Dungy defends beleaguered Meeks
Colts coach says defensive aide's performance not the problem
By Mike Chappell
The e-mails come fast and furious, many from furious fans.
The problem with the Indianapolis Colts defense? It's the scheme. It's the personnel. It's coach Tony Dungy or president Bill Polian. And, most definitely, it's coordinator Ron Meeks. He's got to go.
First things first: Meeks isn't going anywhere.
With the Colts' erratic defense having one last chance to get its act together before the playoffs -- Sunday's game in the RCA Dome against the Miami Dolphins -- Dungy made it clear he has the utmost confidence in his defensive coordinator.
"Absolutely,'' he said Wednesday. "Last year we were No. 2 in scoring defense and doing a lot of good things. What's different? Nothing's different other than last year we lost two (games) and this we've lost four.''
Meeks was not made available for comment on the erratic play of the Colts defense.
Dungy acknowledged the obvious, that the Colts have been unable to adequately defend the run this year with anything approaching the success they enjoyed last season. After allowing averages of 110.1 yards per game and 4.4 yards per attempt in 2005, the averages have mushroomed to 174.5 and 5.3. Both are league worsts by comfortable margins.
The fault for the inconsistencies, Dungy insisted, is a shared one. And while the problem has persisted most of the season, it's been magnified as the Colts have lost four of their past six games.
"When you win, everything's great,'' Dungy said. "Everything you do is good. There are no problems. When you lose, nothing's good. There's problems everywhere. That's what losing brings.''
In some instances, losing and ineffective play bring dramatic change. On Tuesday, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin relieved offensive coordinator John Hufnagel of his play-calling duties. Hufnagel was the fifth offensive coordinator to be demoted or fired this season.
"It's an easy solution, 'Well, this is wrong, so get different players, different coaches, a new scheme,' '' Dungy said.
The key to rectifying any problem, he added, is to calmly analyze it.
"If you analyze and you think you need to make a change in any situation and it's going to help, then you make it,'' Dungy said. "Most of the time you analyze and the changes that need to be made aren't ones that people want to see.''
Since Meeks' arrival in 2002, the Colts defense has ranked No. 8 (in 2002), No. 11 twice ('03 and '05) and No. 29 ('04) in total yards. It's No. 19 in total yards heading into Sunday's game, No. 23 in points allowed. In two of the previous four seasons, the unit ranked in the top seven in fewest points allowed.
Players were quick to defend Meeks, opting to accept the blame for what has been 15 games of erratic defense rather than disseminating it elsewhere.
"We all know everyone's going to point fingers,'' said defensive tackle Raheem Brock. "We're not even thinking about that. (Meeks) calls the plays, but we have to go out there and execute. It's always on us.''
Added cornerback Nick Harper: "It's definitely on the players. We can't put it on the coaches. All they can do is make the calls. Whether it's a good call or a bad call, we have to go out and execute.''
A voice from afar agreed. Although not talking specifically about Meeks and the Colts' defense, Miami defensive end Jason Taylor said players must be accountable for their level of play. Coaches can only construct a blueprint.
"They can give you a scheme and a plan and a direction, but at the end of the day, they're standing on the sideline (or) sitting up in the (press) box eating hot dogs,'' Taylor said in a conference call with Indy media. "You've got to go out there and play and make plays and execute.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to players. You just have to be accountable; be professional, be accountable.''
Call Star reporter Mike Chappell at (317) 444-6830.
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