Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Lockout leaders: Colts stand to gain
By Paul Kuharsky
If there is a lockout -- when there is a lockout -- players are going to turn into coaches.
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has already talked about organizing Bucs workouts at Tampa high schools.
It’s a situation that will help the rich get richer. If you are a good team with quality leadership, you’ll be better organized and get more done and be more ready when games roll around. If you are not a good team and lack leadership, you’ll suffer and have trouble catching up, maybe even lose ground.
The sort of worst-to-first jumps we’ve grown accustomed to will be far more difficult to pull off if there are no OTAs and a shortened training camp, I believe.
So here is a look at how our four teams stand if they are reliant on player-leaders.
The Colts are in a good position with a team leader like Peyton Manning.
The venues will change, but Peyton Manning is the most coach-like player in the league. Indianapolis’ offense will have well-organized work. I suspect it won’t differ much from what the Colts would do regularly, outside of the missing coaches and changed venue. I envision Gary Bracket taking the lead on the other side of the ball.
Those two should have precise plans and suggestions in hand from Jim Caldwell, Clyde Christensen and Larry Coyer. It could be about as close to business as usual as any team pulls off.
Offensively, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are steady offseason guys who should be able to rally the troops for work. The system is the same and Gary Kubiak can easily hand down instructions before things shut down.
Defensively, things will be different. The system is changing to Wade Phillips’ 3-4, and none of the defenders will know the coordinator well yet. DeMeco Ryans is coming off a serious Achilles injury, so while he may be an organizer, he won’t be a participant. Who is there to mentor the young corners?
The systems will stay in place, but Mel Tucker is taking over the defensive play calling from head coach Jack Del Rio. Aaron Kampman would be the top veteran leader on defense, but he’s rehabilitating a knee injury. Daryl Smith may be the best player, but does he have the personality to take charge? There is no clear point person on D.
David Garrard needs to show he can handle a situation like this. Coordinator Dirk Koetter can spell out a plan, but seeing will be believing when it comes to Garrard’s ability to follow through on it. Maurice Jones-Drew will certainly do what he can to chip in, but he may not be ready to do anything full speed after knee surgery.
This is an awful scenario for the Titans. The quarterback is the obvious guy to lead the offense in such a time, and Tennessee doesn’t have one. (No offense, Rusty Smith, but you're not qualified to handle this yet.) Mike Munchak and his staff want to change things, but players organizing workouts together won’t ever have been through a practice run by this staff.
Who’s an offensive point person for new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, who’s only got a couple weeks to get to know anyone? Ahmard Hall’s a candidate, but a fullback who’s not on the field full time only carries so much weight no matter how good of a leader he is. And he's not under contract for 2011.
The defense lacked leadership, and a guy like Jason Babin isn’t under contract. Again, who’s the point man for new coordinator Jerry Gray? Maybe Will Witherspoon?