During our podcast last night, Matt Grecco and I both admitted that, while we always hate it when our favorite team loses any game, we're both glad the 2010 season is finally over for the Indianapolis Colts. This isn't a case where the two of us were smiling like idiots as Nick Folk's last-second field goal sailed through the uprights Saturday night. Like all of you, the playoff loss to the Jets hurt us too.
But, for Matt and I, we both knew that, for a variety of reasons, this was a lost season for the Colts pretty much from the get-go.
I highly recommend you listening to the podcast, but, for me, the best part of our show last night was when we both tried to pick the moment in the season when we knew things weren't going to work out for Indy. For Matt, the turning point was Austin Collie's first concussion against the Philadelphia Eagles and the subsequent loss to them in Week Nine. For me, the season essentially ended in Week Four when Melvin Bullitt went down with a shoulder injury. Without Bullitt, the Colts defense simply was not good enough to compete with the top tier teams in the NFL. The season descended further into chaos when Dallas Clark was IRed two weeks later.
Without Bullitt and Clark, this team had no chance.
Now, please keep in mind that for us, and for the Colts franchise in general, a season is 'lost' when the team is not in the Super Bowl. Winning the AFC South, making the playoffs, and winning in the playoffs aren't things that make a season a 'success.' Those things are expected.
Success in Indy is measured by one thing: Super Bowls.
Anything less is a failure, and, for me, when Clark and Bullitt went down as Indy headed into its bye week, I knew in my heart-of-hearts that we had no shot at getting to Dallas for Super Bowl 45. Matt felt the same way after the before-mentioned Philly game.
This is not to say that the season was a total and complete failure. Many positive things happened not just for the team, but for this site as well. But, I will be honest here folks, this was as difficult a year to cover the team than any of my previous four. The division in our fanbase, the hostility towards us from the team itself, and the inconsistency on the field had me saying to myself a few times during the course of 2010: 'I can't wait until the damn season is over.'
After the jump, we'll review the 2010 season not just for the Colts, but for Stampede Blue as well.
2010 is certainly a calendar year to forget as an Indianapolis Colts fan. It started with a devastating loss in the Super Bowl to the New Orleans Saints, and what followed as an uncomfortable off-season of fingering pointing, name-calling, and overall hostility between fans, media, and the team. It started with Bill Polian senselessly calling out his offensive line after the Super Bowl loss and cared over to Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis holding out of OTAs because they didn't like their current contracts.
Training camp arrived, and it seemed that every day yet another key player was going down with a new injury. Preseason was a depressing mess, with Curtis Painter looking more and more like he belongs in the UFL than the NFL. The Colts lost all their preseason games, including their dress rehearsal game third game against the Packers. There were numerous off-the-field incidents, from Fili Moala's drunk driving arrest to John Gill getting so wasted during a few days off from camp that he peed his pants and was found by police lying in a ditch a few yards from a strip club. We had veterans like Anthony Gonzalez complaining to the media about the coaches, all but calling Jim Caldwell a liar because certain promises weren't kept.
Overall, there was an air of vindictiveness surrounding the team. Players were angry with coaches. Fans were angry with management. Management was angry at 'the media.' It was a negative vibe from day one.
Then, Week One happened, and it seemed all that negativity shot up a notch when the Colts were dominated on the road by the Houston Texans. Bob Sanders and Anthony Gonzalez (who had missed virtually all of the 2009 season) were (for all intents and purposes) lost in that game against Houston for the 2010 season. Now, their NFL careers are in jeopardy. Forget their Colts careers. Both will not be back with this club in 2011.
To the Colts credit, they managed to scratch out 10 wins in this rather toxic, negative environment. And despite continued off-the-field distractions, like Pat McAfee getting drunk and arrested during the season, overall everyone seemed focused on playing as well as possible given the circumstances. But, when the team starting losing players like Clark, Bullitt, Clint Session, Jerraud Powers, and Kelvin Hayden, you just knew that this wasn't Indy's year.
The positive from all these injuries is we got to see some people who normally do not get a chance to shine given an opportunity to showcase their talents.
- Jacob Tamme took off in 2010, catching 67 balls for 631 yards and 4 TDs.
- Javarris James, Edgerrin's little cousin, found his way to the Colts active roster and made the most of his opportunities. He was tied for second with all rookie runningbacks with 6 TDs.
- Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner both showed that they could start in this league, even as rookies.
- Justin Tryon, who never got a chance to showcase his talents with the Washington Redskins, might have been Indy's best cover corner in 2010.
