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Colts played hard, but failed to finish games
The Indianapolis Colts couldn't seem to get out of their own way during the just completed 2017 regular season.
Indianapolis finished with a 4-12 record and wound up with a third-place finish in the AFC South thanks to sweeping the series with division-rival Houston.
It was the Colts' worst record since 2011, when the team finished with a 2-14 mark. Indianapolis will now have the third overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Injuries once again played havoc with the Colts roster as the team wound up with 17 players on the reserved/injured list by the end of the season.
That list included quite a few key starters, including quarterback Andrew Luck, running back Robert Turbin, rookie safety (and first-round pick) Malik Hooker, cornerback Pierre Desir, outside linebacker John Simon, inside linebacker Jon Bostic, guard Jack Mewhort, center Ryan Kelly and defensive end Henry Anderson.
Other starters, like wide receiver Donte Moncrief, cornerback Rashaan Melvin and tackle Denzelle Good, missed significant playing time.
Still, despite the health issues and the uncertainty of who was going to be able to play each week, the Colts were able to be competitive most of the season.
Indianapolis certainly had its chances to win game. But the Colts failed to hold the lead in five games during the 2017 regular season. That was two more than any other team in the league.
Consistency of effort was good for the most part. Finishing out games was the biggest on-field problem.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Colts' defensive line finally started to take shape in 2017, thanks largely to the addition of a pair of free agents - defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and nose tackle Al Woods - along with the return of defensive end Henry Anderson. Throw in the continued development of defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and the addition of rookie defensive tackle Grover Stewart and Indianapolis has some nice building blocks to work with.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Not having quarterback Andrew Luck available for the entire season. Team officials had hoped that backup quarterback Scott Tolzien could hold down the fort until Luck returned at some point. But Tolzien struggled badly in his only start of the season and Luck never made it back to the practice field on a regular basis. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett arrived just before the start of the regular season and was forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Quarterback Scott Tolzien would probably edge out safety T.J. Green. Tolzien had played relatively well in his only start during a 2016 home-field start against Pittsburgh. So hopes were high that he could handle the job if starter Andrew Luck was sidelined short or long term. That didn't happen. Tolzien had an up-and-down preseason followed by a bad performance in a season opening road loss to the Rams. That forced the team to start quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was acquired during the weekend of the cuts to 53 players.
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Cornerback Rashaan Melvin. He began the season as the "other" cornerback who lined up opposite Pro Bowler Vontae Davis. But as the season progressed and Davis battled injuries, it was Melvin who developed into the Colts' most consistent cornerback. He wound up tying for the team lead in interceptions with three (along with rookie safety Malik Hooker) and could wind up with a nice new contract during the offseason.
ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: While there's uncertainty as to who will wind up as Indianapolis' new head coach, although there are numerous reports it will be New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer did a nice job of working with Jacoby Brissett during the season. Brissett was added to the roster a few days before the start of the regular season and was forced to learn the Colts' offensive system in a hurry. Schottenheimer, though, was there to help him work his way through the playbook. It is believed that Schottenheimer is headed to Seattle to be the Seahawks' new offensive coordinator.
It didn't take long for Colts owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard to make the call concerning the future of head coach Chuck Pagano.
About an hour after the conclusion of Sunday's 22-13 season-finale win over Houston, the decision was made official the Colts and Pagano were parting ways.
During his postgame press conference, Pagano said that he hadn't heard anything from either Irsay or Ballard and was still hoping for the best. But minutes after that press conference had ended, the team's leadership met with Pagano and his wife in an adjoining room.
The result of that meeting went about as expected. It had been rumored for the last month of the season that a possible change was in the offing.
Ironically, Irsay presented Pagano with the game ball in the locker room in an emotional ceremony immediately after the win over the Texans. Not long that that, however, the head coach's six-year tenure with the team was over.
"Chuck Pagano provided Colts fans with many exciting wins and memories as head coach of the Colts," the team owner said in a prepared statement after Sunday's game.
"We are thankful for Chuck's contributions to our franchise and community and we wish him, (wife) Tina, and the entire Pagano family nothing but the best moving forward."
A day later Irsay reiterated and expanded on his comments.
"It was a difficult, emotional conversation that we had (with Pagano after the Houston game)," the team owner said Monday. "Chuck was first class. We will treasure all the memories and wins that we had together."