Indianapolis Colts Playoff Q&A with Matt Grecco
You can find his work here.
Mr. Grecco was gracious enough to answer some questions for us in Baltimore as we focus our attention on the looming playoff match-up with Indy.
Baltimore Sports and Life: Congrats on making it back to the playoffs. It must feel good seeing your rookie QB, Andrew Luck, take you there so quickly, rather than be fielding questions on whether on not the #1 pick is a bust. Now that you’re in, what are your expectations in January, keeping in mind that Colts have beaten a few playoff teams in Green Bay, Minnesota and Houston?
Matt Grecco: For me personally, I don’t have any expectations. I came into the season vowing not to be critical of this team, and even in the close games and meaningful ones down the stretch, I’ve mostly held to that, and that’ll continue in the Playoffs. On paper the Colts still aren’t in the same conversation with the other 11 teams, a couple games notwithstanding. They do have three wins against Playoff teams (Vikings, Packers, Texans), but all 3 were at home, some place they won’t be playing in the Playoffs. The four teams they beat on the road had a combined 14 wins, and they lost the other four by an average of 23 points. There won’t be any disappointment from me if they bow out against the Ravens. It’s been a fun, expected ride this season.
BSL: The Colts seem to be the most dangerous 4th quarter team in football, last week notching their seventh comeback win on the year. Is there any way to explain this?
MG: I can explain how they’ve had so many of these situations, and that’s by playing poorly against bad teams through the first 3+ quarters, then seemingly turning it on in the 4th and doing as they please. I think there was a stretch of 6 or 7 games where the Defense only gave up one TD in the second half of games, which certainly helps a struggling Offense. I think Andrew Luck’s confidence is through the roof at this point in those late-game situations, and his teammates feed off of it. I do think it’ll even itself out over the years, as the Colts won’t be 9-1 in one-score games every year. Eventually it won’t work out, but until then I’m never counting these guys out in a close, late game.
BSL: Andrew Luck isn’t your only rookie. All skill positions are full of them. Tight ends Fleener and Allen, WR T.Y. Hilton, and 5th round pick, RB Vick Ballard. With a veteran like Reggie Wayne, does this team have that perfect complement of talented youth and veteran leadership that many teams look for?
MG: Even though all the rookies have been fantastic players this year, and it can never hurt getting experience, I think the Colts would have been firing on all cylinders with another veteran WR (not named Donnie Avery), which they lost when Austin Collie had a season-ending knee injury early on. Ryan Grigson definitely raised some eyebrows by basically ignoring the Defense in the Draft and taking all these guys, but clearly he’s been shown absolutely correct in his decisions. Nobody could have imagined the impact all of these guys would have in year one, and that includes Luck. Wayne is the perfect leader for this group as well, as he bought into the entire system when he re-signed, and has pushed the right buttons at times this season for the rookies. He’s talked this season about how the leadership stuff always took a backseat when Manning was around, and wanting to be that guy was a big key in wanting to come back. He’s a natural at it.
BSL: Reggie Wayne contributes 7.5 mil against the Colts Salary cap next year. Do you expect him to stick around for his 13th season? Will he play out his entire contract, through 2014?
MG: As long as Chuck Pagano is the Head Coach, there’s a 0% chance he plays anywhere else in the league, and the percentage is less than 25% if Pagano isn’t here (which I don’t see him leaving before Wayne retires). It’s been obvious Wayne loves playing for Pagano, loves the city of Indianapolis, and loves being a Colt. I don’t think his contract is so bad in the final year that they’ll have to move him due to that (the Colts kept Dwight Freeney this year at a $20+ Million hit).
BSL: You guys have a couple former Ravens on the team. Tom Zbikowski and Cory Redding. Although I see these guys on your injury report this week, how much of an impact have these guys been for the defense, if at all?
MG: Andrew Luck was clearly the biggest offseason acquisition for the Colts, but the second best was easily Cory Redding, who has been the vocal leader on Defense, and has made a huge difference, when he’s been able to play. He missed the game against the Browns, and sat out last week, but I’m guessing he’ll be out there on Sunday. I think the transition to the 3-4 would have been even worse than it’s been (and it’s been bad numbers-wise) without Redding. Zbikowski is one of my favorite players, as we attended the same school, and was really hoping he’d work out for the Colts. However, I think his ceiling is a 3rd safety on a team who can step in for a game or two, but doesn’t quite have the ability to be a starter in the NFL. He’s been out the last 3 or 4 games, and Joe Lefeged, an undrafted guy last year from Rutgers, has played much better. I think he’ll stick around, but in a backup and special teams role.
BSL: With the Ravens looming in the first round, what are some of the keys you’re looking for to ensure a Colts victory?
MG: Limiting Turnovers is the biggest key, which the Colts have finally done the final three weeks of the season, but I’m not convinced it’s completely out of their system. I’m picturing an Ed Reed return TD, as he’s still the best in the business at it. They’ll also need to continue their excellent play in the Red Zone on both sides of the ball. They’ve allowed 17 drives on Defense to enter the Red Zone over the past 5 weeks, but only allowed five TDs. On Offense, they’ve made 12 trips to the Red Zone, and scored 9 TDs in the past 5 weeks. I also think Vick Ballard needs to have a successful day running the ball to take some of the pressure off of Luck. He won’t need 6 yards per carry (which should be unexpected by anyone against the Ravens Defense), but setting up 2nd and manageable, or getting a 3rd and 2 is what he’ll need to do.
We certainly thank Matt Grecco for his time and for lending us some insight on a team we haven’t gotten to see much of this year.