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American Football: Are the Colts this era's version of the 80's Chargers?

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posted on Jan, 15 2006 @ 09:58 PM
As I stated on one thread before, back in 1979 and the early 1980's, the San Diego Chargers had a team which was presumed destined for lots of Super Bowl rings. But it didn't happen.

In 1979, they slaughtered the defending champs, the 3-time Super Bowl-winning Steelers, 35-7, in the regular season. The result of that game was homefield advantage throughout the playoffs for Dan Fouts and his awesome offensive machine. Nobody could wait for the rematch in the AFC Title game. And to make it super-easy, the Chargers' first round foe, the Houston Oilers, were without their whole offense--by far the game's greatest running back, Earl Campbell, plus QB Dan Pastorini, who was by no means great, but was perhaps the only man in America who could overthrow Ayatollah Khomeni.

Well, nobody in the country could believe it, but San Diego lost. Fouts threw something like SIX interceptions, FOUR of which went to one defender, and the Oilers hung on for a win and a rematch, again futile (and blind-zebra-scarred) with the Steelers. S'OK, they said. This offense is so awesome, we'll get them next year, especially seeing as how the Steelers are really aging.

Came 1980. Steelers indeed aged, and didn't even make the playoffs. The Oilers barely did, and were eliminated at once. The Chargers were again the #1 seed, but played poorly in their first game and barely beat the upstart Buffalo Bills. Then, in the AFC Title Game, they hosted the Raiders, who had the temerity to think they would become the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl. The Raiders, who had already beaten Earl Campbell's team, and then beaten the Browns in arctic weather on the basis of two Jim Plunkett bombs. (14-12 I think.)

And it was like a bomb hit the stadium. Before the Chargers' fans knew it, Oakland was ahead something like 24-0, on absurdities like a pass which went off an intended receiver's fingers, sailed well downfield and was caught by another Raider receiver, who, because of the deflection, was the only one down there. He tucked it in, turned around and jogged to the endzone.

The Chargers tried like hell to overcome that deficit with their great offense, and eventually cut it to something like 31-24, but the Raiders got the ball with about 8 minutes left and Plunkett, a real veteran, managed to kill the entire clock. End of another season.

The next year, while the Chargers were at least as good on offense (maybe better), their defense took a huge fall. They went to Miami and won what readers have seen me describe as the greatest game in NFL history, 41-38, in double OT, in a game which guaranteed tight end Kellen Winslow's place in the Hall of Fame. Then they went to Cleveland for one of the harshest weather games ever played--and they, especially their most important player, Fouts, fell completely to pieces, and they got their tails kicked by a team not intimidated by super-cold weather.

The next year was football's "strike year," with a 9-game season and 8 teams from each conference making the playoffs. The Chargers pulled off another offensive masterpiece in their first game, scoring two TD's in the late 4th quarter to come from behind against the Steelers and make it to the second round.

The second round took place in Miami, where people remembered oh-so-well the 41-38 game. Miami piled up tons of points again, but Don Shula and company had figured out how to deal--in good weather, no less--with the great Fouts and his arsenal of receivers, and they routed San Diego.

And that was it. The team that looked like a lock for many Super Bowl appearances never made a single one.

Here is my question:

At what point do we start entertaining the possibility that, because of chokes and bad luck and outcoaching and perhaps just not being as good as they look, the Indianapolis Colts may be this generation's version of those dazzling Chargers teams? Yes, I know how great Indi looks on offense. Trust me, they don't look any better than Fouts looked when he had all his weapons. And I know Indi has a defense, unlike the Charger teams of 1981 and thereafter. But the Chargers of 1979 and 1980 had a pretty damn good defense, too, before Louie Kelcher gained, oh, 250 pounds, and other things went wrong.

IS THIS TEAM A MODERN VERSION OF THOSE CHARGERS--a combo of being snake-bit, choke-prone and maybe, just maybe, not as good as we fans fancy them to be?


posted on Jan, 16 2006 @ 07:29 AM
I probably shouldn't even get involved in this conversation right now because I'm so hugely upset. But here's my view, anyway, even though it'll probably be different a week from now.