- Blair White went from being an undrafted nobody to starting several games as the slot receiver. He had 36 catches for 355 yards and 6 TDs. Pretty damn good for someone no one wanted to draft.
- Dominic Rhodes, out of the NFL since 2008, averaged 4.6 a carry after being re-signed in December, proved he still had some gas in the tank.
Thus, even though 2010 was a major disappointment, the positive is that young guys got to see valuable time on the field, making the team stronger as we move forward. With a 10-6 record and an early exit from post-season play, the Colts will draft 22nd in the first round. This is the highest Indy has drafted since they had the 11th pick in 2002, which they used to pick some guy named Dwight Freeney.
For Stampede Blue, though (as I stated earlier) the job of managing and writing for this blog was as tough as its ever been this past season, 2010 was a banner year in terms of new members, page views, and overall publicity for the blog. Since our coverage of the team in last season's Super Bowl, the profile for Stampede Blue in the national media and the NFL's collective consciousness has increased dramatically.
Players read our blog.
Coaches read our blog.
Colts management reads our blog.
And while it is never fun for me to read attacks from fellow Colts bloggers, or for me to have to reply to angry Twitter rants from players like Pat McAfee and Robert Mathis, part of being 'relevant' in the 'big game' of 'big media' is that you are going to piss people off. Part of me wishes we all could go back to when this blog was settled into it's tiny little corner, tucked away in the vastness of the Internets. But, in the span of just one calendar year, our site's traffic has risen from 137K in monthly visitors to well over 300K.
When you have traffic numbers like that, you're 'playing with the big boys,' as they say.
With these new numbers, we worked to expand the kind of team coverage we could give you, our readers. As a widely read blog that was independent of the often crippling corporate mechanics that surround places like ESPN and Gannett, we did more this year to get 'insider' information on a team that, quite frankly, has an overly aggressive, needlessly hostile relationship towards 'the media.' Whether it was reporting that Anthony Gonzalez had fallen down the depth chart, or posting rumors that Peyton Manning was playing with an undisclosed injury, or bringing national attention to Bill Polian's rants on his local-only radio show, our effort was to provide a unique place for as much Colts news and opinion as possible.
This wasn't just for Colts fans in Indianapolis. This was for Colts fans everywhere.
And while the information we posted and commented on wasn't always fun to chat about, the work was done not to (as many of our critics have mindlessly droned) generate page views, increase the blog's national profile, or become chummy with Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk. The effort was to get the REAL news and honest opinions on the Colts to you, our loyal readers.
Obviously, with a team as paranoid and media-aggressive as the Colts, reporting on things that they would prefer everyone shut up about is going to ruffle feathers at West 56th Street. It's a reality of this job now, and we accept that. As Colts fans, it is never fun to have people you root for call you names and make things personal. But, this is an intensely personal business, especially from the point of view of us fans. Unlike the players, coaches, managers, and owners, we don't get paid anything to participate in this process we call 'NFL football.' And with the advent of new media, such as this blog, the fan's voice is heard louder now than ever before.
Overall, folks at West 56th Street don't like that voice. They like to control the message and have the fans think a certain way. When fans don't buy that message, team management lashes out. So, for me personally, if they are upset with anything we write or say, I kind of consider that a confirmation that whatever we did was 'right.'
The great saying by Mahatma Gandhi, a personal hero of mine, goes that first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. Well, for three years we were ignored. Then, in 2009, you had people like Bob Kravitz and Bill Polian going on the radio to criticize fans and fan blogs, like ours. This past year, the Colts (as an organization) fought us tooth and nail on all matter of issues.
Now that 2010 is over, I guess this means that we're entering the 'winning' stage. Stampede Blue is here to stay. We are a place to be noticed and respected in the vastness of of World Wide Web.
Obviously, this could not have been possible without the continued support of loyal readers like you. And without the steady advice of my colleague and friend Matt Grecco, and the dedication of our new writers David Dietz and Collin McCollough, I personally would not have been able to get through this season without somebody committing me to a mental asylum.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you all.
Going forward, you can expect more podcasts from us in the near and distant future. As we always do when the off-season begins, we will begin ramping up our draft coverage ASAP. Look for Stampede Blue to attend the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine along with the 2011 NFL Draft. Though we are entering an off-season of much uncertainty, Stampede Blue will be here covering and opining on everything Colts-related. Like all of you, we think football is the greatest game in the world, and that the Indianapolis Colts are the greatest team in the greatest game.