INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – On a given night, roughly 215,000 viewers tune into NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access.’’
Apparently there’s a cone of silence covering the Indianapolis Colts’ headquarters and the residences of several prominent individuals. It was difficult ferreting out anyone Wednesday – from Chuck Pagano to Darius Butler to T.Y. Hilton to Andrew Luck – who would admit to having heard the critical comments the previous evening from franchise icon Reggie Wayne.
In his first year as an analyst with NFL Network, Wayne’s assessment of the Colts’ 1-3 start included a defense of quarterback Luck – “(He’s) playing pretty good despite some of the O-line woes that they’re having’’ – and an indictment of many of general manager Ryan Grigson’s personnel moves.
If the Colts are to be believed, Wayne’s comments fell on deaf ears.
Pagano: “I did not see it.’’
Butler: “I haven’t heard anything about or from Reggie.’’
Luck: “Someone just told me before (the afternoon press conference). I love Reggie and I have no comment beyond that about it.’’
And Hilton, who grew close to Wayne during their three-year association with the team: “I didn’t see it. He called me, but I didn’t answer. I called him back, he didn’t answer. We’re playing phone tag right now. I don’t know what happened. I’ll just call him.’’
Hilton was informed the gist of Wayne’s assessment of his former team, that the front office has missed on too many draft picks and other personnel moves: Trent Richardson, Bjoern Werner, LaRon Landry, Khaled Holmes, Todd Herremans, Art Jones.
“I don’t know,’’ Hilton said. “I’ll talk to him when I talk to him.’’
Wayne ignited a mini-firestorm on social media with his biting comments, but things already were heating up.
A team expected to contend for the AFC South title and return to the playoffs after last season’s unsatisfactory 8-8 finish has underperformed. Sunday’s 30-27 loss to Jacksonville in London dropped it to 1-3.
An argument can be made the Colts easily could be 3-1, even 4-0. All four games have turned on plays made or not made in the final 2 minutes.
But it’s also worth nothing the Colts’ early schedule has included Detroit, San Diego and the Jaguars. Each is 1-3.
And Sunday, the 1-3 Chicago Bears visit Lucas Oil Stadium.
The outside noise has increased with each passing week, and with each loss that’s been marred by the same issues: dropped passes, missed tackles, faulty pass protection, mounting penalties, questionable coaching decisions.
Here are three stats that have made winning difficult. The Colts:
- Are a minus-8 in sacks allowed (15) and sacks generated (7). That’s tied with Kansas City for the worst in the league. Luck is on pace to be sacked 60 times. Sixty!
- Have been penalized 30 times. That’s on pace for 120, which would be tied for the third-most in club history.
- Have been outscored 64-35 in the first half.
So the clamor has intensified, even if those inside the Colts’ West 56th Street complex have chosen to ignore it.
“Just don’t read it. Cut off the TV. Do something, go study or something,’’ Hilton said. “When you’re doing good, you want to watch. When you’re doing bad, you don’t want to watch.
“Right now, that’s the media’s job – try to get in your locker room and try to get in your head. But for us, we’ve just got to worry about between the lines and playing football.’’
Luck insisted it’s not that difficult to disregard the dissing.
“I go home, talk to my girl friend, talk to my parents, couple of close buddies, my sisters. Don’t read much,’’ he said. “The sports news I do watch is usually soccer, MSL. Don’t watch SportsCenter. No social media.’’
Basically, the players are following their leader.
Pagano conceded frustration is mounting as the season essentially is slipping away. The Colts are off to their first 1-3 start since his arrival in 2012, and it’s the fourth time since 1997 they’ve started 1-3 or worse. Consider how the first three ended: 2-14 in 2011 and 3-13 in ’97 and ’98.
That all four games have been winnable has amped up the angst.
“Absolutely,’’ Pagano said. “If you didn’t give a s—, excuse my French, if you didn’t care and you didn’t want to win, then it’d be ‘Hey, lah-dee-dah, everything’s OK.’’’
The criticism, he added, is “always going to be there. If you’re 4-0, you probably got the same problems going on but nobody’s talking about them.
“But when you’re 1-3, hey, what else you going to talk about. The great record? C’mon. Let’s get real.
“Is (1-3) where we want to be? No. So we’re going to keep working to dig ourselves out of this hole. That’s all you can do.’’