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A Post-Season Magnficent Seven: A lot of non-change for Indianapolis Colts (1)

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INDIANAPOLIS – Had to skip the weekly Coffee with the Colts' wrap-up this week, not because the Indianapolis Colts' season ended with a loss to the New York Jets Saturday, but for a far simpler reason.

Like the Colts Saturday, we simply ran out of time.

So, with yet another apology for irregular posting on Indy Football Report, we'll move on with a Magnificent Seven that does more looking ahead than looking back, and we'll do so with a vow to continue trying to get right this whole posting-on-a-timely manner thing . . .

7)Put the pitchforks and torches away. That's the best advice to all those fans desperately wanting someone – and someone high-profile – to lose their job(s) this week in the wake of the Colts' 17-16 loss to the New York Jets in an AFC Wild Card playoff game Saturday night. And the advice could have been offered well before Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay threw public support behind Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell this week. It's fine and understandable for fans to clamor for Caldwell to lose his job in the wake of the loss. Fans are supposed to be angry following playoff losses, and the media is supposed to speculate on the future of head coaches. In that same vein, it's fine for fans and the blogosphere to criticize Colts President Bill Polian and anyone else they can think of. The loss to the Jets was painful, as is any post-season defeat, but to think the Colts are actually going to make changes is to lose sight of Indianapolis' success this season. Irsay was right when he said a lot of teams would have raised the white flag and finished 6-10 with the same injury problems the Colts played through this season. Winning an AFC South title was an accomplishment, as was piecing together a four-game late-season winning streak. The Colts had lost three consecutive games in early December, then refocused, reemphasized the run and the run defense, and won their way into the post-season. That's not something that happens to a poorly-coached team.

6)Like it or not . . . Injuries played a role with this team this season. It is the nature of sports fans that seasons such as the ones the Colts just endured are judged and remembered using the phrase, “Yeah, but . . .” The Colts this season placed 18 players on injured reserve, and were without key players such as Joseph Addai, Clint Session, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt, Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers, Gary Brackett, Antonio Johnson, Jacob Lacey and Dan Muir for extended stretches. That's a huge loss of weaponry, to which fans and media often respond, “Yeah, but . . .” What about Peyton Manning? What about Dwight Freeney? What about Robert Mathis? Those players and other has remarkable seasons. That, and the Colts continuing to play hard and stay focused, was enough to win the AFC South, but enough for a deep playoff run? That would have been too much to realistically expect. Like it or not.

5)As for Bill Polian . . . Polian, like Caldwell, has come under criticism since the end of the post-season, largely for what many in the blogosphere and even in the media have painted as poor drafts in recent seasons. The Colts' recent drafts, it is said, do not live up to the drafts early this decade that produced Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Dallas Clark. A couple of thoughts. It is true that recent drafts haven't produced players of that level. It is also true that those drafts are part of what make Polian a potential Hall of Famer, and that few executives ever have put together a run of selections like that. It is also true that the Colts since selecting Freeney have not selected in the Top 20, and therefore have been maintaining their status as one of the NFL's best teams while drafting at a spot in the draft where the system dictates they shouldn't draft as well as earlier-selecting teams. It's also true that while 2007 second-round selection Tony Ugoh is no longer on the roster, and 2009 first-round selection Donald Brown has yet to emerge as a Pro Bowl-caliber player, the rest of the 2009 draft could be Polian's best draft with the team beyond the first round. Defensive tackle Fili Moala, Powers, Collie and punter Pat McAfee all were selected in that draft – players that have made huge contributions in two seasons. This is not to say Polian hasn't made draft errors in recent seasons, but what general manager in the NFL hasn't? To think that Irsay needs to make a change there is knee-jerk and short-sighted – and, as is the case with Caldwell, it's something that won't happen.

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