As diehard fans of the Indianapolis Colts, we’ve witnessed an array of talent grace the field over nearly four decades. Yet, among the sea of players who’ve donned the iconic horseshoe, only a select few leave an indelible mark on our memories. It’s with a heavy heart that I believe it’s now time to say goodbye to one such player — Shaquille Leonard.
Leonard’s tenure with the Colts has been nothing short of remarkable. At his best, earlier in his career, Leonard was the closest thing I can recall to Bob Sanders in his ability to completely change the trajectory of a game by making big defensive plays.
For me, Bob Sanders is the most exciting defensive player I’ve ever watched. So, Shaq, you’re in incredible company. Thank you for doing all you have done to earn your sport there. Peanut Punch!
His moniker, “The Maniac,” was a testament to his relentless energy and game-changing prowess. Indeed, Leonard’s early career performances etched him firmly into the pantheon of Colts legends.
With that said, there is no question that Shaquille Leonard is not playing at the same level he once did.
The NFL is often described as a “not for long” league for good reason. Players’ careers are fleeting, and the harsh reality of sports is that even the brightest stars can dim. For Leonard, a combination of injuries and a decline in performance has led to a situation where his current contributions don’t align with his substantial contract.
Could he be getting closer to it? Maybe. I won’t suggest that he has no chance of returning to being “the Maniac.” But, there isn’t any reasonable argument to be made by him, or anyone else, that the decision to reduce his snaps in favor of Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed isn’t the right one as things stand today.
It’s no secret that Franklin has been earning his stripes, and Speed has been carving out a more significant role for himself. In this context, Leonard’s public expression of discontent over his usage and veiled criticisms of the coaching staff and front office raise concerns.
In professional sports, adaptation and self-awareness are crucial. While it’s understandable for a player of Leonard’s caliber to feel frustrated, the path to redemption lies in introspection and hard work, not public disputes.
The harsh reality is that Leonard is drastically overpaid based on his current contributions to the team. Perhaps, as I grow older, my tolerance for such situations diminishes, but the essence remains — a team, especially one with burgeoning young talent, needs unity, not division.
As I prepare to turn the page on Leonard’s chapter with the Colts, I will remember the electrifying moments he brought to the field. His departure will undoubtedly be a poignant moment for the team and fans. But in the ever-evolving landscape of the NFL, change is the only constant.
For Leonard, a transition will offer a chance for reflection and possibly reinvention. A new team might provide the fresh start he needs to rediscover his form. As for the Colts, the focus now shifts to nurturing the young talent and building a cohesive unit to propel the team to new heights.