Peyton Manning’s team.
As their battered quarterback sat in the upstairs booth to witness his team’s third straight loss, the look on his face illustrated his frustration of just how bad he wishes he was on the field. The feeling is probably mutual for his fellow royal blue and white jersey-wearing comrades, as the franchise appears to be spinning towards their worst season since his rookie year in 1998.
Never has a team of any sport been as reliant on one superstar as the Colts are with Manning since Michael Jordan’s first retirement with the Chicago Bulls. While the defense was able to keep the Pittsburg Steelers at bay during last Sunday Night’s game, the offense continued to be as lost as a toddler searching for his mother in a grocery store.
With no clear answer as to who can right the sinking ship that is the Colts’ 2011 season, and belief that their most important piece will be out until the end of the year; there can be only one group to blame as to why Indianapolis went from Super Bowl contender to a probable top five pick in next year’s draft.
The Colts have been lucky to have such a dependable leader that is essentially both a superstar and coach all in one. Whenever teams are given such a luxury, the future doesn’t appear to be of much concern when wins and division titles keep piling up year after year. Sadly though, the team did not look at their rivals as an example of how to deal with the problems they are currently facing.
When it comes to picking favorites in the AFC, two team names always come muttering out of the mouths of fans and analysts: the Colts and the New England Patriots. While the first string of both franchises are always comparably equal to one another, it’s the rest of the players that New England has that gives them an edge over the Colts. That issue is quite obvious when looking at how both teams reacted when their signal callers went down.
During the 2008 NFL season, Patriots QB Tom Brady took a devastating shot to his left knee by the opposition, ending his campaign early in the first quarter of week one. Rather than nose-diving into abyss like the Colts, New England had a viable option to keep them from sinking like the Titanic. Enter Matt Cassel, a virtual nobody in the eyes of the football public, who pushed them to a remarkable 11-5 record.
Despite not making the playoffs that season, it illustrated the importance for any squad to be prepared with feasible back-up players at all positions, especially quarterback.
The Colts, on the other hand, believed that they had franchise player who was impervious to injuries and sitting out any game. An understandable concept, given that Manning has started every game for his team ever since they drafted him, but it has now come back to haunt them because management was inept at making sure they had a trustworthy option in case this situation occurred.
Indianapolis thought they had sewn up the problem this offseason when they convinced 38-year-old Kerry Collins to join the team after he announced his retirement over the summer. Showing that they had little faith in their current backups at the time, and belief that their messiah would return early in their 2011 season, the Colts thought they would still continue with their winning ways.
It’s too bad that notion quickly spurned into false hope.
Not only did Collins flame out terribly in the first three games (completing less than 50% of his passes with four turnovers), but now the franchise has dug themselves an even bigger hole now that their current starter may be down with a concussion. His backup, Curtis Painter, didn’t fare any better when his number was called late in Sunday night’s loss to the Steelers.
Although this season appears to be lost, the Colts are actually in an interesting predicament if the season continues to progress the way it has.
If for some reason they end up with the worst record in the league, which is becoming an even bigger possibility as the weeks progress this season, they would be in an appealing position of winning the top draft pick in next year’s draft. If that occurs, they will have the luxury of selecting one of the most highly praised collegiate athletes in recent memory: Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck.
Despite the possible selection coming a year late for the team’s need for a quarterback, it would place the future of the franchise in a very lucrative position. With Manning signing a new five-year extension over the summer, he would potentially be the ultimate tutor for the extremely gifted Luck. Although he wouldn’t be able to start until a few years after he is drafted, the Stanford standout could reinvent and revolutionize the position of quarterback under Manning’s guidance.
Regardless of the future, it’s obvious that at the current position they are in, Colts’ management was severely unprepared for the actions that this season unfolded. Manning and his teammates cannot be held accountable for how this year turns out, it’s the rest of the franchise who need to look in the mirror and blame themselves.
Cheer up Indianapolis, because if this season continues to stay on course as it has, you just might find some Luck around the corner.