Colts should lean on running game

Peyton Manning needs to trust his running game more this season. Al Pereira/Getty Images

One of the most helpful traits an NFL front office can have is a sense of perspective. An excellent example of this occurred with the late-1960s to early-1970s Dallas Cowboys.

After a 1971 season that saw the team shed its "can't win the big one" image via a victory in Super Bowl VI, the Cowboys had to deal with a contract holdout by running back Duane Thomas.

Any situation of this nature can be difficult, but Thomas' holdout was maybe the most onerous in league history. According to Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne's book, "The Ones Who Hit The Hardest", among the many distractions Thomas caused was not to speak to his coaches, teammates or the media and to refuse to answer when his name was announced at the team's daily morning roll call.

Dallas' front office understood that there was more to putting together a running game than just having a speedy back (namely having a strong offensive line), and traded Thomas. The team didn't miss him, reaching the 2,000-yard rushing mark as a team, in a 14-game season, the six years after Thomas left.

Knowing there are myriad ways to build a running game is a lesson that also pertains to the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.

On the face of it, this team looks to have a long way to go to post acceptable statistics on the ground. In 2010, the Colts ranked 29th in rush yards gained, tied for 26th in rush yards per attempt and were 28th in rushing attempts.

Those are certainly poor numbers, but upon closer examination it turns out those totals don't tell the entire story. In fact, Indianapolis already may have many of the makings of a solid rushing attack.

The evidence for this can be found in a video/metrics review of the Colts' 2010 ground game.

The ROBIN run-grading system that I use has a multitude of facets (a quick overview of which can be found here), but in a nutshell, it grades each block on a running play as a win or a loss.