Darkness has enveloped the Indianapolis Colts.
Fans see the Colts as a lost cause – a team unraveling as GM Chris Ballard rebuilds a roster that was ravaged by a series of poor drafts and big swings and misses in free agency.
Andrew Luck was the player that allowed the Colts to escape any symptoms of former GM Ryan Grigson’s woebegone player evaluations. He was placed on injured reserve last week, and without Andrew Luck, fans are without hope.
It’s been a long time since the Colts stunk, and longer since they appeared downright dysfunctional.
Former Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis being cut yesterday as a result of unnecessary drama is the latest head-scratching move by a team whose wagon wheels have become wobbly in a way unseen in Indy since Bill Tobin yelled at ESPN’s Mel Kiper after Kiper correctly assailed Tobin’s decision in 1995 to draft linebacker Trev Alberts (it didn’t help that Alberts agreed with Kiper).
The Colts used to be a franchise that didn’t need to reassure anyone that all is well, but those days are gone. All is not well. But all isn’t terrible, either. There are still reasons to hope for the best while fearing the worst, and five of those reasons will put on pads and Colts jerseys Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium to battle the Pittsburgh Steelers.
You may have lost faith in Chuck Pagano as a leader and Jim Irsay’s ability to stick to the facts, but you should never lose faith in these five Colts:
5 – T.Y. Hilton. I know the productivity cannot be counted on week in and week out, but when Hilton goes, the Colts go too. “The Ghost” is a small little wispy thing who knows how to get open. When Hilton catches in space, he is thrilling. He can be aloof with the media and by extension the fans, but he is a football player not a candidate for governor. Enjoy the show when he puts one on.
4 – Barkevious Mingo. Widely considered a bust after fizzling out in Cleveland three seasons after being the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, it was last chance saloon for Mingo this year in Indianapolis. When John Simon went down a few weeks ago with a stinger, it gave Mingo the opportunity he needed. He hasn’t completely redeemed himself, but there have been flashes of excellence. His seven tackles last Sunday in Houston were one off his career best.
3 – Bob Lamey. At the age of 78, the radio voice of the Indianapolis Colts is as enthusiastic as ever about describing football. It’s always easy to tell whether the Colts are having a good day by the sound of Bob’s voice. When the Colts are rolling, Bob sounds like a kid on Christmas morning. When they aren’t, Bob brings equal portions of despondence and fury. Even when the Colts are boring, Bob is anything but.
2 – Adam Vinatieri. In 22 seasons as an NFL kicker, Vinatieri has made 84.5% of his field goal attempts. In his age 45 season, he has made 94.4%, the second highest percentage of his Hall of Fame career. He is a perfect four-for-four from 50+. Sometime next season, Vinatieri will become the all-time leading scorer in NFL history. It is a joy to watch a person do something better than anyone else has ever done it, especially someone as unassuming as Vinatieri. He is a blue-collar player with gold-jacket talent who’s aging like an excellent Pinot Grigio.
1 – Frank Gore. At the age of 34, Gore is still running with the enthusiasm of a much younger running back. When asked why he continues to play, he responds, “I love this game.” And he does. Any man who loves something so much while being so close to the end of his window to compete deserves our adulation. If you find it difficult to believe in the Colts as they are currently constructed, embrace your opportunity to watch a Hall of Famer wring the last bit of greatness he has in that short and thick body.