The owner is on Twitter again, ranting and throwing a Twantrum. The head coach talks about execution and process and precedent as if theyre talismans. And, yes, Reggie Wayne is still out of the lineup, an increasingly bigger deal every week.
Trouble. Oh, the Colts are seeing you now.
Theyre still 7-4 and leading their division, but it feels like 4-7 and time running out at the moment, after that no-show in the desert. Thats two blowout losses plus two skittish wins (27-24 over the crash-dummy Texans and 30-27 over the Titans) since Wayne went down with the blown knee, and its becoming increasingly obvious that theyre not the same team without him.
Which is where your quarterback has to step up and make you that team.
Thats a heavy burden and no doubt an unfair one as well, but this is a quarterback-driven league and that means this is Andrew Lucks team now, and he needs to take ownership of it. Even if its not particularly his nature.
I try not to look at things through the perspective of anybody else, Luck said. I really have to worry about my job first. I think we have great veteran leadership. Ive always been very impressed by that from my first day in the building. I think guys respond well to adversity. We all know where we need to improve, myself first, in that sense.
Thats straight gospel from the book of Chuck Pagano, and it reflects well on Lucks coachability and the quick-study way he buys in. Do your job, after all, is the Pagano mantra, along with sticking to process and executing and making plays when the plays are there to be made.
You got to stick to your fundamentals, stick to your technique, stick to just doing your job and do it on a consistent basis, Pagano says. You beat people with sound football – tough, hard-nosed, physical, disciplined. I know our guys are tough and physical and theyre going to play with great effort, just got to play more consistent for 60 minutes.
We know who we are, linebacker Jerrell Freeman adds. We still believe in everything we do. We got the guys to do it, so well be all right.
All well and good, and absolutely true. But sooner or later, if youre gonna stop the roller coaster (Its good to be able to bounce back, but we shouldnt have to be able to do it every other week. It should be a consistent roll, Freeman says), someone has to physically stop it. And that someone, sooner or later, is your quarterback.
You want to see even-keel calm from that guy, and Luck exudes it. But you also want to see an acknowledgment that, when Luck talks about the veteran leadership on the Colts, he understands that hes part of it now, even if hes less than two seasons deep in his NFL career.
I dont think you need to do it too much, he says instead. Theres always great dialogue in this locker room about, Hey, I think we should be doing this, or that. Thats vets to the younger guys, within your position group.
And beyond your position group?
Well, thats where you need that one distinctive voice. In a lot of ways that was Wayne, and no doubt it still is. But its different now, obviously. Theres more to his loss than just the physical loss, just the obvious numbers depletion – the Colts are down to four wide receivers now – and the way Luck has struggled at times without his go-to guy.
We know its going to be a team effort to right this ship, he said. Its not going to be one guy that pulls a team through. Itll be a bunch.
But its one guy who has to show the way.