I think this season the Colts were a victim of their own success. They hadn't played a meaningful game in over a month, and pro or no pro, I don't believe you can keep an edge by being in nonchalance mode for that long.

There isn't a huge disparity in overall team ability between the top and bottom of the league. It doesn't take much for the scales to tip in favor of one team over the other especially come playoff time. it wouldn't have taken much for the outcome of this game to have been totally different. A play here or there could have resulted in a Colts victory -or- a Steelers rout.

Of course, only time will tell if the Colts turn out to be the newest version of the Fouts Chargers, but I still think they're destined for a ring. Polian's a genius at GM, Irsay's smart enough to let him do his job without a lot of interference, Dungy can coach, they have a superior staff of assistants, Manning CAN do the job, and they are continually improving on the defensive side.

On a personal note, I just love football. As long as we can field a competitive team comprised of decent guys (which this team is), they'll have my support. It was a fun season while it lasted. Now I've gotta pull for the Steelers. Not just because they beat the Colts, but because they're a fun team to watch and have the best, most loyal fan base of any NFL team, if not any pro team in the USA.

posted on Jan, 16 2006 @ 08:42 PM
The biggest difference I can see--and it's a huge one--is that your team's defense is not (so far) falling apart at the seams. The Chargers' defense did exactly that, of course, and their 1981 team probably would have lost to the upstart Niners something like 38-21, if not worse, had they made the Super Bowl. (Walsh and company would have eaten their dreadful 1981 defense alive.)

Despite yesterday, I think your boys' defense has improved through the years. No rational person could argue it has done what the Chargers' defense did between 1979 (when it was very good) and 1982 (when it was "first one to 50 wins").

I hope the door doesn't close on Peyton and company. Like Elway, he is someone whose career shouldn't end without at least a couple of Super Bowl rings. God knows he's shown enough class.


posted on Jan, 16 2006 @ 09:33 PM
How about the equivelent of the 91-05 Braves? Maybe the best staff ever, yet only 1 ring. As snake bit as the Colts are, at least they didn't pull a Buffalo (4 SB losses).

posted on Jan, 16 2006 @ 09:43 PM
That may be a better analogy. It's awfully hard to compare the current Colts' defense to the laughable one which did the Chargers in from 1981 on. Then again, the Braves have rarely had an offense that reminds me of these Colts and those Chargers--the two best football offenses I've ever seen, unless I'm forgetting someone.


posted on Jan, 17 2006 @ 09:08 AM
I think what we've seen here is additional support to the old adage that defense wins championships. The difference maker in the Colts-Steelers game was the ability of the Steelers to put pressure on Manning. The best QB in the world is less than mediocre when he's on his back.

Of course the other old saying is that the best defense is a good offense. So you can go in circles on this one.

Bottom line is Colts O Line didn't get the job done. And all credit to Steelers D for making that happen.

originally posted by Hootie
As snake bit as the Colts are, at least they didn't pull a Buffalo (4 SB losses).

You've got to get to four Super Bowls to lose four. I think that's a pretty remarkable accomplishment. But for Scott Norwood's FG miss...they'd have won at least one.

The Colts can't stand pat. That's for sure. They need upgrades on defense, and will probably need to replace Edgerrin James, who's a free agent. The stars were aligned for them to do it this year and it just didn't happen. But that's what makes it interesting.

posted on Jan, 17 2006 @ 10:28 AM
Well, that intense pressure is where you'd want Fouts or Marino, over Manning. In his prime, Fouts could get rid of the ball so fast I couldn't believe it, and I am NOT talking about 10-yard passes. Yeah, it helps to have world-class receivers and the greatest pass-receiving tight end of all time, but Fouts could get that ball so far down field, so fast, it was scary.

