Punch Drunk Wonderland

The Hard Breakup: Colts fans living with losing their main squeeze

Indianapolis Colts - The Hard Breakup

For roughly 14 years its been very easy to be a fan of the Indianapolis Colts. You can say that Colts fans have been spoiled for a long while. Some might even say spoiled brats. But, that bratitude is born of a certain kind of consistency to which they’ve become accustomed. Sure, in the long years of having a dominant quarterback in Peyton Manning there was only one Lombardi trophy brought home to Indy. There was the Super Bowl XLIV flop, and the countless years of great potential that ended in playoff disappointment with Manning at the helm. There were also all of the great feats, the big wins, the comebacks, the record chasing, the MVPs….the comfort in knowing that at the end of the day your team’s quarterback was a master of his craft. Everyone knew he put in the work. Everyone could count on Manning’s competitive drive, and win or lose, that comfort let Colts’ fans rest easy for many years. At least we’ve got that QB thing under control…

In Indianapolis Manning represented something more than a franchise quarterback. Indy was a basketball town when Manning showed up as a goofy super hyped kid out of college. The Colts were an after thought. 14 years later Indy is Colts country. Sure, there have been long time Colts fans, but there are far more that have been Manning fans. Stated more clearly, there are a great many fans that never realized there could be a need to differentiate their fandom from being a Colts fan or Manning fan, and many of those fans don’t have memories of the Colts before Manning spiced up Colts culture. Cue Spring of 2012…it was a confusing and hard breakup for many Colts fans seeing Peyton Manning leaving Indy. Just as difficult, seeing him don a Broncos jersey seemed unreal.

Sure, we have a young new quarterback in Andrew Luck that is highly touted and seems to have all of the potential. It’s something to be very excited about. For many years under Bill Polian as the GM the Colts had fairly boring drafts and offseasons. Steady as she goes. We know where in the house the money goes. Keep rolling. Now Colts fans can be excited about something new. About rebuilding. About “Building The Monster”. That doesn’t change the fact that a great many Colts fans are having a hard time coping with Manning being gone, and even worse…watching him succeed for another team.

I still wish [Manning] had been able to play out one more year and retire as a Colt.

The above was something I heard this last week following Manning’s Week 1 success for the Broncos. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? So sentimental. The assumption, of course, is that Manning only has one good year left. In truth, no one knows what he has in the tank. An interesting point to note is that Peyton Manning threw his 400th and 401st touchdown passes in Week 1. He is now the third player in NFL history to reach the 400 TD mark, and he has done it in fewer games (400 TDs in only 209 games) than Dan Marino and Brett Favre. Who knows how many games he has left. Maybe he has 15, maybe 1, or maybe 4 more years. Time will tell. The real truth I’m getting to is this. Regardless of the amount of time he has left, by going to the Broncos he has a shot to finish out in style for a winner. At the very least Manning’s new team gives him a greater chance of success than continuing for a few more years in Indy…no matter how much some fans would love to see him stay.

The Colts are in a rebuilding phase. It’s not a complete train wreck, but there are areas of the roster that need work all over the place. If Manning would’ve stayed it would have been at a cost. The Colts may not have been able to keep some players like Reggie Wayne or Robert Mathis. Worst of all, Manning would have been returning from injury to the game after a full season away to play behind a subpar young offensive line.  He once again would be risking injury to carry the entire load on his shoulders for a chance to succeed as a Colt for a few more years. He would have suffered behind the O-Line and struggled with limited receiving options and no run game. There just wasn’t an outcome in Indy that could have allowed him to finish his career strong as a Colt. For Colts fans that is a very sad truth, but a truth nonetheless.

In Denver Manning finds himself behind a fairly stout offensive line that can both give him time in the pocket in the passing game and do decent run blocking. The run game was most of what they had going for them last year, so he’s walking into a good running situation. Granted, 2011 run success in Denver was largely related to the read option offense designed for Tebow. Nevertheless, it’s still a far more superior run game situation than Manning has seen in Indy in years. In watching Denver’s Week 1 game versus the Steelers the first thing that jumped out to me was how much time Manning was getting in the pocket.  I can’t remember the last time he had 4 and 5 seconds to get a pass off in Indy. If there’s one thing a smart QB that is a master at reading and manipulating defenses and is also coming off of injury can benefit from it’s time in the pocket and the ability to keep dirt off his jersey. For those Manning fans feeling the pangs…rest easy that #18 seems to be in good hands in Denver.

So, that just leaves the homefront. Where are the Colts now? Andrew Luck is looking good. It’s completely foreign for Colts fans to see another “franchise” QB taking snaps each week. But, many can take heart that, much like in ’98….at least we’ve got that QB thing under control. There are growing pains for young players and young/rebuilding teams, but for many fans the idea of a fresh start is exciting. Sure, there may not be that stability and consistency that allowed Colts fans to be expectant of 12 win seasons and Super Bowl chances season in and season out. But, there’s an idea that the organization is aiming high. Again, time will tell. As fans, we can be patient and excited for something new.

Oh yeah, and we may squeeze out a smile or two when the Broncos have big games.  That’s ok, too.

Updated (12/26/12): It looks like the 2012 season has been a win win situation for the Colts and Peyton Manning. The Colts surprised everyone by running their band of rookies to the #5 seed in the AFC Playoffs, and the Broncos have won their division and will be sealing the #1 or #2 playoff seed. Manning is having a year worthy of MVP. Luck has made a strong case for Rookie Of The Year. Colts GM, Ryan Grigson, seems the frontrunner for Executive of the Year. And, in an emotional twist to the season, Bruce Arians seems a great candidate for Coach of the Year as he’s filled in for Colts’ head coach Pagano after a Leukemia diagnoses near the beginning of the season.

K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...