A very interesting article by Phil Richards appeared in the Indianapolis Star over the weekend about the varying levels of fan support of the "refreshed" Indianapolis Colts. I find it interesting because I can't imagine abandoning a team just because a few players leave--even if one of them is named Peyton Manning.
The reaction of the Colts "fans" who are abandoning the team because Manning is now with the Denver Broncos is probably what alarms me the most. I guess I should have seen it coming, though.
Manning Mania Blinds Fans
The lead story of sports coverage on Indianapolis TV stations routinely involves footage of Manning throwing passes in Colorado--as if to say, "See, Jim Irsay? He still can play!" Personally, I'm more interested in seeing Andrew Luck throw a football right now, but I understand that TV stations broadcast what sells.
No. 18 jerseys are still a common sight around town, and more and more of them are now sprouting up in blue and orange. Normally, that would seem pretty odd to have so many Indianapolis supporters of a team located 1,100 miles away, but it's a testament to just how popular Manning is around here.
Still, there were 52 other guys on the team last season besides Manning. His absence wasn't the sole reason that the Colts took a 2-14 dump on the year and wound up with the No. 1 overall draft pick.
The irony, of course, is that the No. 1 overall draft pick is what brought Luck to Indianapolis and what puts the Colts in a fantastic position to start building for another multi-year domination of the competition in the future.
Manning's departure also put the Colts' Achilles heel in the spotlight, allowing the team to avoid making the same mistake of building a house of cards around a single player.
If the team loses its starting quarterback and goes from 10+ wins per year to 2-14, something is seriously wrong. A reduction in success is expected when a backup quarterback takes over. An uncontrolled tailspin from grace is not. When that happens, the problem is much more widespread than at the quarterback position.
We're in Good Hands
The team has brought in a defensive mind in Chuck Pagano from the Baltimore Ravens to transform the Colts' D to a 3-4 scheme that should eventually help avoid coughing up nearly 27 points per game--fifth worst in the NFL--and nearly 371 yards per game, which was 8th worst in the league.
General manager Ryan Grigson--a Highland, Ind., native who was educated at Purdue--has a long and successful history of scouting talent with the St. Louis Rams in their heyday and with the Philadelphia Eagles, who know a thing or two about winning.
We are in very capable hands as we make the transition from the Manning Era to the Luck Era. And what I'd actually prefer to see is a transition from the Manning Era to a team era that has Luck under center but that also has a lot of depth across all positions on the field.
That transition won't be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Patience will be required.
Reasons to Support the Team
Notre Dame alum Tom Zbikowski followed Pagano from Baltimore to Indianapolis, giving the Colts a stout presence and some local flavor in the defensive backfield.
I'm also excited about the addition of DB Cassius Vaughn from the Broncos. I have high hopes for him in Indy, based on what I've seen of him on film so far.
Fan favorites Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are still here, as are Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Adam Vinatieri, and Pat McAfee. Pat Angerer is also back--the human wrecking ball that he is. If seventh-round draft pick Tim Fugger makes the team, Colts fans will have the added bonus of two really fun names to pronounce.
The Colts also drafted two tight ends--Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen--to replace the aging and rapidly declining Dallas Clark as well as Jacob Tamme, who followed Manning to Denver.
After last season's debacle, the team is finally paying attention to backup quarterbacks, signing veteran Drew Stanton and drafting rookie Chandler Harnish out of Northern Illinois.
There is plenty to be excited about for the team that is the Indianapolis Colts. True Blue fans will see that. And if Manning fans want to jump ship to the Broncos, that's perfectly fine.
It's just more room in Lucas Oil Stadium for those of us who love our hometown team no matter what.
The author is a resident of central Indiana and a longtime fan of the Colts. He is also a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.
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