The Indianapolis Colts will have a bunch of new faces on defense — which is a good thing for them because the old faces were the struts and bricks of a defense that failed to meet reasonable structural goals.
On offense, the Colts were competent. Minus the overpaid Dwayne Allen at tight end, virtually every contributor returns.
The great champion of continuity, coach Chuck Pagano, is back for a sixth season. Isn’t it funny how coaches on the hot seat always crow about the need for stable leadership?
Does any of that give legitimate reason for Colts fans to hope for a return to the playoffs in 2017? If your answer is yes, I love your optimism.
There was an extended period from 1999-2014 when it was almost inconceivable the Colts wouldn’t qualify for the postseason. It happened during the unusual Manning-less season, and once 10 years prior as the Colts misstepped while becoming a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Other than those brutal autumns of 2001 and 2011, it appeared the Colts had the NFL all figured out. Then the consequences of bad draft after bad draft drove the team into mediocrity — which fans continue to treat as though it’s a rash that can be quickly healed with the balm of one apparently solid influx of young players through a rare, fundamentally sound Colts draft.
Well, the bad news for Colts fans is that the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars are working to address weaknesses themselves. The AFC South usually produces at least two of the worst teams in the NFL, but those days might be numbered.
If the Texans and Jaguars ever settle their quarterback situations, the South might become stout. The advantage the Colts have held since the formation of the division (the best quarterback) will vanish, and they will regress past the mean.
Rendered a very ordinary 8-8 during the past two seasons by a defense that couldn’t generate meaningful pressure or create turnovers, the Colts might find success that was a simple and legitimate expectation very difficult to chase down if Andrew Luck does not maintain a significant positive gap between his productivity and his division peers.
The inescapable truth of the National Football League is that the team with more great players generally wins, and the Colts defense is bereft of players who can be counted on to be great.
Johnathan Hankins and Malik Hooker might be exceptional, but at this point, who is willing to step out on that skinny limb and proclaim them dynamic game changers?
With 12 days before training camp opens, maybe I’m dour because it’s my way to prevent a repeat of my past obnoxious and foolish optimism. Before the 2015 season, I guaranteed on my radio show the Colts would win 13 games. I was so sure another positive step would be taken after playing in the 2014 AFC Championship Game that I promised to bleach my hair white if they failed. Suffice to say, I spent November and December looking even more ridiculous than the Colts defense.
Last year, I toned my rhetoric down and set the bar at 10 wins — without a ridiculous personal penalty for their failure. I still felt foolish.
Once bitten, twice shy. Twice bitten, thrice terrified.
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