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Indianapolis Colts

Sterling | Colts fans need to temper wild optimism

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JUNE 13: Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano walks around on the field during the Indianapolis Colts minicamp on June 13, 2017 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)
Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

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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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Eric Colt

    Jul 19, 2017 at 7:47 am

    The writer might love my “optimism”, but only half as much as I love his sarcasm.
    Bereft of game changers he says.
    I will go out on a skinny limb and say that Hankins and Hooker are game changers.
    I will go further out on that skinny limb and onto a tiny leaf and say that Clayton Geathers already is a game changer, and that rookie LBs Terrell Basham and Anthony Walker will be as well.

    Sheard may not be a “game changer”, but he makes his presence felt on just about every play.
    We have several players like this that are set for career years and they are all just entering their prime… or they haven’t even scracthed the surface of their potential.

    This isn’t the case of just 1 solid draft, it was 2 solid drafts, and a solid offseason.
    Grigson’s last draft wasn’t all that bad. Even though 2nd rd TJ Green had a bad rookie year, the rest were solid and Green could still find his way his sophmore year. Plus he shouldnt have been thrown in the fire so soon to begin with. But Ryan Kelly is a solid anchor and will continue to get better. Le’Raven Clark and Joe Haeg started shaky but finished the season strong and look to be he starting RT and RG this season. Hassan Ridgeway was a big part of the defensive line rotation and started 5 games before his shoulder injury. He is healthy now as is Henry Anderson who along with Geathers is another totally decent Grigson drafted player from the season before that. And Anthony Morrison, another rookie from last year, was Pro Football Focus’s 2nd best ranked tackling rookie. We are not only younger, but we are bigger where we need to be(Hankins) and we are faster where we need to be(Hooker, Wilson).

    It is probably going to take a good amount time before it all starts to really come together, but once this defensive unit gets some reps together, and the rookies begin learning from their mistakes…. we could have a number of “game changers” and guys capable of being “game changers” any given Sunday. Henry Anderson and Clayton Geathers have already proven themselves to be capable of being the latter. Quincy Wilson is another that many think could end up being a draft steal for us.

    My “optimistic” expectations is for us to start the season somewhere in the lower portion of the middle of the pack. Slightly below average, but making enough plays to win games. By week 4-6 I expect us to be “Borderline Average”, but sneaky good, making more big plays than we lose. By week 8-12 I expect “Totally Average”, and come playoff time I expect us to be “Totally Decent”.

    I don’t think “Totally Decent” come the end of the season is wild expectations that need tempering.
    And by “Totally Decent” I expect us to be the 12th – 15th ranked defense.
    High expectations perhaps, but not wild. This unit is capable of achieving this provided they all stay healthy, that is biggest concern, health. We have the pieces, they just need to stay healthy. One more solid offseason and draft, and this time next year talk of the Colts being Super Bowl contenders won’t be considered wild expectations, but a decent 10-1 odds in Vegas rather than 30-1.

    • Kent Sterling

      Kent Sterling

      Jul 19, 2017 at 8:01 am

      No sarcasm about loving your passion, but your optimism about Geathers is reliant upon his health – iffy at best after disc surgery on his neck.

      Your assessments of the 2016 and 2017 drafts is best described by a vaguely legal term “facts not in evidence.” We don’t have any inkling whether Hooker and Wilson will be home run playmakers or not, and we have no idea whether Clark is a long term answer at right tackle. You might suspect that these guys will be upgrades, but until the regular season begins there is no way of knowing.

      Health is a big issue for Hooker. His film looks great, and he may prove a steal at #15, but I deal in what is known, and until that labrum is 100% and he plays some football, we are simply hoping.

      Jumping from 30th to 12-15th assumes that the Colts will improve substantially more than 15-18 other NFL teams who are just as optimistic about their development as you are in the Colts. I’m not saying it can’t happen. It might, but we won’t have any idea at all until September 10th.

  2. Rich Marchione

    Jul 18, 2017 at 8:05 am

    I don’t believe that any Colt fan is expecting big things this year. But if they would have had a couple of defensive stops last year they would have made the playoffs. Now, if this “new” defense improves just a little and they stay healthy, what does that say about an 8-8 team with an injured QB missing the playoffs by one game? On paper, everyone says the other AFC South teams are SO MUCH better, but the Colts aren’t. I don’t know what the Colts will do this year, no one does, but to tell Colt fans to not be optimistic is just ridiculous.

