INDIANAPOLIS – Lets rewind back to the disastrous 2011 Indianapolis Colts season. The Colts were without Peyton Manning for the first time since 1997 and looked like a team that was about to be blown up. At the beginning of the year, it didn’t seem like it the end of an era, but by December, the Colts were 0-13 and knowing Manning’s future with the team was over. The “suck for Luck” slogan was here as everyone wanted to just finish the year with the No. 1 Draft Pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and replace Manning with Andrew Luck.
That’s just what happened too.
Indianapolis finished 2-14 and drafted Luck with the top pick in April. The second coming was here. Luck was advertised as the best quarterback prospect out of college ever and would give Indy a Manning to Luck transition. It seemed perfect.
Yes, there was a new regime, a new coaching staff, front office and an overhaul of the roster, but this was going to be a much bigger/better era of Colts football. Owner Jim Irsay vowed to win “multiple Super Bowls” as he expressed his gratitude of the Manning/Polian era from 1998-2011 in Indianapolis, but felt perturbed that the Colts only won just one Super Bowl and only had two Super Bowl appearances in those 14 years.
Irsay said then that the Luck era would top the Manning era which saw the Colts win 141 regular season games from 1998-2011, with 11 seasons of double digit victories, including eight division titles, 11 playoff appearances, two Super Bowl matchups and a Super Bowl victory.
That’s a lot to ask for.
But, lets fast forward to the start of the 2015 NFL season. Indianapolis was coming off of three straight 11-5 seasons and advanced a step further in each year of the playoffs. They also won the last two AFC South division titles. It was clear that the AFC South was the Colts’ division to lose again and they’d be on the perch of the AFC with a young quarterback and dynamic team.
In fact, in the offseason, the Colts upgraded even more as that even made them the favorites to win the Super Bowl last season. Odds makers and Vegas labeled them that.
Now, fast forward to now. They’re 1-3 and are in a far worse situation than they were in before Manning even came to town. They were 8-8 last year but 6-3 without their franchise quarterback. At least when they were below average in 2011, they had some light at the end of the tunnel. Now, they have their franchise quarterback and a talent group of players. But, they’re not performing.
With Luck at helm the last two years, they’re 3-8 in games he’s started, 6-3 without.
This is an underachieving team with no direction. They’re worse now than at any point during the Luck era and that’s a concern. They have talent but the talent that they have aren’t playing good. They can’t block for Luck, the receivers go missing for games at a time and can’t get open. Luck also isn’t playing like a $140-million quarterback, the run game has had just one 100-yard rusher just once in this era and the defense year in and year out is awful.
Then, there’s coaching that’s seen the Colts fall behind double digits in the first half in almost 40-percent of all games Pagano has coached including three of the four games this season and every playoff game he’s ever coached in but one. They always look ill-prepared and not focused.
Mix in the fact that the Colts can’t beat anyone outside of the AFC South and the fact that the divisional teams have caught up and passed the Colts, and you have reason to think this team is heading no where anytime soon.
What’s the expectations for the rest of the season then?
I had them 8-8 or 7-9 at best and that was being 3-1 at this point of the year. I do think they can win Sunday at home against the Chicago Bears, but I don’t trust them to win on the road at Houston or at Tennessee. I also don’t think there’s any way they’d contend with Kansas City at home or at Green Bay after that, so what makes you think they’ll be any better than 2-7 or 3-6 by their bye week in November? At that point, they will likely tank it in as all the momentum would be gone.
They then host Tennessee out of the bye which could be a win, but the rest of the season is brutal with a game against Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving then at the New York Jets. I don’t think they’ll be any better than 1-2 in that stretch to push them to 3-9 or 4-8 overall. From there is a home game with the Texans then at Minnesota and at Oakland. Again, 1-2 at best and possibly 0-3.
That puts them 4-11 or 5-10 at best going into the season finale against Jacksonville.
So, they could be 5-11 or 6-10 at best case in 2016. Is that up to par for a team with $250-million wrapped up over the next several years with a starting quarterback, wide receiver, left tackle and tight end? Does Troy Aikman, Joe Montana, John Elway, Brett Favre, Manning, Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw or others go 5-11 in their prime with good talent around them?
That’s why the writing is on the wall and that’s a total rebuild again. This team needs a new front office, coaching staff and many new players. Keep Luck and give the new GM the call on the rest. If Hilton can be the “ghost” in a good way and not literally a “ghost” against good defenses, then he can stay if the GM wants, but the rest would be rather easy to cut. While Luck is young and the Colts can dangle the GM/head coaching job out there, they’d get some big named suitors to come here.
But, this isn’t working and unfortunately, Luck is in year 5 and this team is worse than ever before. If they want to win “multiple Super Bowls” and have better years than the Manning era, then the Colts need to win at least two Super Bowls in the next nine years and at least one of those years will be a rebuild.
Delaying the inevitable is only hurting Luck and this era of Colts football. Keep this in mind too, if the Colts do clean house, and I think they will, then next year will be Luck’s fourth offensive coordinator in six years.
Eric Smith is a Senior Writer for the Indiana Sports Report covering Racing. He’s covered both IndyCar and NASCAR action since 2009 and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by both the IndyCar Series and all three divisions of NASCAR racing.
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