As we look forward to one of the biggest games of the year -- Denver at Indianapolis -- we cannot ignore the controversies, debates and discussions surrounding the quarterbacks, many of them created by Colts owner Jim Irsay. Questioning the philosophy that the former regime used to build a perennial playoff roster seems to disrespect one of the best runs any NFL team has ever put together.
From a scout's perspective, I thought the Bill Polian mold for building a roster was brilliant, and it was a plan seemingly endorsed by the entire organization. Most of the salary cap was spent on offensive skill players -- Peyton Manning and company -- because that was where their strength was. That obviously forced them to add around their stars with athletes at the right price, and while they may have been the smallest defense in the NFL, they flew to the football, made a lot of plays and they were built for the schemes they played. Although it was not a conventional approach to roster building, its success lasted a lot longer than most people thought it would.
When GM Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano stepped in, we knew major changes were on the way. This isn't a bad thing, but a new thing. As they were preparing to draft a strong-armed, pro style QB in Andrew Luck, they also wanted to make this an old-fashioned power offense and defense, with more size and physicality.
Although this transition is still in progress, you get the feeling that they are very committed to it. In Year 1 of the Pagano era, they expected to use a lot of two-TE sets, with a more physical run game and better offensive balance and play action. However, Pagano's illness turned this team over to Bruce Arians, who prefers a "stretch the field" philosophy on the offensive side of the ball. The passing game was great, the offensive creativity was terrific, but the run game was not up to par.
Exit Arians to Arizona, and enter Pep Hamilton from Stanford, who knows exactly what he wants out of this offense. We are seeing the run game develop, and Trent Richardson should grow into a real workhorse. There is no question that offensive balance is here to stay. Ironically, Hamilton is trying to play this physical style without TE Dwayne Allen, an adept blocker who is out for the season with an injury.
I went back and looked at film from 2012 when Arians was running this offense, and then looked at this season to see whether the changes we expected are a reality. Let's take a look at four plays in particular, two from last season and two from this season.