Earlier this week I laid out some rational ideas about what Colts fans should expect for this season based on historical teams in similar situations including the 1998 and 1999 Colts, as well as some stasticial measures. Statistics, history and rationality are not always fun however, so let's approach this in a different manner. In fact, let's do this exercise without looking at any statistics, game information or any other item that has a basis in this "reality" thing with which everyone seems so enamored.
In 2011 the Colts were horrible. We can all agree that it was the most painful season since Peyton Manning's arrival. Even in 1998 we saw glimmers of hope and had reason to believe things would soon change. Nothing during that timeframe even compared to the 2011 campaign. It was for all intents and purposes the nightmare come true. It was nothing short of horrific.
Yet somehow the Colts managed to hang around many games until the end. In my mind (and without looking at the actual game logs) they were much more competitive than 2-14. As I recall they had a chance to basically beat everyone except a few teams. They even had a shot against the Patriots. I can't remember specifically which games were blowouts but it didn't seem like many. Then again I've already started to forget which quarterback started which game but let's not let facts get in the way--they were competitive to me and that's what counts here.
Second, new head coach Chuck Pagano is bound to improve a defense that was essentially in the cellar all year. Heck, he couldn't be any worse right? We all know the 3-4 dominates the league now. It does right? Anyway, the defense still has Freeney and Mathis and a new attacking scheme so even a moderate improvement is going to take a few of those close games in 2011 and turn them magically into wins in 2012. Chalk it up baby! We're on a roll now.
We also know the Colts have brought back Bruce Arians who turned a quarterback who was more intent on finding his next girlfriend/wife/victim and/or a donut than playing in the NFL into a deep threat. Bruce Arians was stellar with both Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger so that is going to rub off on Andrew Luck, the single most NFL-ready rookie to ever pop a pimple. Heck, this kid may put up the most amazing season in rookie NFL history with that kind of tutelage.
Let's irrationally look at the schedule and pick our wins:
Week 1 (9/9): at Chicago Bears
WIN! Come on...this is easy. The Bears still suck right? Jay Cutler certainly sucks. And their starting corners may be Kelvin Hayden and Tim Jennings.
Week 2 (9/16): vs. Minnesota Vikings
WIN! They suck so hard no one wanted to give them a new stadium. The state nearly offered them up for trade to California for a couple of In-n-Out burgers.
Week 3 (9/23): vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
WIN! Donald Brown runs for 375 yards and Mike Mularkey is bound to help out with timeouts.
Week 4: Bye Week
LOSE! No one beats the bye but if they could they would.
Week 5 (10/7): Green Bay Packers
LOSE! The bye week causes some rust and the Packers pull out a squeaker. Thank heavens Aaron Rodgers has a defense to rely upon.
Week 6 (10/14): at New York Jets
WIN! Andrew Luck > Tim Tebow + Mark Sanchez.
Week 7 (10/21): vs. Cleveland Browns
WIN! Colt McCoy's dad was right--the Browns are clueless.
Week 8 (10/28): at Tennessee Titans
WIN! Really? You doubt this?
Week 9 (11/4): vs. Miami Dolphins
WIN! It's a real shock Miami still has a team. Their defense is decent and their offense has been MIA since Marino retired.
Week 10 (11/8): at Jacksonville Jaguars
WIN! I believe the Jaguars have a contractual obligation to lose to the Colts.
Week 11 (11/18): at New England Patriots
LOSE! And thus begins the great Brady vs. Luck debate.
Week 12 (11/25): vs. Buffalo Bills
WIN! Buffalo is cold in November. Buffalo is also a bad football team in most years. I don't know much about their roster at this point but I'm fairly certain they don't have a quarterback named "Luck."
Week 13 (12/2): at Detroit Lions
WIN! Matthew Stafford is good and this is a team on the rise. Still, they're the Lions. Right?
Week 14 (12/9): vs. Tennessee Titans
LOSE! They've historically split and some kicker will nail a 70 yarder at the clock. It always happens.
Week 15 (12/16): at Houston Texans
LOSE! Can't win them all and we prefer revenge.
Week 16 (12/23): at Kansas City Chiefs
WIN! I predict a major meltdown from Romeo Crennel at some point in the season. He follows a long line of failures like Denny Green, Herm Edwards and Todd Haley. It's going to happen.
