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Dear Jim Irsay, if there was a time for the Colts to tank, it is now

An open letter to the owner of the Indianapolis Colts. We don’t have to call it tanking, but the time to win games is next season.

2022 NFL Draft - Rounds 4-7 Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

Dear Mr. Irsay,

I hope this letter finds you well. We have never met, but like so many others, I have followed the Colts for decades. Watching from afar, seeing the way you have tried to do right for the city of Indianapolis, for Colts fans, and the way your daughters have stepped up and been involved is amazing.

As a man who has a daughter, my only child, I can’t quite put into words how neat it is to see Carlie on the sidelines wearing a headset during games. It’s so good to see. I’ve been able to point her out to my daughter, and my daughter sees a strong, confident woman in a big blue skirt standing amongst dozens of massive male athletes, and to have that kind of role model at the highest level of my favorite team, makes me so proud.

But what is more, is that Carlie seems to be doing everything she can to learn every aspect of how an NFL organization is run. The Irsay family has a clear and obvious plan to guide the Indianapolis Colts for generations to come, and I can’t adequately thank you for caring enough to safeguard the long-term future of the team.

In 2020, I met Bill Polian at the Senior Bowl, and I was able to thank him for every one of my favorite sports memories. Maybe one day I’ll get to thank you in person too, but if that day never comes, just know that I appreciate your dedication to ensuring the Colts are winners. I was a 12-year-old boy, a chubby little Hoosier when this happened:

I remember being upset. Not about Peyton Manning, I was a kid; I was indifferent about him. I was upset because my first Colts quarterback, Jim Harbaugh, was being replaced. I remember telling my dad that I would be a fan of Jim Harbaugh forever, and I wanted to watch Ravens games. He chuckled and said, “We’ll see about that.”

It seems that the old man knew something I couldn’t yet understand because later that year, I was in front of the TV, cheering pretty hard for that Manning guy. The next 13 years of my life would be what shaped me into the man I have become, and no matter much the world around me changed, every Sunday in the fall, I could always count on your team to compete, and far more often than not, I could count on them to win. So, sincerely, thank you. An organization can only go as far as its owner will let it go and you have never been one to limit it.

2022 has been a rare season for most Colts fans younger than 40. The expectations we all had, fell short. We all have opinions about what’s happened this season, and I haven’t been happy with the choices that have been made, but like you always say, no one is bigger than the horseshoe. What’s done is done. All any of us can do now is look to the future. And I am writing you today to talk about the immediate future of the Indianapolis Colts.

Never in my life have I rooted for the Colts to lose. Not in 2011. Not when Peyton came back to town, not in 2017, never. If you go back in the Stampede Blue archives, you can find me pushing back against the idea that the Colts should lose games in 2017 to get a higher draft pick. I argued that winning was good; you play to win the game- Herm Edwards reminded us of that. I argued that by winning games it showed that maybe the team wasn’t so far off from where they needed to be and that the difference between picking third overall and 10th overall wouldn’t matter that much if you had a team that was capable of winning.

But it’s not 2017. The circumstances have changed. No longer do the Colts have a franchise quarterback, and it has become clear that the team can’t continue to compete without one. The draft is still eons away; we don’t have any idea what will happen in the months leading up to April 2023. We don’t even know what will happen for the rest of this season, but I’m willing to speculate if you are. The teams who hold the top ten picks as of right now are the following:

Most of those teams’ schedules shake out to mean that if the Colts lose out, you should own the fifth, sixth or seventh pick in the draft. If the Colts manage to win a game, we’re potentially talking about dropping out of the top ten altogether.

I understand that you can move around the draft and position yourselves to have maybe a shot at a guy you like, but Mr. Irsay, Colts fans deserve better than a shot to maybe get a guy. Losing is painful. But the pain of losing the next four games will pale compared to the pain of missing out on a good group of top-end passers. What’s more, even if “the guy” isn’t in this draft, selecting later limits how well you can set yourself up to make a move in the 2024 draft. And if the plan isn’t to find a long-term answer at quarterback as soon as possible, well, Mr. Irsay, with all due respect, what are we even doing?

I’ve watched from afar as you have put a plan in place to ensure the long-term success of the Irsay family owning and operating the Indianapolis Colts. That transition, when it comes, hopefully, many years from now, will go smoothly because you’ve done what’s necessary to make it so.

It’s time to do what’s necessary to give your team a chance to compete consistently for the next generation of little Hoosiers. Somewhere in Indianapolis, in Anderson, in Plainfield, Frankfort, Kokomo, Noblesville, Muncie, Rushville, Shelbyville, Franklin, Columbus, Bloomington, North Vernon, Peru, Lafayette, Vincennes, Bedford, Crawfordsville, in all of these cities and towns are little Hoosiers convinced that they’ll be fans of Matt Ryan forever. My nephews in Santa Claus and the rest of those kids deserve to have what my generation of fans had, Mr. Irsay. And the only way you can be sure to give those kids a chance at that is if the Indianapolis Colts lose the next four games. There will never be another Peyton Manning, but 20 years from now, I hope there’s a man in his mid-30s typing an open letter to you, thanking you for taking a chance on a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft.

One last thing, I think you know what Dylan knew,

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh, hard times, come again no more

Mr. Irsay, the time to lose and pause in life’s pleasures is now so that, hopefully, these hard times come again no more.

Sincerely yours,

Chris Shepherd.