Caldwell on Christensen: Check the stats

ANDERSON, Ind. -- Sometimes, when working to build a post, the entry is accelerated and breaks into pieces.

Since arriving at Colts camp, I’ve been asking questions about Clyde Christensen, who’s in his ninth season with the team but his first as offensive coordinator.

It’s a job he’s held once before in the NFL, and his offense in 2001 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was not very good. (Here’s an interview he did leading into that season.) On Wednesday I asked head coach Jim Caldwell about Christensen in his new position and about that Tampa Bay experience. His answer prompted me to look back at those Bucs and to write now even though I expect to talk to Christensen on Friday.

The Bucs were 30th in rushing with an injured Warrick Dunn, 15th in passing, 26th in total offense and 15th in scoring.

After 12 games, Christensen told the St. Petersburg Times: "It has to begin with me. That's my job. To get them coordinated. I have no problem with the criticism. The bottom line is the performance, and we should be better than we are.

"If I was giving myself a grade, I'd say about a C. Dead average. That's disappointing, because being average is not satisfactory."

Then after Philadelphia routed the Bucs 31-9 in the wild-card round, Tampa Bay receiver Keyshawn Johnson said: "A lot of guys on this team have a lot of bark, but no bite. Guys have to just shut up and play."

Per Caldwell’s request, I checked the stats, and here’s what I think he was driving at: A year after Tony Dungy and his staff were fired and Jon Gruden took over, the Bucs won the Super Bowl.

But that championship offense, in a league with one more franchise, was 27th in rushing (three spots better than Christensen’s), 15th in passing (same), 24th in total offense (two spots better) and 18th in scoring (three spots worse.)

Gruden was regarded as an offensive genius at that point, but his offense had a lot of the same weak spots as Christensen’s did.

While Caldwell indicated he thinks Christensen got a bad rap in Tampa Bay, the Colts coach also mentioned how a lot of coaches who were perceived to be not great in their first go-around rebounded to fare much better in a second chance.

He pointed to his own poor win-loss record as coach at Wake Forest, mentioned the difference in Dennis Green from college to the NFL and nodded in agreement when I mentioned Bill Belichick as another example.

“You ought to check the stats and see what exactly we were trying to get done and what we got done,” he said of Christensen’s year as coordinator with the Bucs, when Caldwell was quarterbacks coach on the same Dungy staff. “A lot of people make assumptions and have preconceived notions about things.

“But he’s a very good football coach, he’s a very capable guy, he’s an excellent leader and I think you’ll see he’ll do a great job.”

In Indy, Tom Moore is still around as senior offensive assistant and Peyton Manning is still determining what exactly to do on a play as he assesses things after breaking the huddle. We aren’t going to see a discernable difference because Christensen is now officially at the helm. He’s put in good years with the team, earned Caldwell’s trust and loyalty as well as this promotion. He’s obviously inheriting a great offense.

Still, it’s reasonable to look at that stint in Tampa Bay and wonder how it will go.

“He’s in his position because he’s capable,” Caldwell said. “He’s a very good, very strong offensive mind. He knows our system extremely well. He’s been working in it for a number of years now, had played a major role in it, oftentimes behind the scenes. ... [He’s worked on] our red zone, we’ve been very effective in that particular area, and our third-down packages as well.”

Stay tuned for more on him, and hopefully from him, later this week.