With the somewhat mediocre launch of the 2012 NFL season on Wednesday night, fans of the NFL re-opened their minds to the great thought of the football unknown: Will this be the year?
For the Colts faithful, winning the Super Bowl in 2012 clearly isn’t—or shouldn’t be—among the most dominant thoughts. If we had to think of a question that we’ve continually asked ourselves during this offseason, it would likely be this: Will our team be competitive? If you ask me, I say yes. Hell yes, actually. Not only do I think that the Colts will be competitive, but I think they could be a playoff team. Yes, with a quarterback like Andrew Luck at the helm, anything is possible.
And even though we were forced to trudge through a grueling and miserable 2011 campaign, followed by a drastic and emotional overhaul of the horseshoe, why exactly do the Colts look so enticing to fans this year?
Ryan Grigson will look outside of the draft for winning talent. When I saw Jim Irsay’s jumbled tweets about the Colts possibly trading for a big-time player, my first thought was, "Really? Trade? Impact player?" And then I quickly remembered that the Bill Polian era withered away, along with the glorious Peyton Manning era, not so long ago.
In his first year offseason as the head honcho, Ryan Grigson has quickly assembled a roster that Indianapolis fans don’t have to wince at while looking over, particularly on defense. When it was announced that Vontae Davis would be heading to Indianapolis, I think you could hear a collective sigh of relief in Indiana. After the defensive back carousel from last year, the Colts had finally landed a legit corner with shutdown capabilities that could compliment Jerraud Powers and some other decent talent. JP looks to be primed for a big year, but if he has no help on the other side of the field, his efforts will be grossly overlooked by inflated opposing scores. Now, with the somewhat troubled, yet extremely talented Davis to compliment him, and Tom "The Animal" Zbikowski—remember Aaron Francisco?—hanging over the top, the Colts secondary looks, well, pretty solid.
Was it a hefty price to pay for a player with unclear motives? Yeah, maybe a little bit. But as Chuck Pagano stated after the trade, if Davis were a prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft, he wouldn’t be there to select in the second round. It’s a somewhat risky move, but it involves a very large reward for the price of motivation, and if anyone can get Davis motivated, it’s Pagano.
Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson hired a coach unafraid of making the "wrong" decision. After the embarrassing blunder against the Jets in the 2010 playoffs, I wasn’t sure if I could stomach another year of derailing game management by Jim Caldwell. 2011 came and went, and without Manning to work his usual miracles, Caldwell and Polian were exposed.
Enter Chuck Pagano.
You know, the guy who passed out shirts telling his players to "Build the Monster" on day one of training camp? Yeah… that guy. As a sign that they bought into the program, Colts players started tweeting the horseshoe’s newest slogan, and the new era already felt unique and special; the tone had officially been set.
Although he wasn't many people's first choice, Pagano sounded like the man for the job from day one. Even during his introductory press conference, the man exuded confidence and was a straight shooter—it was easy to see why his Ravens vouched for him. The differences between Pagano and Caldwell were night and day. Sure, Caldwell was a nice guy whom his players also seemed to love. However, coaching has always required significantly more than being a nice guy. In the face of adversity and crunch-time situations, will a coach go and hide behind the bench, or will he step up to the plate? I believe Pagano is the latter, for better or for worse, and I believe that is one of the most valuable assets that he brings to this organization. Throw in his hard-nosed defensive scheme, and you have a guy that has the makings of a fine head coach.
No one knows how long Pagano’s name will remain in the good graces of Indianapolis, but what we’ve seen in limited time in this new era is clear: Coach Pagano brings an entirely different and refreshing persona to this organization. The soft cushion, "we only play with a lead" defense that sent so many of us into a rage appears to be gone.
Will this new mentality and hybrid 3-4 scheme translate into wins? Only time will tell, but this is the most excited I’ve been about a Colts defense. Ever.
A new year, a new face of the franchise. Teams will always be forced to travel the dreadful path to find a competent replacement for their more revered quarterback(s) of the past, and only a few will be lucky enough to find a player that has "it." When the Colts drafted Peyton Manning in 1998, they hit the Powerball. A legend was born and the Manning-driven offense was something that teams came to envy. Nine-straight playoff appearances and a championship later, the Colts have given the franchise keys to a rookie that could very well be the closest thing to Peyton Manning that we’ll ever see. I won’t waste your time with the same hype that you’ve heard since Andrew Luck was a junior at Stanford, but a team must have a legitimate quarterback just to compete. To win a championship, you have to find something really special. You need a player with "it." The Colts found "it" with #18, and they may have found "it" again with #12.
Luck will undoubtedly face his rookie growing pains, but thanks to Grigson, his transition to the NFL should come much easier due to the new, young weapons at his disposal. Grigson dedicated this draft to finding offensive playmakers, and I think it was a game-changer for Luck to have the cushion of two stellar tight ends in year one.
Call this a rally cry; call it a bunch of preseason hype—I don’t care. But if there’s one thing that you should take away from this article, let it be this: With the Andrew Luck era Colts set to debut their new age on the unforgiving terrain of Soldier Field, be excited, be proud, be patient, and most of all, don't be afraid to show off your blue. The Colts are here to stay, friends.
"Welcome to the new age."