Following three successive 11-5 playoff seasons under the guidance of Andrew Luck, hopes for high heading into this campaign for the Colts. Each year had seen the team take one step closer to the Superbowl, wild-card game in 2012, divisional round exit in 2013 and a conference loss in 2014.
Off-season acquisitions such as Andre Johnson and Frank Gore were expected to plug into Indy's offense like the missing pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. This was particularly true of Gore, who was hoped to shore up what had been a weak run game from the 2014 season.
Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out that way. Johnson was a bust from early on, not enjoying the same kind of career rejuvenation that fellow veteran wideout Brandon Marshall went through with the Jets. Gore was productive, but not at the kind of level the Colts would have liked. Both players were passed their prime and their productivity suffered.
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To compound the problem was the injury-ravaged season of Luck, who missed nine games due to injury. Even looking at the numbers from the seven games he did play, it was hardly a vintage year for the quarterback, who threw for 1,881 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 picks. This was partly due to the porous nature of his offensive line, the 118 hits dealt out to Colts quarterbacks was the second highest in the league this season.
Despite the disappointment of this season, head coach Chuck Pagano has not only kept his job but been offered a four-year extension, a decision which has been well received by his players judging by some of the responses on social media.
Given the sheer bad luck with injuries and the unexpectedly bad play of some big-name signings, this seems like a prudent move. Pagano has after all been behind much of the Colts success over the last few years and sacking him off the back of an 8-8 season, within which they finished only one game behind the 9-7 Texans and a playoff berth, would be brash.
There are things that need to change. First and foremost, get Andrew Luck healthy and keep him that way. That means investing in some quality offensive linemen to shore up the gaps and give him the time to find his targets. Injecting some youth at running back would help as well.
Gore's efforts were brave last season but the veteran's star is waning. The season before, the Colts relied heavily on journeyman back Ahmad Bradshaw. This franchise needs to find a long-term solution at running back to offer some consistency to their run game.
Being upset about a season that ended 8-8 and a single game shy of a playoff game speaks volumes of the ambition within this team to challenge for the Super Bowl every season. They just need to strip things back to basics and address their issues in the trenches, protect their franchise QB and trust in Chuck.