In a move that many football fans saw coming, the Indianapolis Colts fired their head coach Jim Caldwell on Jan. 17 after the NFL club struggled to a 2-14 season. Of course, they had to play the entire season without future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
The record is a reversal of Caldwell’s 14-2 season back in 2009, which was his first as head coach, when he led the Colts all the way to the Super Bowl only to be beaten 31-17 by the New Orleans Saints. The team didn’t make it quite as far last year as they were knocked out of the playoffs by the New York Jets in the wild-card round after going 10-6 in the regular season.
Caldwell, who was the team’s quarterback and assistant head coach from 2002 to 08, saw the wheels fall off the bus this year, starting with the injury and surgeries to Manning. Fans knew the quarterback was one of the most valuable players in the league, but most of them didn’t expect the Colts to miss him as much as they did and perform so poorly.
Jim Irsay, owner of the franchise, told the press after the season that Caldwell’s and the team’s performance was being evaluated and it would take a bit of time until a decision on the head coach’s future would be made. It’s possible that Tony Dungy, who coached the team from 2002 to 08, could return. However, that remains to be seen since he seems to be quite content working for “Football Night in America” on NBC.
Caldwell’s dismissal wasn’t the first major move made by Irsay and there could be more of them coming in wake of the disastrous season. Bill Polian, the club’s vice chairman, was fired along with his son Chris, the team’s GM as soon as the season came to a crashing end. However, Caldwell lasted a few weeks longer while Irsay decided what to do with the man who went 26-22 as the team’s head coach in his three-year stint.
Caldwell started his head coaching career brighter than anyone in history by setting a league record for a first-year coach after winning his first 14 NFL contests. He was also just the fifth rookie coach to take his squad to the Super Bowl. The fans didn’t care that Manning was injured though and the writing has been on the wall for Caldwell since mid season.
With Manning in the lineup the Colts won 115 regular-season encounters in the previous decade for a league record. They also tied the NFL record by making the playoffs nine years in a row and won a pair of two AFC championships and a Super Bowl along the way. But without Manning, the team went 0-13 this season before winning two of their last three games. They came close to becoming just the second NFL club to go winless in a regular season. They lost their final game of the campaign to Jacksonville, which gave them the number-one pick in the next draft.
Manning said Caldwell helped him to win his record four MVP Awards and called him a friend as well as a good coach. Ryan Grigson, the team’s new GM will now meet with Irsay to decide if any other moves need to be made and who might be a good candidate for the head coaching job.