Slow down, Jim Irsay: Colts offensive line isn't 'fixed' just yet, says former O-line coach
The Colts offensive line might not be as “fixed” as franchise owner Jim Irsay recently proclaimed.
But the person who Irsay cited in making such a statement believes it isn’t far away from happening.
Ex-Colts offensive line coach Howard Mudd said Wednesday night that Irsay misconstrued his comments about a unit that has fallen into decay in recent seasons. Speaking to roughly 2,000 Colts fans last week in a town-hall setting at Butler University, Irsay referenced what he claimed was a conversation with Mudd about the state of the offensive line entering the 2017 campaign.
“I’m telling you guys — the offensive line is fixed,” Irsay said.
Mudd, though, said he never used the word “fixed,” and his conversation with Irsay actually happened last summer while both were attending the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison. Mudd said the way his feedback was portrayed has gotten “a little bit haywire and sideways.”
“I saw (Irsay) and said, ‘I really like the beginning of what you have there (with) the young guys that you’ve brought in,’” Mudd told co-host Bill Polian and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “He said that I said they fixed it. Well, they’re in the process of getting it fixed because they’ve got some guys who I would have liked to have coached.”
Mudd specifically named two 2016 draft picks in center Ryan Kelly and right guard Joe Haeg.
“Haeg reminds me of Jake Scott except he’s even more versatile than that,” said Mudd, referencing the nine-year NFL veteran who played in Indianapolis from 2004 to 2007.
The Colts return two other starters in left tackle Anthony Castonzo and left guard Jack Mewhort. Le’Raven Clark, a 2016 third-round pick, worked as the starting right tackle this offseason but is still trying to solidify himself at the position.
An infusion of young talent and hiring of former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin as offensive line coach led to improvement in 2016. Frank Gore became the first Colts running back to record a 1,000-yard rushing season since 2007. And while quarterback Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times — matching the career-high total from his 2012 rookie year — only 10 came in the season’s final seven games. That includes shutouts of three of the NFL’s top pass rushers in Oakland’s Khalil Mack and Minnesota’s Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter.
“If they don’t get hurt and stay together and all that kind of stuff I think the physical stuff is there,” said Mudd, who retired in 2012 after 37 seasons as an NFL offensive line coach. “Two of those guys — Kelly and Haeg — they’ve demonstrated the mental (toughness) to go out there and scrap and not give and be determined to get the job done. Those are interesting characteristics they have.”
The next benchmark for the line to reach is providing better protection to Luck than in previous years. The beating that Luck has taken caused him to miss the final nine games of the 2015 season and undergo surgery last January to repair a torn labrum suffered in the same year. Luck still hasn’t thrown in practice this offseason and a timetable for his return is unknown.
“For sure they’ve got to keep No. 12 healthy,” Mudd said.
That’s something both Mudd and Irsay and can agree upon.
Alex Marvez can be heard from 7 to 11 p.m. ET Thursday on Sirius XM NFL Radio.