Pagano considers QB change after opening day debacle
Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano kept replaying the season-opening rout in his mind Sunday night.
Eventually, he went to the game tape, looking for something to soothe the embarrassment of a 46-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Less than 24 hours after watching his team self-destruct, Pagano returned to the team complex with no new information about Andrew Luck’s expected return, a full-fledged quarterback controversy raging among the fan base and a different perspective about the possibility of a quarterback switch.
“It’s something that we’ll discuss later tonight and into tomorrow as we game plan,” Pagano said Monday.
“We’ve got to do what’s best for the football team and what gives us the best chance to move the ball and put points on the board.”
All it took was one game to remind Colts fans of what happened six years ago.
Back then, Peyton Manning sat out after undergoing multiple offseason neck surgeries so the Colts handed the starting job to veteran Kerry Collins.
The season opener in Houston turned into an unmitigated disaster with Collins going 16 of 31 with 197 yards and one touchdown while losing two of three fumbles in a 34-7 loss.
Collins kept the job two more weeks then never played another down in the league as the Colts staggered to a 0-13 record.
The silver lining to that dreadful season: Indy earned the No. 1 draft pick and selected Luck.
Now as Luck continues to recover from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder and general manager Chris Ballard still urging caution about rushing Luck back, some worry it could be deja vu.
Tolzien did nothing to assuage the growing concerns Sunday.
He went 9 of 18 for 128 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions – both returned for scores.
In fact, Tolzien probably would have thrown a third pick-six if receiver Donte Moncrief hadn’t broken up the pass by grabbing the facemask of Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman.
The combination of mistakes and the blowout finally prompted Pagano to pull Tolzien in the fourth quarter to give newcomer Jacoby Brissett a shot. Brissett was acquired in a trade with New England on Sept. 2 and spent most of last week trying to learn the playbook.
Still, Brissett wound up going 2 of 3 for 51 yards with no turnovers. And it was a good enough performance to instigate a debate over whether Tolzien, who is 0-3-1 as an NFL starter, should be benched for this weekend’s home opener against the Cardinals.
Tolzien and Brissett were not baited into that discussion Sunday and were not available Monday.
“There’s nobody that can come in and digest and learn a playbook in that period of time,” Pagano said. “So there’s challenges that would be with any quarterback in any system in any NFL building.”
Of course, there was plenty of blame to go around.
Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton lost a fumble as he tried to gain extra yards.
The offensive line allowed four sacks and Indy averaged 3.1 yards on 24 carries.
The defense pitched in by letting Jared Goff throw for 306 yards and allowing the franchise’s highest opening-day point total since 1954 when the Rams shut them out 48-0.
Even Adam Vinatieri struggled. He missed a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter and the Colts’ only extra point attempt in the fourth.
Pagano blamed himself for not doing a good enough job – and not challenging a call on a first-quarter play on which the Colts appeared to score a touchdown.
Instead, the officials ruled Marlon Mack stepped out at the Rams 1-yard line and Indy eventually settled for a field goal.
Then again, it was that kind of a day.
“There’s got to be some changes, yeah.” Pagano said. “I won’t go into detail about those, but again you look at the tape, evaluate it and make the necessary changes to try to avoid that happening again.”
NOTES: Pagano said he should have waited another 25 to 30 seconds before running the goal-line play involving Mack rather than going with a quick snap. Even that might not have changed his mind, though. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Knowing what I know, I don’t think so.”… Pagano said center Ryan Kelly (foot) and cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) will continue to be listed as week to week. The Colts are hoping receiver Chester Rogers returns this week from a hamstring injury. … Rookie linebacker Anthony Walker (hamstring) was the only player injured significantly Sunday, Pagano said. … The Colts signed offensive tackle Tyreek Burwell to the practice squad.