In the NFL, there actually is a higher level of recognition for a team than simply "Super Bowl champion," and that level of recognition is as a dynasty. A dynasty, in sporting terms, is a team that is built to win repeatedly and consistently. The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s, the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s, the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s, and the New England Patriots of the 2000s are all examples of dynasties in the NFL.
The Colts have talked about not just winning a Super Bowl while Andrew Luck is at quarterback but rather winning multiple. Even as recently as earlier this month, owner and CEO Jim Irsay said that the team's goal is to win at least two Super Bowls with Luck under center. It's clear that the Colts hope to win multiple titles with Luck, and therefore it's worth at least discussing (since we're in the middle of the offseason) whether the Colts could become the next dynasty in the NFL.
NFL Network's Brian Baldinger was recently asked that very question, and he laid out three marks of a dynasty that he sees in the other dynasties in league history. He noted that dynasties have a legendary coach who has a vision and is able to execute it, they have a championship-level defense with intimidating players, and they have a franchise quarterback. Using those three marks as criteria, Baldinger then looked at the Colts.
"I believe that Andrew Luck is certainly that guy," he said. "I think Chuck Pagano is showing that he has that type of metal. And they've got to build that level of defense. We don't believe that that defense can carry this team. Right now, it's being carried on the shoulders of Andrew Luck, and rightfully so, but it does take time. I mean, Chuck Noll took over the worst in the NFL and it took two or three years to add Joe Greene, and Jack Lambert, and all those pieces that came together. So I think you have to give Chuck Pagano a little bit of time here to see if they can create that style of defense."
He really didn't answer the question that he was asked, but he at least gave us an interesting discussion point when there's not much else going on to discuss: can the Colts become that next dynasty?
Obviously, they have the franchise quarterback. That's an easy answer and a no-brainer, as Andrew Luck is clearly a franchise quarterback who shows everything a team could want in a quarterback to lead them to multiple Super Bowls. But what about the other two factors? Baldinger thinks that Chuck Pagano is close to becoming that dynasty-type coach, and that's where I would disagree. I think that Pagano is a coach that you can win with, and I think the Colts could win a Super Bowl (or more) with Pagano as coach, as long as he's paired with a player such as Luck. He won't be the best head coach and has a number of faults, but he is a guy that you can win with. Baldinger, however, notes that a "legendary" coach is needed, and there's no way that you could put Pagano in the same sentence as guys like Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, or Bill Belichick. That's not to say that I necessarily agree that a legendary coach is needed to win multiple Super Bowls, but clearly Chuck Pagano doesn't fit that criteria yet. He's a guy with a vision and, to some degree, has shown that he can execute it, and I do believe that the Colts can win a Super Bowl (or more) with him as coach. But, with the criteria as Baldinger laid it out, Pagano doesn't fit it.
Thirdly, Baldinger says that you need a championship-level defense. And while the game has changed, it's true that for sustained success at the highest level it requires a good defense. If paired with a franchise quarterback I don't think it has to be the league's best defense, but the team needs a legitimately good defense to win multiple titles in the same era, becoming a dynasty. The Colts aren't there yet either. Their defense in 2014 played very well against the bad and average opponents and played terrible against the good opponents - showing that the defense was simply average, or slightly above it. With a guy like Luck at quarterback and a dynamic offense like the Colts have, they could possibly win a title in spite of their defense. But in order to build for sustained success and become a dynasty, the Colts' defense simply must be better.
It seems a bit silly to begin talking about whether the Colts can become a dynasty when they've yet to play in a Super Bowl in the Andrew Luck era, much less win one, but it's the middle of the offseason, plus Luck is that exciting and that good. Brian Baldinger didn't really answer the question that he was asked, but using his criteria, the Colts don't yet fit the mold for a candidate to become a dynasty. But the one component that they absolutely have is a franchise quarterback, and in today's NFL that can go a long way. If they surround him with a good defense, they might have a team capable of sustained success at the highest level - but that's still a big if and still a while away.