Marino did the same in his prime, but I don't think he was as quick as Fouts. It was a long time before anyone could convince me Fouts wasn't the greatest QB ever. And please remember that although I'm from California, I am over 700 miles from San Diego and have a deeply instilled dislike for So Cal sports teams. So this isn't regional partisanship speaking. Fouts was just plain awesome at his peak, though obviously it helped to have Winslow, those great WR's, and two RB's who were more than good enough to take the heat off.

I used to watch them and think of a new tune for Wizard of Oz: "If I Only Had a D."

Now, Manning may well be a better QB when all is said and done, but for yesterday's game, given the choice, I'd have taken Fouts in his prime, in a heartbeat. "You wanna blitz me with all those guys? PLEASE do!" Just as Dan Marino would have said, in his prime. (Remember, he's the one who racked up something like 38 points on the best defense many of us have ever seen, the 1985 Bears, and that is EXACTLY how he did it..)


posted on Jan, 17 2006 @ 12:44 PM
Given Sunday's game, I can think of a dozen QB's I might have rather had in there. Including Fran Tarkenton. Manning definitely gets "happy feet" in the pocket and is about as elusive as a pole lamp. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy but Sunday wasn't his best performance.

Fouts and Marino both had supernatural ability when it came to getting rid of the ball quickly and accurately and way down the field, if appropriate. I saw more of Marino than I did Fouts, but it was always my opinion that nobody had a quicker release than Marino. Either way, they were both Hall of Famers, so what can you say?

I still refuse to label Manning a choker. It's a team sport and there was plenty of room for blame, starting with the coaching staff. I mean, you know the Steelers are gonna blitz your brains out. How can you not prepare for that? Or at least make some adjustments at half time?

posted on Jan, 17 2006 @ 03:37 PM
I agree with that, but it makes me reiterate something else I said before. IF Tony Dungy was involved in making those calls, or constructing the overall offensive plan at halftime, that is the GM's fault. ANYONE who has children--a category which includes you--can imagine what an incomparable horror it is to lose one of them to a ghastly premature death.

I wasn't kidding before when I said every psychologist I've ever asked about the subject has said, hands down, it is the worst thing which can happen to a person. My mom's death was a horrendous experience for me. Unless I outlive my niece (god forbid), who is like a daughter to me (though I know intuitively it's not the same), my mom's death will be the worst experience of my life.

But I'm told that as bad as the death of an especially beloved parent is, it absolutely pales next to the death of one's child, because that experience is so unnatural, so wrong, and therefore so shattering. I'm also told it's something from which one never totally recovers.

But with Dungy, it's not a matter of not "totally recovering." He was just barely into the recovery process, and as a human being, he was therefore necessarily still in a state of shock and a type of grief which hopefully none of us will ever relate to. It's all well and good to have something to "take your mind off of problems," but nothing is going to take your mind off of THIS problem... or, at least, it's not going to clear your head for 3.5 hours and make you fit to do something as intellectually engaging as playing championship level Duplicate Bridge or Chess.

Now, I don't know what went on in that locker room at half-time, or who was making the calls after that, but we all plainly saw whom it was that Manning overruled on that fourth down play that could have become one of historical proportions... Dungy. And that tells me HE was the one making the ultimate calls.

It's very nice the owner and GM wanted Dungy to go right on in that role for the rest of the season, despite the horrendous loss he had suffered. But if that team was absolutely committed to winning above all else, I think they should have had one of the top coordinators assume the role of gametime head coach for the rest of the year, and let Dungy supervise practices, give pregame (long) and halftime (very brief) talks which were both motivational and authoritarian. The acting head coach could have had the floor for plenty of time before the game, and for 80% of halftime.

I know that sounds cold to Dungy, but the way I'm talking about would have left it clear he was still the #1 man, and would be the unequivocal head coach again come next Spring. Leaving him in charge like this compromised the team, and anyone who thinks otherwise need only think about the play where he was going to punt and Manning overruled him. In fact, a punt there would have been lunacy, giving the Steelers the ball back with the 4th quarter about to start and an 18-point lead. And a clear-headed Dungy would have known that, because that man is a FINE coach.


posted on Jan, 17 2006 @ 05:40 PM
Then they went to Cleveland for one of the harshest weather games ever played--and they, especially their most important player, Fouts, fell completely to pieces, and they got their tails kicked by a team not intimidated by super-cold weather.

