— If the success of the Colts and Saints this year can teach other NFL teams anything, it is this: dominant offenses win.
Both teams have been propelled by offenses that defenses usually have had no answers for. On the one hand, there is Peyton Manning, arguably the best quarterback in history, and on the other, there is Drew Brees, a spectacularly efficient player.
If every team could duplicate what the Saints and Colts have built offensively, they would. But they can’t. Their offense is their magic, and they have patents on it.
What the offenses share is continuity.
The Colts have had their offensive system, as well as their quarterback in place for a dozen years now. No other NFL team comes close to enjoying that kind of continuity. The team’s offensive coordinator Tom Moore and Manning have been in place for three Colts head coaches.
When offensive mastermind Sean Payton became head coach of the Saints in 2006, one of the first things he did was sign Drew Brees to quarterback his team. The Saints offense has gotten progressively better every year since.
With two outstanding offensive systems, two excellent play callers and two of the best quarterbacks in recent history, the Colts and Saints have been able to maximize the abilities of other players on their offenses.
The Saints, for instance, are led in rushing by Pierre Thomas, a player who wasn’t even drafted. Their leading receiver, Marques Colston, was a seventh round pick. Another player who was thought of as a bust prior to this season, wide receiver Robert Meacham, has scored eight touchdowns and become a vertical threat.
As for the Colts, Manning has two very talented players to throw to in tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Reggie Wayne. But Anthony Gonzalez has been out all season, and Manning has made the most out of two players no one outside the organization had any expectations for — 2008 sixth round pick Pierre Garcon and rookie fourth round pick Austin Collie.
That’s why Colts president Bill Polian believes this season could be Manning’s best ever.
“He’s really doing a heck of a job, breaking in new receivers and having to do it almost from the get go,” Polian said. “It’s been a struggle for him but he’s done a great job with it. The offensive line play has been not as clean as it was in the past. The injuries just compound that …. He helped everyone else to be better. That’s what great players do.”
Manning and Brees make their offenses very difficult to defend because they play so intelligently and they can take advantage of any defensive deficiency. One of Brees’ best attributes is his decision making.
“Brees can find the open receiver,” said an NFC pro scout. “He finds mismatches. He has a lot of weapons to work with, and he uses them all. He is as smart as anyone. He throws with great timing and anticipation, he finds throwing lanes and windows in coverage. He’s great in the pocket.”
It also helps that the Saints trot out a different personnel package on virtually every down. The run the same plays out of different personnel packages, which makes them very difficult to defend.
There isn’t anything they can’t do. They have a power run game with Thomas and Mike Bell. They can run draws and screens and create mismatches with Reggie Bush. They can work the underneath zones with Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey. And they can get downfield with Meachem and Devery Henderson.
“What they do better than probably anyone is keep you off balance,” the pro scout said. “Payton is a really good play caller and they are more versatile than any offense in the league. You can’t key on anyone against them.”
The offenses of the Colts and Saints make it look so easy. But it’s only easy because of some special people and some special circumstances.
A. If a player were to be killed while playing the game or because of a football-related circumstance, he likely would be owed the rest of his contract. But when a player dies for causes not related to his profession, his team probably has no more financial obligation to him.
A. I think Smith is a solid head coach, but whatever he has done this year clearly has not worked. It might be a little unfair to put it all on the head coach, but that’s the way the league works. The fact that the Bears have not made it to the playoffs for three straight years after going to the Super Bowl is tough for a lot of fans to get over.
A. I would think there is a good chance they will draft another quarterback now that they have yet another person making the decisions, and probably will have a new offensive system. I would not be surprised if new Browns czar Mike Holmgren thought Quinn was not a fit for the West Coast system he likely will install. Don’t give up on Quinn yet, though. He hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do.
A. If a player is flagged for handing a ball to a cheerleader, the official probably is calling a penalty for using the ball as a prop — which is illegal. There is no rule against jumping into the stands.