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Ben Smith

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Colts coach is one who should pay price


So what now, if you’re the Indianapolis Colts?

Now you go to the Rolodex.

Now you see if you’ve still got Jeff Fisher on speed dial, or Bill Cowher, or some other resident of the ESPN Home for Coaches Between Sideline Gigs. You try to get in a word in edgewise with Herman Edwards. You might even ask if Tony Dungy is, you know, finished doing the other things in his life he yearned and so richly deserved to do, and would like to come back home again.

Home being Lucas Oil Stadium.

Home being the place where a football team resides that has gone, in a nanosecond, from NFL royalty to a traveling road production of “The Prince and the Pauper.”

The Prince, of course, is Peyton Manning, looking for all the world like a man suddenly thinking about golf or some other retiree’s pursuit. And the Pauper is … well, pick a Colt, any Colt.

No one ever wants to be the one who beats the drums for a coach’s ouster, especially when that coach is as decent a man as Jim Caldwell. And especially when the disaster flick over which he presides owes more to upper management letting it rot from within than it does to schemes ’n’ such.

“Ah, Peyton’ll fix it” is not, it turns out, a sustainable business model. That the Colts got away with it as long as they did seems, in retrospect, the miracle of the age.

This does not mean you can get beat 62-7 on national television without consequences. And, fairly or unfairly, the head coach is usually Mr. Consequences.

So whether Caldwell exits this week or next week or a month from now, his exit seems inevitable. And if so, it probably needs to happen before the season ends.

This no doubt seems rash, at this juncture. After all, the Colts are 0-7 and, even if owner Jim Irsay held a séance and brought Vince Lombardi back to life (which, knowing Irsay, he might try to do), their season is done.

That said, when you’re headed for historic futility, you have to do something to stem the arterial gushing. You can’t just stay the course for nine more games and wait until after the season, not when it seems patently obvious that your head coach has lost his locker room. You need to get new blood in there as soon as possible, a fresh breeze to blow the stale out of the place and begin to rebuild what has been, for a dozen or more years, an impeccably winning culture.

I’m not saying that’s likely to happen. I’m just saying it needs to.

What I suspect will happen, at least initially, is that defensive coordinator Larry Coyer will fall on his sword. I don’t see how any defensive coordinator survives the worst beatdown in franchise history. I especially don’t see it when the architect of that beatdown, Drew Brees, looked as if he were running a skeleton drill in practice rather than playing a live game.

I mean, Brees is terrific and all, but no quarterback goes 31 of 35 without help. And even if you take out of the equation how thoroughly Roger Goodell’s NFL has gelded defenses, Brees was helped immensely by a Colts defense – a veteran defense, mind you – that seemed clearly to be going through the motions.

So. Heads likely will roll, as they say. And one of them should be Caldwell’s.

No one wants to say that. No one takes even a molecule of pleasure in it. But where else do you go from here?

69-7, perhaps?

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648 or at the “Ben Smith” topic of “The Board” at