In the National Football League, there are few feelings worse than that of knowing when your season is over.
For the Indianapolis Colts, that now all-too-common feeling again came prematurely, at the hands of a familiar foe.
Despite reeling off an impressive nine game win streak to close their regular season, the Colts’ deficiencies shined through en route to a 17-23 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Though the Colts have suffered similar disappointments, Saturday’s loss was the earliest postseason exit since Head Coach Tony Dungy’s first year at the helm.
While the coach and his squad were dissatisfied with this season’s outcome, Dungy reminded observers that the Colts remain a team to be reckoned with in the future. And the usual knee-jerk reaction from shocking losses, he added, has never been this team’s approach.
“I thought our team had a fine year, a great regular season, capped off by one disappointing playoff game,” Dungy said. “When you don’t meet expectations in this business a lot of people have that idea that you need to blow things up and start over, that has never been our style and I don’t think it will be.”
Confident his team has the tools in place to continue to threaten for a title, the coach also admitted clear issues that plagued the Colts up until their last defeat – the area of the ground game in particular, Dungy said his team never quite found that groove as evidenced by being among the league’s worst in total rushing production.
“We’ve run the ball very well here a number of years, didn’t run it that well this year, didn’t run it well enough,” he added. “We’ll try to look at the whole season, see what the causes are, see how we can improve it, but that is an area where we have to get better.”
Additionally, albeit not the team’s expected timeline, the Colts are now in the mode of answering questions that need resolving even before the real offseason work begins. Immediately, Colts president Bill Polian, Dungy and staff will begin the work of evaluating players in relation to payroll, which may result in the loss of key veteran stalwarts, most notably Hall-of-Famer to be receiver Marvin Harrison.
“Bill (Polian) has to work everything out in terms of the payroll and salary cap,” Dungy said. “That’s tough when you’ve got a team that has as many good players as we do, but he does a great job of balancing that and our plan is to get as many guys back as we can. We like our team where it is, we like our veteran leadership, so we’ll see what happens.”
As for the coach himself, Saturday’s disappointment may have caused him an earlier look than usual, but he said he will still take a week or so to examine all options.