My fellow Colts:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank Tony Dungy for his service to this team, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Eighteen coaches have now donned the headset for this franchise. Calls have been relayed in as this team has won playoff games and Super Bowls. Yet, every so often the play calling is done done during tough times and crushing defeats. At these moments, this franchise has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because the players and fans have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Colts.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our team is constantly in battle, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our special teams are badly weakened, a consequence of ineptitude on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the team for a new age. Games have been lost; kicks returned; confidence shuttered. Each day brings further evidence that the way we cover kicks strengthen our adversaries and threaten our franchise.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that the Colts decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, Indianapolis — they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the missed tackles and the unfulfilled expectations, the drops and worn out defense, that for far too long have strangled this team.
We remain a young squad, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of victory.
In reaffirming the greatness of our franchise, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and victory.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this team has already done; what talented men can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our defense is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps in stopping the run, stopping the pass, and keeping the other team from scoring points. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will change. Those of us who manage the team's assets will be held to account — to manage them wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between the fans and their team.
Recall that earlier generations faced down similar threats not just with star players and fancy schemes, but with a sturdy team alliance and enduring convictions. They understood that our talent alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between our players and coaches. We will not apologize for our way of football, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
Our challenges may be new. The strategies with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and team pride — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of success throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every Colt, that we have duties to ourselves, our team, and the fanbase, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of playing in the NFL.
Indianapolis, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember what has brought us to this point. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth our great tradition of success and delivered it safely to future generations.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the Indianapolis Colts.