    • Kent Sterling

      Kent Sterling

      Jul 19, 2017 at 8:08 am

      The Colts also won games last year by four (2x), five, and six points, so they were one defensive miscue in four games from being 4-12. I’m just trying to temper the level of unabashed optimism that has caused a lot of disappointment in Indy the last two seasons. The Colts are not a no-hope franchise like the Bears, Browns, or Rams, but they aren’t the Pats either. I expect this to be year one of a defensive rebuild that will take a little time.

  3. Steve

    Jul 17, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    We need writers with some brains. Colts fans or any other fans can feel however the hell they want to feel about their team. Stop publishing these articles from these idiots that want to tell people how to feel.

    • Kent Sterling

      Kent Sterling

      Jul 17, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Just trying to save you some heartache. Go ahead and bet the Colts to go undefeated if you like. Love your passion!

  4. Gregory E Bantz

    Jul 17, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    This is the same repetitive pessimistic opinion Colts fans have endured all offseason. I for one am so tired of hearing the ridiculous idea that Andrew Luck is no longer a very good qb. Has Mariotta gotten better as Tennessee looks to ascend to the top of the AFC SOUTH? Yes, many believe this to be true…..yet, how quickly people forget his injury to his leg(which has helped him mightily as he can scramble and take off running with the best of them). As for Houston, there problem has ALWAYS BEEN their lack of good qb play. How is their qb projection looking this season? This is the same team in which indy thumped until their horrific defense allowed lamar miller to single handedly take over the contest in the games last 12 mins….Jax still has Bortles (enough said). This division is up for grabs, and there is no reason the Colts cannot reclaim the throne after a few disappointing seasons. The defense with its possible 8 new starters CANNOT PLAY WORSE then who they replaced. THAT WAS ONE OF THE WORST DEFENSES INDIANAPOLIS HAS EVER FIELDED AND THEY STILL HAD A CHANCE TO WIN THEY DIVISION. this is a pretty simple reason for Colts Nation to be optimistic moving forward.This is a great organization accustomed to success and the consistent disrespect from the sporting world. We will see where they are very soon….and I gurantee the will be much better then PFF’s laughable ranking for the upcoming season. unbelievable!!!! Go Horse

    • Kent Sterling

      Kent Sterling

      Jul 17, 2017 at 1:21 pm

      I hope your optimism is justified. Not doubt the QB play across the AFC South will continue to be a problem. Maybe it will be, but after the past two seasons, my view has gone from rosey to a darker hue.

      • Gregory E Bantz

        Jul 18, 2017 at 1:02 pm

        Thanks for the reply Kent! I understand tapping the brakes on this new season.Defensively we are much better on paper, but it may take awhile for the new guys to gel. I’m going to remain optimistic until they show me a reason not to be.

  5. Travis Meeks

    Jul 17, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    National media “the colts roster is garbage except for Andrew luck.” New colts gm agrees replaces entire defense with players from good defenses. National media, ” colts fans should expect to continue to go 8-8 or worse.”

    • Kent Sterling

      Kent Sterling

      Jul 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      The national media hit the nail on the head last year when all of us local guys were blathering on and on about 10-6. I hope the Colts shove it to the national press, but my disdain for them has moderated.

      • Travis Meeks

        Jul 17, 2017 at 2:41 pm

        Pretty sure JMV had em at 8-8 i think mike wells had them at 9-7. Analytical speaking there are plenty of annual case studies where a defense jumps ten spots. That’s all this team needs and then that means you beat the Jacksonvilles and Lions of the world and end up at 10-6 instead of 8-8

        • Kent Sterling

          Kent Sterling

          Jul 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

          There are also plenty of examples of a team dropping 10 spots. For every slot the Colts move in an upward direction, another will need to drop one. The start of the season will be key. Wins against the Rams, Browns, Jags, and 49ers will make the Colts 4-3 at worst, and at that point I’ll allow myself to get a little excited..

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