Not long ago, the AFC South seemed to be one of the most wide-open divisions in football, with each team capable of winning the crown — and each team capable of landing in the basement. Now, like the kids who squandered their chance to inherit Willie Wonka’s candy empire, some of the candidates already are sliding out of contention.
A week ago, the Jaguars became the Augustus of the AFC South, once it became clear that quarterback Blake Bortles‘ performance would continue to resemble something the same color as the river into which Gloop fell. The Colts now seem to be the next ones to go, thanks directly to the lingering absence of quarterback Andrew Luck.
If, as it seems, Luck will miss one (or two or three or more) regular-season games, a team led by Scott Tolzien already may pile up more losses than it can afford to have, especially since the Colts won’t instantly start winning games once Luck returns. As Bob Kravitz of WTHR.com pointed out on PFT Live (and in his most recent column), the 2008 Colts went through a similar challenge, with Peyton Manning missing most of training camp due to a knee problem and spending seven games catching up. He eventually did, but Manning had a throng of talented players around him. Luck doesn’t.
Coach Chuck Pagano knows it, and he knows he’ll potentially be paying for the deficiencies on the roster with his job. As Kravitz points out, Pagano has called his offense “pitiful,” accused his young players of failing to properly prepare for camp, and openly pleaded for more “grown men” in the locker room.
It’s only going to get worse once the games that count begin, especially with a career journeyman at the helm until Luck can begin the process of trying to play catch up. And while it’s clear that they would be better off if they’d added someone like Colin Kaepernick in March or April, they never considered it.
As Kravitz said, “The Colts don’t have the you-know-whats to sign Colin Kaepernick.”
In the end, what they’ll have plenty of is losses. And they’ll be fighting with the Jaguars for the basement of the AFC South, as the Texans and Titans battle for the division title.