Having been a Colts fan for 25 years, I have seen quite a few highs and lows. Whether it's the trade to get Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, drafting Jeff George #1 overall in 1990, the magical 1995 season led by Jim Harbaugh or the Super Bowl winning season of 2006, the ride has been quite a roller coaster. Here we are in week 14 of the 2010 season, having enjoyed nearly a decade of dominance in our division, constant Super Bowl hype, 2 Super Bowl visits and a championship later and people are complaining to the extreme about how the Colts are 6-6 and on the outside looking in at the playoffs. I've heard both writers and fans here call for Jim Caldwell, Bill Polian and a host of others to lose their jobs because of the difficulty we are suffering this season. Never mind the fact that we've lost our All-Pro TE (Dallas Clark), starting wide receiver (Austin Collie), Pro Bowl RB (Joseph Addai), All-Pro S Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt...do I need to continue? It's been a brutal year for injuries. More so than I have ever seen before. It happens, people.
Yes, it sucks. Yes, it's frustrating. Lord knows I have yelled at the television a few times this season, but it's not the end of the world. Considering how tough it has been it is easy to understand why some people would have a quick temper and want to see heads roll. However, calling for Caldwell or Polian's job is ridiculous. We're spoiled. It's true. We as a fan base are very, very spoiled. We have been in the playoffs 10 times since Peyton Manning was drafted in 1998 and we have gotten very used to winning. Ask fans of the Detroit Lions or the Cleveland Browns or the Cincinnati Bengals how many times they have seen the playoffs since 1998. The Lions have gone through 14 starting quarterbacks in the 13 years we have had one All-World QB. The Browns have one playoff appearance since re-entering the league in 1999. The Bengals have suffered seven 10+ loss seasons during a span in which we have enjoyed ten 10+ win seasons.
Folks, what I am getting at during this time of year where we are supposed to be thankful is that we as Colts fans need to lose with grace when we lose. We need to calm down and take these lumps without acting like spoiled children. One year ago we were in the Super Bowl with Jim Caldwell as our coach. Though it is easy to say that was a "Dungy Team" and that a chimpanzee could have led the team to a Super Bowl, we all know that simply is not true. During my 25 years as a Colts fan we have only been to the Super Bowl twice, so don't tell me a chimpanzee could run the team and it would be in the Big Dance. As for Polian and the front office - yes, they are having a rough go these days. Sometimes you hit it big in the draft and sometimes you don't. However, for each of the failures of our drafting (David Macklin in 2000, Larry Tripplett in 2002, Tim Jennings in 2006 & Tony Ugoh in 2007), there have also been a tremendous amount of extraordinary selections (taking Manning over Ryan Leaf in 1998, taking Edgerrin James over Ricky Williams in 1999, drafting Reggie Wayne in 2001, Dwight Freeney in 2002, Dallas Clark and Robert Mathis in 2003, getting Bob Sanders in the second round in 2004, Addai in 2006, etc...) Most of our early round picks have been major success stories and several of our late round picks (Mathis, Cato June, Clint Session, Collie) have been huge for this franchise.
I know what you're probably thinking...
"What about our recent draft woes?"
About those players we drafted early who have been "busts" in the eyes of some fans, to call 1st rounders like Anthony Gonzalez or Donald Brown busts depends on how a person defines the word "bust." I have a hard time calling a player prone to injury a bust. If a guy is drafted early and flat-out stinks like George did in 1990, that is one thing. However, to call a guy like Steve Emtman, Gonzalez or Brown busts seems unfair to me considering those players gave maximum effort and were hurt due to factors out of their control. I'll never forget watching Steve Emtman getting carted off the field after blowing out his knee for a second time in two years in 1993. The tears running down his face as he knew his knee gave out again told the story of how frustrated he was. It was not in his control that he suffered a plethora of injuries. Just the same, it wasn't Brandon Bulsworth's fault that he died in a car accident following the 1999 draft. We don't call Bulsworth a bust, do we? Get the point?
In any case, what I am getting at is that we need to raise our heads high and take pleasure in our successes and not overreact to the difficulties we are enduring. Most teams would kill to be in our position. Just ask the 6-6 Raiders how wonderful it is to be in the running for a change instead of being a laughing stock. Just the same, remember that we too are in the running right now as I type this. If we rally and pull together we can actually win the division and maybe make some noise in the postseason. If we don't make the playoffs, enjoy the good memories of years previous and remember how fortunate we all are to be Colts fans and not Texans fans who have yet to even see a postseason game. Be thankful we are still in the hunt after some heartbreaking losses and a ton of injuries. I think we should be honored to be in the hunt every year and take the difficult losses gracefully. As this season continues, I hope you will be thankful too.