Listen, since roughly 2003, this franchise has been considered 'championship caliber.' That's eight seasons of high expectations, and that in-and-of itself is an accomplishment. Granted, in those eight, we have only one championship. Like it or not, that's a knock. But, the only reason this franchise is considered 'championship caliber' is Peyton Manning. Guys like Dwight Freeney, Reggie Wayne, and Adam Vinatieri are great compliments to Manning, but without No. 18, this is a bad football team.
So, when Lamarr Woodley of the Steelers went on NFL Network and talked about how he isn't worried about the Colts 'window' closing (citing Peyton as the reason it won't), he was being polite as well as reasonably safe in his answer. The Steelers and Colts play each other in the 2011 regular season, and Woodley isn't dumb enough to give Peyton added motivation to shred him and the Steelers defense.
But, the reality is that Peyton is 35. If we are lucky, we have maybe four more years of 'championship caliber' football left in No. 18's arm. Failing to adequately address the o-line in 2010, and thus forcing an injured Peyton to throw the ball 679 times (a career high by 88 attempts) also puts more unnecessary wear on a guy who should have the burden taken off of him in the final years of his career, not more added.
What this all adds up to is a window that is fast closing, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Lots of folks ask me, 'Why have you turned so negative towards Bill Polian in recent years.' Well, his bumbling after the 2009 season is a major reason why.
His decisions led to our then 34-year-old QB having to chuck the ball 50 times a game to win, and all the while with an injured neck. Had he not been dumb and dumped Ryan Lilja, drafted Tony Ugoh, and brought in some competent running backs not named Donald Brown, Peyton probably doesn't need that second neck surgery in thirteen months. It's stuff like that which really turns me red, and our criticism of those decisions was not done in hindsight. We were screaming 'FIX THE O-LINE!' and wondering 'WTF?' with Ryan Lilja long before the '10 season began. And we weren't the only ones.
With that, I'm happy to see the Colts making significant investment in the offensive line. They spent two high picks on quality linemen, and I wouldn't rule out a free agent or two when the lockout is eventually lifted. I also don't think it's a coincidence that this investment was made at a time when Bill Polian is stepping down and his son, Chris, is running the football operations. Bill's track record with drafting o-linemen in Indy was putrid, and it likely cost us a Super Bowl. That's not to say other decisions made by Bill weren't appreciated, but he simply failed to build a quality offensive line around Peyton after the team won the 2006 Super Bowl in Miami.
Now, with the lockout still in effect, we don't know what kind of team the Colts will field in 2011. We all seem confident Peyton will re-sign, but what about Joseph Addai? Charlie Johnson? Antonio Johnson? We just don't know. Now, if those players are signed, and if potential free agents like Tommie Harris, Plaxico Burress, Barrett Rudd, or Quintin Mikell are added to help add more playmaking ability, then I think this team is definitely the favorite in the AFC.
But, those are a lot of 'ifs,' and the answers to those 'ifs' are not ones that will last for another eight years.
Basically, we have another three-year window to win a title. After that, who knows? What I do know is most of the other 'premiere' teams are in a similar boat with us, and everyone else would kill to have any kind of window, let alone a possible three year one.