since Peyton Manning’s senior year of high school.
At 2–5 and less than halfway through the 2017 season, there is no hope for the Colts—their year is done. Their only wins this season have come against the only two teams worse than them (San Francisco and Cleveland) and it’s likely there will no more victories.
In a merciful act of benevolence, I humbly offer to Colts’ management this roadmap to tanking the rest of the season.
Suffer through these next three games and fire Chuck Pagano
It gives me no joy to tell you to fire a good man, but Pagano should know as well as any that his time is done. Jim Irsay nearly fired him after the 2015 season and probably could have pulled the trigger after last season. Watching Pagano struggle through these press conferences, I hate that he has to endure three more weeks of figuring out creative ways to say there’s still hope.
“We’ve written seven chapters of this book,” Pagano said this week after his team’s seventh game, “and we’ve got nine chapters left.”
I don’t want to read that book.
So the team will limp through road games in Cincinnati and Houston before getting drummed at home by the Steelers, and then you get into your bye week. Pagano should be “relieved of his duties” that Sunday evening and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski should be installed as the interim head coach to write the final six chapters of this book.
Do not play Andrew Luck
This seems like an obvious statement, but in case you’re getting any ideas, I wanted to nip this in the bud now. Under no circumstances whatsoever does Andrew Luck play in 2017. Moving on.
Protect Brissett and let Frank Gore get his
In his second year, Brissett has accounted for six touchdowns and three interceptions in six games started, and things aren’t likely to get much better. With tackle Jack Mewhort is out for the season and center Ryan Kelly bothered by a foot injury all season, offensive line play has been so bad even the quiet T.Y. Hilton had to say something. If there are any in-season investments, make sure it’s along the line so that Brissett isn’t beaten up too badly.
Secondly, run the hell out of the veteran running back. Frank Gore came to Indianapolis to win games, and you aren’t doing any of that anymore. He’s 298 rushing yards away from passing LaDainian Tomlinson for fifth on the all-time list (and a much tougher 714 yards for Curtis Martin’s fourth place), so make sure he gets all the yards he can for his Canton resume.
Play the young guys
This is the most essential part of tanking (after not playing your franchise quarterback)—it’s really the only way to tank in professional sports.
Look, players want to win. They will do whatever it takes to win. No coach or GM will tell a player to not give 100% so that the team gets a better draft pick in the spring. That’s why the coach and GM must take matters into their own hands.
“We want to take a look at some of the younger guys” is what you’ll hear Pagano and/or Chudzinski say soon. “We have invested in these young men and they’ve earned the chance in practice to show it on the field.” If you’ve been a fan of a recently bad team, these are sentences you’ve heard before.
Take the ball out of the hands of guys who, if they catch a wild hair, could win a game, and you put it in the hands of guys who could not. This will ensure you go 2–14 and, depending on what Cleveland and San Francisco do (remember, you somehow hold the tiebreaker on both of them), you get a top-3 pick.
And there’s your roadmap. You play it cool going into April. You have a healthy Luck, a decent-enough Brissett with two years left of his contract and a golden egg of a draft pick. There is no better trade bait in pro sports than a quarterback, and you have two of them with Brissett and the draft pick (forget all about doing anything with Luck except keeping him in Indianapolis).
I would charge a consulting fee for this story, but journalism ethics won’t allow me to be compensated.