INDIANAPOLIS – Andrew Luck spent Monday morning poring over a little more game film. It’s never too early to start thinking about his next game.
Less than 24 hours after Indianapolis’ magical 2012 run ended with a 24-9 playoff loss at Baltimore, Luck and the Colts were already contemplating what improvements they need to make before next season begins.
I think I’ll take this week to sort of figure it out more, Luck said. I don’t think I’ve had enough time to really digest a lot of things.
The Colts (11-6) were the surprise of the NFL this season. Some critics said they made the wrong move by releasing Peyton Manning, then took the wrong guy with the No. 1 overall draft pick.
And that was long before Chuck Pagano missed 13 weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians spent the playoff game in the hospital instead of calling plays. Arians was still in the hospital Monday with an undisclosed illness as doctors waited for his blood pressure to stabilize.
Turns out those doomsayers were as wrong as the Mayans.
Arians went 9-3 in Pagano’s absence, tying the NFL record for most wins after a midseason coaching change.
This is probably one of the most memorable seasons since I’ve been here, and that includes my rookie season when we went 14-0 and went to the Super Bowl, said cornerback Jerraud Powers, who spent most of the season on injured reserve.
The Colts didn’t care what was expected.
Luck played with a sore right knee and still set NFL rookie records for attempts and yards passing and fell just short of the league’s rookie marks for completions and touchdown passes.
He tied the league’s single-season record for most winning drives in the fourth quarter (seven) and produced a league-high nine wins in one-possession games.
But Luck is far from satisfied after completing just 54.1 percent of his passes.
I think just improving accuracy, footwork, making the different throws, Luck said. I think I have a feel for how fast things occur, how our different guys get out of breaks, depths of routes, things of that nature. Just building up more rapport with the receivers, the tight ends and running backs.
Other rookies are just as eager as Luck to get started on Year 2.
Tight end Dwayne Allen hopes to return in better shape after spending so much of last offseason prepping for the combine and his pro day. Running back Vick Ballard said he will spend countless hours working on his run reads. And all this after the Colts produced the highest combined yards rushing and yards receiving (3,108) by rookies since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
It just tells me how hungry they are and how passionate they are about football. When (GM) Ryan (Grigson) and his staff get together and they go and look for football players and they look for players with Colt traits, that’s exactly what we loved to hear and exactly what we expect to hear, from those type of guys, Pagano said.
The coaching staff and veterans know this will not be the same team a few months from now.
Arians was scheduled to interview for head coaching jobs in Chicago and Philadelphia, and there has been speculation he could be on the wish lists of Cleveland and San Diego, too.
Dwight Freeney had his third successive decline in sacks after moving from defensive end to outside linebacker and could leave in free agency.
Powers, Avery and right tackle Winston Justice are all scheduled to become free agents, too.
Grigson has more than $40 million to spend in free agency to help reinforce the offensive line, the Colts’ secondary and just about any other spots he and Pagano deem necessary. Pagano said they have not yet had that discussion.