INDIANAPOLIS — It's a punch in the gut; a feeling of disappointment that you just couldn't quite get the job done.
That's what the Indianapolis Colts' players, coaches and front office personnel were feeling Saturday, after their 33-25 loss to the Oakland Raiders, officially knocking the team out of playoff contention.
The Colts, of course, had high expectations when the season began, but major inconsistencies over the course of the first 15 games of the regular season means Indianapolis is on the outside looking in when the postseason begins in a couple weeks.
Head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson talked about this topic this week on 1070 The Fan's "Colts Roundtable Live," telling host Bob Lamey that the Colts' final game of the season, on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, is an opportunity to at least get some of the bad taste out of their mouths.
"It doesn't matter the circumstances — whether you're in the playoffs, you're not in the playoffs — that's what we signed up for," Pagano said of a full 16-game season, regardless of the final record. "Again, we've got (a) great coaching staff, great locker room, a bunch of great guys down there, we've got character on this football team, and you want to finish, and you want to finish strong, and you want to go out on a winning note"
Pagano said the Colts will "prepare like we've always prepared" this week.
"And that's to go win a football game," he said. "And again, we're all professionals, and we understand what the stakes are and all that stuff, but we're going to finish it the right way."
Here's some other highlights from Monday's show, including some calls and questions from fans fielded by Grigson:————————————Colts general manager Ryan GrigsonWith things the way they are — you're not going to the playoffs — what do you expect out of this team, what do you want to see, Sunday against Jacksonville?
To win. You know, that's the only way that you can end the season on a high note, despite not being able to finish a lot of the business that we wanted to throughout the course of the season. That's the only way you can lessen any of the pain of the season is to go out and play lights out in all three phases, and have a winning effort.The season obviously hasn't gone the way everybody wanted, but you still saw some improvement in areas — particularly the offensive line. What is your evaluation of the line the last couple games?
You know, we made no bones about it from the beginning: this was an offensive-driven team. We were a work in progress, and still are, on defense — we've got some guys that have rose to occasion in that respect; we've got obvious holes that we need to fill in some areas — but in terms of the offensive line, (it) has been a problem area, some things have not worked out for us over the course of the time that I have been here — that's on me — but I think that it's definitely going the right direction with the guys we picked just this past draft. The second consecutive week not allowing a sack versus two of the better rushers in the league and defenses and so forth, especially Khalil Mack and guys like that — Everson Griffen — that I feel like these young guys did a really good job against. So the group itself has markedly improved in the second half of the year. I mean, our line's allowed nine sacks over the last seventh games, which is tied for fifth in the NFL during that span. So everything on paper, everything on film, we are moving in the right direction in that area, which is obviously a vital one. Le'Raven (Clark), he has some flashes where he looks special in the run game; he's got to clean some things up — he has his raw moments, like a lot of rookies will. But for a tackle with a left tackle skillet, the amount of power he generates in his lower body, it's not typical for a guy that's long and as athletic as him. That's encouraging — you feel like he could really develop as an overall tackle from top to bottom. (Ryan) Kelly has been Kelly. You know, he's been a model of consistency for the most part throughout the season. He'll only get better. And then Joe Haeg, it's kind of unfortunate that we've had to maybe stunt his growth, maybe, a little bit by having him move around so much, but then again, that in and of itself is so encouraging that he's been able to handle something like that and starting that many positions for a rookie, more than anyone since 1998. So a lot to be optimistic about. Our receiving group is a special one; they've got to tighten things up on their end, too, in the attention to detail and so forth, but the talent's there. And I think we've got a lot to look forward to. It's just unfortunate that we didn't capitalize in games that we should've and could've won.**
Do you start concentrating more on the draft now, or wait another week for that?** You know, obviously the focus is going to be on Jacksonville. I, myself, as general manager, I don't game plan, I don't do those types of things. So I'm always looking big picture. The draft never stops for us, whether I'm on vacation for that short time in June, I'm still looking at the supplemental draft. When you get to the fall you have your rumored juniors, you have bowl games coming up, you have your fall visits — there's so many things throughout the course of an entire calendar year, you always have the pulse on the draft. As for the free agency stuff, that'll start up here soon, and like every week, we've got a bunch of players coming in this week — even two separate days this week we're going to have players in, you know, looking at guys for futures contracts and so forth, and getting a bird's eye of those guys. So we're already looking at our 90-man roster, and it's where we're at now. We know we're not in the playoffs, so as a general manager, I have to continue to prepare this roster.Caller Matt, asking how he feels about the progression of Le'Raven Clark and the future of that position? Grigson: "You know, Le'Raven … has been part of a lineup that hasn't allowed a sack in two games — against pretty good pass rushers — so that's encouraging. He has hit some rough spots, to be expected. He has such unique traits in a sense that he has 36 1/2 (-inch) or more arm(s) — some of the longest arms I've been around — and a lot of times with that length, you don't get guys that can drop their weight, and they're essentially used as pass blockers. Where Le'Raven has really showed up these last two weeks has been being able to collapse that right side of the line, and I think it gives us options moving forward. He started 11 games at guard at Texas Tech, as well, as part of his 51 starts that were mainly at left tackle. But he's got a lot going for