After Sunday’s upset loss to Houston, Indy’s Peyton Manning plays a vague version of the blame game, as enabled by the Star’s Bob Kravitz.

“I thought the veterans certainly knew what was at stake,” Manning said after being informed Baltimore was rolling Pittsburgh. “I’m not sure about the young players, that they totally understand. Maybe you have to be in this league and be in these playoff scenarios a couple of times to really understand. But I thought the veterans, we talked about playing with a sense of urgency, like we needed this game to get into the playoffs. That’s how we prepared for it offensively.”

No, Manning wasn’t throwing the defense under the bus. But he wasn’t insulting anybody’s intelligence, either. The Colts offense had six possessions Sunday (plus a kneel-down before halftime). Six. They ran 45 stinking plays. Everybody sees what’s happening here. It’s been happening all of Manning’s career, and if things don’t change, it’s going to doom Manning to be this generation’s Dan Fouts. Team president Bill Polian has had nine years and two coaches, and still, this team’s defenses haven’t stopped anybody.

Pro Football Talk
takes a dim view of any inference the Colts haven’t done enough to surround Manning with superior talent, particularly as Mr. Cut That Meat’s monster contract makes it awfully difficult to do so.

As one league insider responded, “Here we go again.  Perhaps it’s [Manning] being a pig and not allowing enough cap space for any defensive players , or perhaps it’s the great Bill Polian not building it correctly, [spending] all the cash on offense.  Great job of planning, Bill.”

The “pig” line is a reference to the fact that Manning hijacked the team a couple of years back on a cap-busting contract, which as a practical matter makes it harder to surround him with talent.  Compounding matters are big-money deals given both to receiver Marvin Harrison and receiver Reggie Wayne.

Though the Colts have tried to spend a little money on the other side of the ball, “squander” might be the more appropriate term, given the cash that was handed to defensive tackle Corey Simon, who has been a huge disappointment.

We wonder who Manning will blame when 2006 becomes the latest NFL season to end in disappointment for him.  If he’s smart, he’ll start with the large-headed mammal whose reflection he sees when brushing his teeth. 

While the New York Times’ Selena Roberts had a terrific column Christmas morning on the poor fit that is Colonel Coughlin and the New York Football Giants (” in dissecting his inconsistent three-season reign in the Meadowlands, you have to consider the judgment of the Mara family in placing this coach with this team. They hired Arthur Fiedler to conduct VH1™s œDivas Live. A mismatch from the beginning is in full bloom now. Coughlin is a throwback coach trying to direct a team built to win today that is assembled with self-consumed players fixated on tomorrow,”), the Post’s Steve Serby lowers the level of discussion by seriously advocating Big Blue pursuit of Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis.

Weis would be the closest thing to a young Bill Parcells, a tough, smart Jersey Guy disciplinarian and motivator who would have the best chance of anyone on the planet of saving Eli Manning, because Weis is a brilliant offensive mind with the interpersonal skills necessary to nurture and steady a developing young quarterback.

The fly in the ointment for Giants ownership could be the reported $15 million or so it would cost it to buy out Weis’ contract, which runs through 2015, but nothing is impossible in this day and age.

The prospect of the Hooded Casanova, Weis and Eric Mangini all coaching in the same division might be the one thing that would get me to stop following professional football altogether. Except for the CFL, where Parcells/Hooded Casanova proteges are in short supply.