What a time that was. After the splashiest free agency in Colts recent memory, where the Colts signed veteran stars Andre Johnson, Kendall Langford, Frank Gore, and Trent Cole, many were expecting Indy to make a run at the Super Bowl, especially after reaching the Conference Championship the season before. The Colts were ranked top 5 in most power rankings to start the season, being actually ranked #3 by the NFL.
Hype was through the roof, after Brady’s 4-game suspension for “Deflategate”, the Patriots dynasty was supposed to end, and it looked like a new era of Colts AFC dominance. Such chatter never materialized.
The Colts started the season with a loss against the Buffalo Bills, a team they were supposed to crush. The team never seemed to click, but fans did not give it much importance, saying the new players would eventually get used to playing together. Then came another loss, this time against the Fitzpatrick led Jets, and at home. The Colts would then win 3 in a row, but on Week 3, against the Titans, Luck injured his throwing shoulder, an injury that would eventually be the main talking point of the Colts for 2 years. Hasselbeck started two games in the place of Luck and defeated both the Jaguars and the Texans. But then came the rematch, Colts Vs. Patriots once again. On Luck’s return, the score was much tighter this time, but the result was still the same: 34-27, Patriots. This was the day of the now infamous Pagano fake punt, a play that went down in NFL history as one of the worst of all time. Pagano was the laughingstock of the NFL for that inexplicable call, and the team was defeated by the Patriots once again . After just 6 weeks, the Colts’ Super Bowl hopes seemed to vanish.
The crushing blow would come in Week 9. After defeating Peyton Manning and the Broncos, finding some sort of hope, the Colts announced Andrew Luck was out for 2-6 weeks with a lacerated kidney. Luck ended up missing the rest of the season. 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck filled in admirably and gave it his all when required to start, going 5-3 as the starter in the 8 weeks Luck missed, but the Colts finished the season 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
So what went wrong for the Colts? Firstly, the big free agent signings failed to live up to the expectations. Johnson posted a 41/503/4 season, all career lows while playing 16 games, and was released in the off-season. Frank Gore had almost a 1.000 yards, but his 3.7 yards per carry were disappointing. Trent Cole had just 3 sacks and failed to help solve the Colts pass-rushing woes. The only one that was at least competent was Kendall Langford, who racked up 7 sacks.
The mismanagement of the team by former GM Ryan Grigson also doomed the Colts. To begin with, the Colts offensive line was among the worst in the NFL. Luck was hit an absurd amount of times every game, which would ultimately result in him being injured, and also the defense ranked in the bottom 8 of the League.
That season left a mark on Colts fans. Expectations were through the roof, it was supposed to be our season, but the teams’ flaws were easily uncovered, and the team was left with no apparent plan to turn things around. Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck's health was a big mystery, and the roster had nearly no young talent, consisting mostly of veterans.
Nowadays, the Colts are enjoying perhaps the same amount of hype. The Colts are early favorites to win the AFC South and the roster has no glaring flaws. However, the season is 16 games long and anything can happen. Sure, the fans have plenty of reasons to feel good about the team. The Colts have one of the best GMs in the League in Chris Ballard, and a good coach in Frank Reich, who will only improve in his second year. Andrew Luck is finally healthy and has an offensive line in front of him. He is surrounded by a more than decent supporting cast and the defense is now at least top 12 in the NFL. Sure, a team cannot be judged in May, but the hype might be for real this time.