him, and I think he has some versatility, but again, there was a point where our left side of our line was kind of our strong area where we would run towards the left, and that was where we were most comfortable 'cause that was where we had produced and got the most movement. Now we have more options, because (Ryan) Kelly's in there, he gets movement, those combos with him and the guards, we're starting to see some holes, we're starting to see that movement at the line of scrimmage. Now we've got to get up on the second level and secure those blocks to really be a finished product in that respect in the run game. But the run game, I'm very bullish on, and in Le'Raven, too, again, the way that he is able to drop his weight on that long frame is pretty unique, and we're getting some really good movement over there with him and (Joe) Haeg."Inbox question, asking what he thinks of Rashaan Melvin and Edwin Jackson? Grigson: "First and foremost, I'll say those guys are both tough. Both have enough athletic traits to play winning football in this league, as well. They're really good competitors, they're available on Sundays. Melvin really toughed it out this game. Some guys wouldn't have played, but he toughed it out and fought through some things. But I would say, you know, another guy to be thrown in there, too, Darryl Morris, is another guy that has had some key breakups, and he's a 4.35(-second) 40 guy, smart, good kid, and those guys that come off the street like that, they know that their window of opportunity is so short, and they've got to produce almost from the jump. And those guys really have, that that's why they're still here, and that's why they have a future."Inbox question, asking with Art Jones now on IR for the rest of the season, how likely is it that he'll return to the Colts in 2017? Grigson: "We're going to wait until the offseason before we make any kind of determination on anybody. He is under contract. When Art played this year, he was a force on early downs. He is a factor in our run defensive package. I thought he did some nice things, and really kind of just put his head down. He had some issues that he had to deal with and that humbled him, and I really thought he responded well, given what he'd been through. Because he didn't say a word and he just fought hard and played hard, and he showed up against the run mainly."Inbox question, asking where he thinks the Colts stand on tight ends Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox? Do you bring them back? Grigson: "Definitely. I'll say this about those two guys: just like anything in life, you get out what you put in, and those guys are the two guys that are out there since Week 1, every week, every day, on the JUGS machine, doing extra. And it manifests on Sunday. They're the guys, when their number is called, they're producing; they've been consistent. You know, Jack, he's Mr. Reliable — I mean, he's not perfect; he's going to have his moments. But I'll tell you what: nine times out of 10, when his number is called, he's going to come through for you. Erik Swoope is, what, in his third year of ever playing football. His touchdown last week was the first time he had ever scored a touchdown at any level — never even touching a football, basically, until he got to the Colts. So he's someone that I think has some unique traits, has some unique talent. He's a mismatch waiting to happen in the passing game, and he's really come a long as a blocker. He has an NFL body, he's one of our strongest guys in the weight room — I think that the ceiling is very high on him, still. I really do."Follow-up question: Jack Doyle is nearing 60 catches. Who would've thought that at the beginning of the season? Grigson: "He is a self-made player. He just produces, and finds a way to produce, no matter what we do with him, whether it's on special teams, whether he's an in-line blocker, whether we're moving him around as sort of an H(-back). He just finds a way to produce, and the players love him for it."Caller Paul, asking if he's looking to get any running backs in the draft? Grigson: "We have talent within that group. Frank's on the verge of 1,000 yards; (Robert) Turbin, he has answered the bell in more ways than one every time his number has been called — in big ways. He's produced at a high level for us whenever we've had him involved. You know, he's got great size and speed — he's a multiple threat on a lot of different levels. You know, Frank is that consistent pounder; he's going to keep getting you four, four-plus (yards), he can catch. He was able to make big plays at 33 years old. And then he's so key on third down. And then you throw (Jordan) Todman in there, and when we have our scout team, when he's running those cards, he's like a flash. I mean, he's a low-4.4 guy. He's tough as nails, too. You saw what he did at Green Bay — he can flat-out fly. So the draft, there will be plenty of running backs in the draft, so we'll look at every position, and we'll try to follow our board the best we can, and implement the talent the best way we see fit."Follow-up question on Frank Gore: he's 36 yards away from 1,000 yards. How nice would it be to see Frank get it on Sunday? Grigson: "…I gave Frank a piece of paper when he first got here; I had one of the guys look up guys that were over 30 who had over 1,000 (yards), and it had a bunch of stats broken down to him, because he lives for having a chip on his shoulder and proving people wrong. You know, it's drives him. But I'd be happy to see him get 1,000 — even though that's not the goal; the goal is to win — I think he knows that. I think the coaches, that's not the focal point of this week, is getting Frank his 1,000. You know, would that be nice? Sure. It'd be good for our O-line, good for everyone, for Frank, our coaches and our organization for that matter. But Frank wants to just win, and i've been in enough postgame locker rooms to definitely verify that."Follow-up comment: Gore is such a good guy, and always willing to help other players on the team, and he is all about winning:
Grigson: "He's one of those guys you check off the box about caring — he just cares so much, and oozes that passion. He knows what it takes to win; he really does. He knows the mindset you have to have to win in this league. And that's the one example that he's a living example of that I think he brought to the equation since he got here: he shows a lot of these young players — or even veterans, for that matter — what it takes to win, what it takes to prepare, and what it takes to play winning football until you're 33 years old. It takes darn near every minute of your day and your focus to be able to do it at that level like he has."