Week 17 (12/30): vs. Houston Texans
WIN! To finish 12-4 the Colts will decimate the Texans forcing Bob McNair to unexpectedly give Gary Kubiak an undeserved contract extension. Makes sense to me!
There you have it folks...a completely irrational view of next year. Let's hope it happens.
Please keep in mind everyone that last year's team has virtually nothing to do with this year's team, despite playing in the same city and wearing the same uniform(or, well, Nike-fications of the same). Let's not use how we performed last year as a measuring stick, for better or worse, for how the team will look this year. I think we have retained 7 or so impact players from the roster last year. That might be slightly more than 33% of the starters, and a much smaller percentage of the overall squad.
@speedblue47 That's a terrific point and one I should have made. Let me say this however: since there are so many unknowns counting on this roster being so much better is tough for me.
I hope they shock but that's so much less important to me than what they look like in 2013. In year two of the rebuild I can see this team really doing some great things. Making the playoffs is a real possibility and winning the division isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Completely agree. I'm not expecting a ton of wins next year, but if they come, then great. I just want to see us getting better in all facets and hope for the future. I'm excited to watch us rebuild and have hope that it'll all come together and we'll be contenders again sometime in the near future.
Just a word of note: critics are welcome here. We don't all agree but that's part of being a fan. Let's make sure we all recognize and respect the fact that some people aren't going to like this article. It's OK and it's OK for them to express that.
In the end we're (mostly) all Colts fans and part of this community. Come Sunday we're all going to get fired up, expect a win and celebrate when it happens. Let's not lose sight of that.
@7IHd Let's hope!
My head knows a fast turnaround is unlikely but my heart truly believes the Colts are playoff bound. It's part of being a fan. And my heart loves it when my head is wrong.
@coltsauth_todd I know exactly what you mean. My head knew the Pacers weren't going to beat the Heat going in, and to expect it would be setting yourself up for disappointment. But it's no fun watching the games if you don't have the hope of winning, so I say, throw caution to the wind and believe. Just don't be too upset when you inevitably (eventually) lose.
@7IHd No doubt. As soon as the Pacers advanced my head said, "The Heat are going to blow them out." My heart said, "These guys are going to win it all!" Luckily for us we got both a competitive series and a little bit of hope for next year. It was a terrific season for the Pacers.
As for the losses--I've loved every season in some ways. 1991 really sucked but that run with Harbaugh made up for it. 1998 was horrible but we saw what was to come. In many ways I expect 2012 to be like 1998 in that we're going to find out what is to come. If Luck stays healthy and shows signs of progressing, the defense improves and the team looks poised to win in 2013 I'd say fans will be snapping up tickets in droves.
@heavywoody Come on...
Where is your sense of humor ??
@heavywoody Yes, it was suppose to be funny. (And was.) It is the offseason. Lighten up.
@heavywoody Stuff on this blog is getting more and more cynical. I get the colts aren't going to be amazing next year, but come on, a little positivity, or even balance, would be welcome.
@NickWalter @heavywoody This isn't cynical. It's perhaps silly. Despite my thoughts that they won't win lots if games I really think the upcoming season is going to be exciting and fun. It may not be pretty but I believe we are going to see some really good things. Part of me hopes they don't get good fast too. No team has had a major turnaround in a year and managed to stay that good. I'd much rather take two years and gradually improve if it means long-term success.
@ManiacallySteve It really isn't although there is some (intentionally) flawed logic here. At this point I seriously believe that tempering our expectations, while not much fun, is the best thing to do. There's a rookie QB playing behind an unproven offensive line, a defensive philosophy change, new coaching staff and as much roster turnover as you can find short of an expansion team. Three to five wins is about all I really see.
Yet I am usually berated with the kind of flawed logic I used to write this (seemingly unfunny) article. In all reality expecting Luck's rookie season to be any better than Manning's 1998 campaign is probably a poor choice no matter what reasoning you choose. Sure they were close in several games. Yeah Luck's pretty good. And perhaps the new coaching staff and associated changes will improve the situation. It just isn't going to result in a major, sustainable change in wins during 2012.
As I point out in the other article from this week the only other team than the 1999 Colts to make a massive turnaround in league history was the 2008 Dolphins who improved by 10 games and then began a downward spiral. Big Ben is the only rookie in the modern era (or that I can find) to lead a team to 9 more wins than the prior season. To make the playoffs the Colts likely need to improve by 8+ wins yet some fans believe it's likely.
I hope they're right but history suggests otherwise.