Boy, I'm just not happy if I'm not making factual errors about that Chargers team. This extremely harsh weather game was played in Cincinnati, and it was the Bengals who then went to San Francisco and lost to the first of the Niners' 5 championship teams.

posted on Jan, 18 2006 @ 08:09 AM
Well, I glossed over it and didn't pick up on it either, so no big deal. At least we remembered it was in Ohio.

I see your point about Dungy, but the GM (Polian) left it entirely up to him. It was made clear that Dungy could have all the time he wanted. To everyone's credit on that team from the ownership down, I believe they were truly more concerned for Dungy than they were about winning. Of course they all wanted to win, but had it in perspective.

I lost an older brother when I was a kid, so I know as well as anyone (without actually losing a child myself) how devastating that can be to a family and I can vouch that the parents never fully recover from it.

Anyway, woulda coulda shoulda. Didn't. The Steelers are tough. No real shame in losing to them. We'll get 'em next year. Or not.

posted on Jan, 18 2006 @ 01:34 PM
Dear YeahRight,

So you think they should have put Dungy's needs, given the overwhelming nature of his personal tragedy and grief, ahead of the team's desire to win? We both know that given the opportunity, any professional coach or player in that situation is going to say, "F---, yes, I'm ready to get back out there!!! It will do me some good to get outside of my head!!!"

But we also both know that Dungy could only get just so far outside of his head, and your remarks make it clear you understand this very well.

What I proposed would have left Dungy feeling like he was still the head coach and was on a partial sabbatical, but would be back full time come training camp, with full responsibilities once his next season resumed (which is when? March?). That team had an enormous year, tens millions of fans nationwide--because of Manning's popularity, and because of the popularity of any team with a Foutsian/Manningesque offense--and probably over a billion dollars of money spent on Colts tickets, memorabilia, commercials with Manning, etc.

Don't they have an obligation to all those fans to put winning first?

Again, I'm not talking about emasculating Dungy. He still would have functioned as head coach in practice all week, except with regard to the game plan. He still would have given as long a pre-game speech as he wanted, except ditto. And the coordinator who took over running the actual game would, if he had a brain in his head, have used the entire situation inspirationally, though that would have to be very low-key or it would get into bad taste, fast.

I am not trying to be cold. In fact, one of the things that turns my stomach about pro sports is how cold they can get. But an awful lot of people poured an awful lot of heart, soul and money into this year's Colts, and the players on that team put everything they had into it from the beginning of training camp.

Don't all of those people's feelings count, too?

It is really too bad that game came down to a no-win situation. If Vanderjagt makes that kick, and the Colts win the coinflip, the Colts are almost certainly off the hook--coaches included. But then how do we all feel for Jerome Bettis and the horrendous way he likely ended his career? (Frankly, I think that would have been Cowher's fault, because I would have knelt on the ball 3 times.) But this is a worse feeling, because I think the Steelers would have lost in Denver, and I'm fairly sure what would have happened to Denver in that Dome--unless they brought their pet zebras again.


posted on Jan, 18 2006 @ 02:09 PM
Your scenario makes perfect sense and would have been a perfectly rational way to approach it. I've got no problem laying the responsibility at the feet of the GM. That's why he makes the big bucks. It was a sad day for Colts fans and a great one for the Steelers. Which is how it always works.

IF the Colts would have done as you suggested and lost anyway, that would be another conversation completely. It IS a no-win situation. (Unless you win - Bettis aside). They made the decision to let Dungy make the decision, now everyone just has to live with it. I still maintain the mistake was in sitting guys for a month. But then, they could've played and gotten hurt, then we're off on another round of speculation.

Sports. Gotta love it.

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