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Monday, November 14, 2011
Forget steady, Colts need creative

By Paul Kuharsky

No matter how bad things go for an NFL team, radical change is rare.

We’re seeing it in Denver, where John Fox and his staff are doing what they can to shape an offense to fit Tim Tebow. It’s not so easily done elsewhere, because not everyone had a square peg to try to make fit.

Jim Caldwell
Colts coach Jim Caldwell hasn't strayed too far from the beaten path this season.
Still, look at a horrible team like the 0-10 Colts, who now have a two-game lead in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, and you have to wonder: What’s the benefit of staying the course?

As part of his Monday news conference, coach Jim Caldwell said: “We’re not going to deviate a whole lot from the way in which we do things. We have to stick to what we’re doing, and we’ll get a little bit better at it.”

Why? Why is that the way things have to be done? Sticking to what they are doing has them at 0-10.

There is no magic solution on the bench, for sure.

But why not hold a staff meeting and ask for the wackiest and most off the wall proposals you can collect and see if you don’t turn up something worth sprinkling into the game plan? Why is there some nobility in stubbornly staying the course no matter how bad things get?

It's somewhat of a football thing and very much a Colts think to believe that is the way to go. To stray from what you do is to concede it may have been a mistake. Which is silly. I want a staff willing to adjust, not fervently married to a method that fails repeatedly.

Why, for instance, on a rare occasion when the Colts are in fourth-and-short right near midfield does it remain the right call to punt?

Early in Sunday's game, the Jaguars and Colts had traded interceptions and it was scoreless. Indianapolis might have grabbed some momentum and created a scoring chance. But on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars’ 49 yard line, the Colts punted.

Since you’ve lost everything, why not play more like you have nothing to lose?

Maybe Caldwell scores points with Bill Polian and Chris Polian by approaching the game like he’s coaching a talented team, but that doesn’t make it right.

The other thing that seems to have to happen with a bad team is repeated talk of how focused it is and what effort it’s putting out.

Caldwell obliged with that again.

“You lose your focus and preparation first, and we haven’t lost any focus and preparation,” Caldwell said. “Our guys have prepared, and I think they’ve done a nice job of improving as the days go on in terms of practice. I think they continue to give you the kind of effort that you look for. That’s the other thing that you may see wane if things get a little difficult, but our guys give the effort that we’re looking for and they fight and scratch.”

You lose your focus and preparation first before what? Before losing 10 games? If the focus and preparation are so great, the talent must be really, really bad, right? That's self preservation. A coach can't control the talent, but he can control the effort. And so a struggling coach will harp on the effort. Look, my guys are still giving me everything they have.

The fair question from them is are you giving them everything you have? I hope someone in the comments can point out an instance of creativity that has strayed from the norm from the Colts this season.

Caldwell is not a shakeup guy and the Colts are not a shakeup team and it’s not like I am looking down the depth chart and seeing players who should be elevated.

But how about something? How about a try on fourth-and-1 near midfield? How about showing an ability to stray from the script? How about taking a stab at writing a different sort of scene?

How about not telling us how things are improving at practice, but showing us how your thinking is improving and you don’t think that being steady is the answer for everything?