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Stampede Blue recaps the Indianapolis Colts 2009 season

We’ve had several days to digest and mourn the Super Bowl. Just like the Seahawks, Bears, Patriots, and Cardinals the last few years, we now know what it feels like to lose a Super Bowl. However, unlike the many other teams in this league, we also know what Saints fans are experiencing right now. And when it is all said and done, if someone handed me a list of teams and told me something like "We’ll everyone you’ve ever loved unless you make the Colts lose a Super Bowl to one of these teams," the team I’d pick would be the Saints.

For decades, the Saints were utter garbage. Now, they are world champions. The power of NFL parity and THE reason the NFL is so great can be summed up by the last five Super Bowls, which featured the Seahawks, Colts, Cardinals, and Saints. These teams were the doormats of the NFL for many, many years prior to these recent Super Bowls.

For us Colts fans, after a week of shoveling through all the mindless crap thrown at every Super Bowl loser, it is time to take stock of the 2009 season. While our guys weren’t able to take home their second Super Bowl in four years, the season was a tremendous success, especially when you consider all that happened this year and how the team dealt with it.

It’s pretty chic these days for people to attack Jim Caldwell and second guess his decisions in the Super Bowl, but the reality is the people bashing him simply don’t know what they are talking about. Caldwell had the Colts focused and prepared for the Super Bowl. Hell, he had them focused and prepared all season. If Hank Baskett fields that onside kick; if Dwight Freeney’s ankle isn’t injured; if the Colts defense gets the Saints off the field on third down, Caldwell would have completed one of the greatest rookie head coaching jobs in NFL history. So please, Caldwell bashers need to pull their heads out of their collective anal cavities. The guy is a good coach. Ask the Seahawks how their head coaching situation went after their future Hall of Fame coach retired. Also, consider that two years ago Sean Payton was considered an utter bum for not getting the Saints back to the playoffs with virtually the same team from 2006.

One year you’re garbage; the next, you’re gold.

For me, the 2009 team really showed me the Colts could find ways to win football games even with the odds stacked against them. They set a record for fourth quarter comebacks (7). They set an NFL record, winning 22 straight regular season games. They played brilliantly on offense despite a less than standard running game. Their defense was stellar throughout most of the playoffs despite not having Bob Sanders.

Think about that: No Bob Sanders (arguably one of the best safeties in football), and the Colts made the Super Bowl. Ask Steelers how their favorite team did minus their All-Star safety, Troy Polamalu.

Indeed, with players like Marvin Harrison gone, and with Anthony Gonzalez knocked out of the season in Week One, the Colts managed to win anyway while, at the same time, develop receivers like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. We saw Dallas Clark develop into the best tight end in football. Reggie Wayne, the perennial #2 receiver, developed into a #1 receiver. When was the last time that happened? Did John Taylor, Mark Duper, Alvin Harper, or J.J. Stokes ever become "great" receivers after their #1 receivers left or retired? How’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh doing minus Chad Ochocinco?

On defense, look at someone like Philip Wheeler. The guy went from starter in camp to benched to starter again because of an injury to becoming a pretty good SAM backer. Guys like Jerraud Powers (rookie) and Jacob Lacey (rookie) have helped set a solid foundation for the secondary in the future, while established vets like Kelvin Hayden and Antoine Bethea became leaders.

Re-signing Bethea is HIGH priority for the Colts this off-season.

In many ways, I disagree with 18to88 on their ideas for improving the team. Adam Vinatieri is the kicker for this club, like it or not. He can get the job done and has performed well in the clutch when healthy. If Vinny were OK last Sunday, he would have drilled that 51-yarder. Count on it. If he is healthy for 2010, and all signs I saw at the Super Bowl suggested he would be, the Colts are fine at kicker. Vinny is 37, which is still a fine age for a kicker. I trust a 37-year-old Adam Vinatieri kicking my FGs over some unproven 22-year-old rookie.

Pat McAfee was a tremendous find in last year’s draft, and Ray Rychleski has the special teams coverage units playing with more consistency than Russ Purnell ever did. Again, I just think 18to88 is wrong on the "coaching means nothing" in the special teams department. They covered well all season, and contained a very dangerous Saints return game in the Super Bowl. The area that very much needs improving is returns.

Then again, the Steelers had a horrid return game in 2008 and won a Super Bowl.

For me, the #1 priority for this team this off-season was the #1 priority last year: Offensive line. Bill Polian has whiffed recently with linemen like Tony Ugoh and Mike Pollak. Missing on those picks has set this area back. Charlie Johnson is a fine utility player, but he isn’t a long-term solution at tackle. The Colts must inject some youth and talent into this group.

When all is said and done, 2009 was a tremendous success. I mean, I could do the bullets listing all the positives that came form this season:

  • Developed young receivers
  • Set NFL records
  • Won AFC South when no one expected it
  • Won AFC
  • Peyton Manning got his 4th MVP
  • New defense developed into a force

The Colts managed to win in the playoffs despite having a bye week. They set numerous NFL records. They played the right way and were able to overcome distractions created by their own management. They showed heart, guts, and a willingness to do what it takes to win. It’s tough not to be proud of them. All of them.

Did the whole thing end on a happy note? No, but the symphony that was the 2009 season was, overall, very sweet. And unlike previous Super Bowl losers, this team is built to win for a while now. So, if people are thinking this team is done because they lost Super Bowl 44, they are in for a good, swift kick in the nuts. Go Colts!