Chester Rogers on changing Colts: ‘Is this what a real organization feels like?’
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A regime change generally signals a noticeable change in attitude, and a bounce in the step, among those who survived that regime change.
We present to you the Indianapolis Colts.
The most obvious byproducts of wholesale changes with the coaching staff – gone are Chuck Pagano, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, defensive coordinator Ted Monachino and so many others – are unveiled optimism and unbridled eagerness to leave an acceptable and rare three-year stretch of futility in the past and move forward to . . . something better.
Players reported to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center April 9 for the start of their offseason program, and the newness smacked them in the face. Extensive construction was underway to upgrade the locker room, weight room, meeting rooms, etc. Once on-field work began, there was an emphasis on maintaining tempo.
Change was everywhere, and embraced.
Wide receiver Chester Rogers offered a comment Tuesday that was both revealing and cutting.
“The first day we got here I was like, ‘Is this what a real organization feels like?’’’ he said. “Just the energy. Just the coaches, everybody. The atmosphere feels different.’’
Roger isn’t a rookie or one of general manager Chris Ballard’s offseason free-agent acquisitions. He’s heading into his third season with the franchise.
His embrace-the-change attitude included coach Frank Reich’s new offensive scheme. Ideally and if the personnel allows, it will stress versatility and unpredictability and, always and forever, with an up-tempo approach.
“I really like it,’’ Rogers said of the offense. “I feel like we’re not – I don’t know the word to use – we’re not handicapped in the offense. I think it’s going to bring out the best in all of us.
“It’s putting players in positions and doing what we’re good at. It’s putting us everywhere. I feel like it’s going to be unstoppable.’’
Rogers’ “handicapped’’ reference might have been a harsh criticism of the lack of success enjoyed a year ago by the Chudzinski-led offense, one that ranked 31st in total yards (284.6 yards per game) and 30th in scoring (16.4).
The overriding handicap was a 2017 without rehabbing quarterback Andrew Luck.
However, Rogers isn’t the only player eager to turn the page on what was a lost season and bearhug the subsequent change.
Pro Bowl wideout T.Y. Hilton admitted a coaching change was needed.
“At the end of the day, I think it was,’’ he said last month. “We all understand with a new coaching staff we’ve got to bring it every single day because anything can happen.’’
As was the case with Rogers, Hilton noticed the sweeping changes from the outset.
“Just walking in to music,’’ he said. “I come into the team meeting room, they’re bumping music. Something we’re not used to, and it’s great. Get the guys up, ready and attention to the meetings.
“It’s fun. The coaching staff is bringing a lot of new energy, and the team is just feeding off of it.’’
Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo admitted the massive overhaul was “a little bit weird.’’ The 2011 first-round draft pick was one of four players who was alongside Pagano for the entirety of his six-year run, joining Adam Vinatieri, Luck and Hilton.
Now, change is around every corner of the complex. Castonzo joked with a teammate last month that this “is the least amount of people in the building as a whole that I know since my rookie year.’’
“You see coaches and players and just a bunch of people that I don’t really know,’’ he said. “It is exciting, though, because it’s cool to shake things up and to have kind of a new beginning in kind of the middle of my career here.
“I haven’t really had a big change like this since my rookie year, and things went well that time. I think it’s good. You kind of get that new sense of you’ve got to prove yourself.’’
It’s impossible to argue against the need for the housecleaning, which actually began the previous year when Ballard replaced Ryan Grigson.
The Colts find themselves dealing with a rare stretch of unsatisfactory football. They’ve failed to reach the playoffs in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1988-94. They’ve also posted three straight non-winning records. The last time they endured four straight non-winning records: 1978-86.
Owner Jim Irsay and Ballard are committed to returning the franchise to the ultra-successful early 2000s when the base objective was contending for a division title and playoff berth. They realize the first step – providing Luck returns to form, that is – is acquiring the proper players who possess the necessary characteristics, both on and off the field. It’s about recreating a culture that expects to win and demands doing whatever it takes to make that happen.
For his part, Ballard continues to reshape the roster. The 90-man roster includes only 21 players who predate him, and training camp competition likely will further diminish that number.
Hilton is entering his seventh season, and it’s been a unique career. The Colts reached the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, but have been non-participants the past three.
“If you ever watch Colts football,’’ he said, “you know they always made the playoffs. They’ve always been around.
“These past three years we weren’t playing Colts football. We want to get back to that.’’