After a seemingly endless offseason (doesn't it always seem that way?), the NFL is back. And for Colts fans, it means finally putting a painful offseason full of change behind them, and looking ahead with hope for the future (both near and distant).
While the Colts do not kick off their season until Sunday (in Chicago, 1:00 ET), the offseason is over. That means putting 2-14 behind us once and for all. It means putting the release of many classic Colts behind us once and for all.
Last year's 2-14 debacle seems so long ago. After the season ended, Colts owner Jim Irsay fired longtime general manager Bill Polian and his son, Chris. He was replaced by the untested Ryan Grigson from the Philadelphia Eagles. Grigson and Irsay made the decision to fire head coach Jim Caldwell, replacing him with first time head coach Chuck Pagano. The former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator looks to bring his tough and physical mentality to a team that desperately needs it.
Irsay, Grigson, and Pagano themselves had to be tough this offseason. In what was undoubtedly the toughest decision of Irsay's career, he parted ways with his friend and fan favorite, quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning, the franchise's greatest player, will debut on Sunday night with his new team, the Denver Broncos (who are a super bowl contender with Manning).
But that's not it - the Colts and Irsay also parted ways with popular players such as Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Melvin Bullitt, Jacob Tamme, and most recently Justin Snow.
The whole roster received a complete makeover. Actually, makeover isn't the right word. This foundation is new as well. All you have to do is look at the guy under center to tell that.
Jim Irsay had a rough offseason too. He was blasted by fans and media alike for releasing Peyton Manning, but more out of emotion than reason. Why? Because there honestly wasn't a reason to keep Peyton. Not with Mr. Luck coming in.
Irsay fell in popularity, and so did the Colts. They experienced a big drop off in ticket sales (which, if you ask me, can be explained by a 2-14 season and by parting ways with the single most important player in franchise history).
Basically, what I'm trying to say, is that it was a long and rough offseason. And now, finally, it is time to start the 2012 season.
For not having much to work with, Ryan Grigson put a pretty good team together. Not up to the caliber of the Green Bay Packers, but considering where it was just a few months ago, I am very happy.
The Colts have a franchise quarterback - Andrew Luck - who will in all likelihood be dominating the league for the next decade. Colts fans have embraced their new quarterback, who was incredibly impressive this preseason. The transition from Manning to Luck actually went much smoother than I expected.
They have a rebuilt offense. They have a rebuilt defense. Through many trades, free agent signings, and the draft, the Colts have put together the best team possible under the circumstances.
This is a team that could be decent. I have them going 7-9. Not far out of playoff contention, and a huge, huge step forward.
Colts fans have hope. After a long 2011 season and a long offsesaon this year, it's about time. No longer is it the same offseason where Manning was released, or even the same team that went 2-14. No, this is a new team. This is a new season. Tonight, the NFL kicks off. Tonight, the regular season begins. Tonight, finally, we can fully put the past behind us.
And come Sunday, this new "monster" will be in action.
The NFL is back.