In two days, the Indianapolis Colts take the field in their first game against real competition. Even though it is preseason, it is still the maiden event for what has become a completely revamped franchise. One would have to draw some very sketchy comparisons to find a team historically that has changed so many aspects in just one off-season.
In review, this franchise lost it's franchise QB to injury and that loss was followed by poor team play, questionable coaching decisions, head scratching coordinator approaches, and overall lack of team confidence. What was a franchise that was feared, was now a team that was almost a lock to get the next years first pick before the season was half over. In short, it was like a plane running out of fuel and the descent gained moment as it plummeted towards the #32 spot in the league. No disrespect to those players who still fought their tail off all season. Far from it. They were simply not put into a position where they could succeed despite the circumstances.
Fast forward to the present, we now stand on the edge of a new era. Gone are the gushing articles of praise, heaped weekly upon the Colts as result of their undeniable ability to win and win often. Twelve wins was always a possibility, tens wins was likely, and 8 wins was a given that bordered on ridiculousness when questioned. Gone is the media attention as a whole.
What we have now are questions, but there is excitement around the questions. How will the team play? Will we run the football? Will we be tough on defense? Will our coach be animated? Will we do anything like we did before...or will we have a whole new identity?
Just the notion that these questions, and many many more just like it are about to be answered, has the beginning of this new era busting with potential, possibilities, and hope. As we talk about what could happen, express concern about how long it might take to get there, and shamelessly heap vast expectations upon this new Colt era to help us get past our own disappointments, this writer hopes that we acknowledge the challenges that this franchise has had to emerge from, and move on. I see article after article about how Andrew Luck is expected to replace Mr. Manning, or how this team needs or wants to erase the ugliness of the past season.
I could not disagree more.
Like a reawakening of the soul.....player, coach, owner, and fan alike have had their mental framework reset about who the Colts are. The choice belongs to each and every one of us. Tabula Rasa. Blank slate. We can see the success of the past as a reminder of what we no longer have. We can see any failure or challenge that the team faces this season as an example of what this team no longer is. We can also view those challenges and failures through a filter of excitement, hope, and fierce pride, as one who has emerged from the fire. This team, this year, can be the start of the best Colt era ever.....and it can exist, without diminishing or lessening a single accomplishment that any Colt player or team has given their fans in the past. And it can exist without the responsibility of replacing or erasing anything from the past. They are quite simply, two different eras.
Bon voyage, Colts. May the journey be a memorable one.