[caption id="attachment_1133" align="aligncenter" width="780" caption="Read the sign, people."][/caption] Without a doubt, every Colts' fan is in agony today. It's still hard to look at any positives, but I'm going to try and put on my smiley face so I can be "that guy". We must rally. We must do the unthinkable. We must win games without Peyton Manning. I'm not crazy for the theatrical, I don't like sob stories, and I never have made excuses for this team, despite Mother Nature taking a dump on us last year, as well. Now surely isn't the time to start, but under these circumstances, things are just a tad bit different. We lost the greatest quarterback in the damn game, a week before the beginning of the season. I think there's something that needs to be said about how important this moment is for our future and our franchise. I woke up today, with shades of the same optimism that I have battled with every day, since the "Manning situation" began. When I read the news, I was distraught. It's incredible to think that a team, a player, and a sport, can have such a hold on me. Who else has been thinking about opening day since our playoff loss to the Jets? I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. After pulling myself together to re-form the pieces, I thought about the Colts without #18. I immediately slipped back into the negative stranglehold of the bad news. It's a nightmare, as if everyone didn't already make sure to mention. I can't even fathom what the offense will look like without Manning behind Jeff Saturday. I'm assuming that it's going to feature a lot of running, but other than that, your guess is as good as mine. Must we really entrust our team and hopes of a 10th straight playoff season to... Kerry Collins? The old guy that played for one of our division rivals? Yup. It's him, and that's the best it's going to get for a while. The last guy to grace the gridiron as the starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, before Manning, was current San Francisco 49ers coach, Jim Harbaugh. That means Manning has taken over this franchise ever since Harbaugh stepped off the field on December 21, 1997. Incredible. I was just a kid, but I remember those Harbaugh days, and that's about all I remember. They were just days with a few Marshall Faulk highlights scattered about. Does anyone want to return to this? Do we want to slide back into mediocrity? Do we have a choice? Maybe we do, maybe we don't. That's a whole lot of maybe, but that's the hand we have been dealt. I keep asking myself, how should we play our hand? Whether we think it can happen, know it can't, or just hope to dog fight ourselves into a few wins, the result we must fight for can be nothing less than absolute success. Kerry Collins must put the team on his proverbial back, along with the defense, the run game, and every staff member from the water boys to the Polians. That means the Donald Brown's, the Jerry Hughes', and the Curtis Painter's must step up to the front lines. Every snap of every game, must count. These are desperate measures during desperate times. This isn't your ordinary, down by 3 in the fourth quarter with 2 minutes left rally cry. This is big. If the Indianapolis fort can be held down until Manning returns, it will not only speak volumes to the face of our franchise, but to the heart of the fans. If we were to do the unimaginable and somehow find ourselves playing in Super Bowl XLVI with Manning back at the helm, after all of this... It would not only be historic, but heroic, and a story that would trump every other tale of greatness that this franchise has been so blessed with experiencing. I'm not going to get into some statistical romp about how we need to dramatically improve the defense, our right tackle, the performance of our whole o-line, Brown's vision, or even how Collins needs to simply play above average. There is certainly room for that and it's very important, but I'm talking about something that you cannot get from the stats. Statistics are only the foundation of the cause, but this game goes deeper than that. The statistics have been stacked in our favor for many years, but we're now treading in very deep waters of uncertainty. The question is: How soon will we drown, or how soon will we make it to the shore? Will Manning be waiting for us in the second week, third week, fourth week, or next season? Who knows? As the 12th man, there's only so much we can do, but every bit helps. Regardless of being warranted or not, there is no room for negative garbage beyond what we already know. Yes, Manning is not going to be in Houston to save us, but is his career over? No way. I heard one "fan" whine, "I'm not even going to bother watching the games." You're not a real Colts' fan, dude. I guess we should just forfeit every game and go for Andrew Luck too, right? Hell. No. We are the Colts and we are still a perennial Super Bowl contender. We don't miss the playoffs and I still expect nothing less. Manning is doubtful for the first week, and that's all we know. With the news spreading publicly like a Californian wildfire, most players and teams around the league have us checked off as an easy win, or maybe a small nuisance in the way of their path to Indianapolis. You know what I say to this? Good. This may be a huge hole in our team's confidence, but our players cannot sit around and wait for Manning. We need to pad the wins, now. Maybe they think they can do "it", and when it comes to our guys, there's not a doubt in my mind that they will respond. However, they must look at themselves in the mirror and realize, this is "what I need to do." Much like Blair White and Jacob Tamme did last year. Much like Peyton Manning does EVERY year. Most of all, they need our support. This is the last stand and our new colonel is Kerry Collins, fresh out of retirement. This is his big chance, along with the rest of the team, to prove what they CAN do without Manning, for Manning, and for this city. That's what must happen and it will take a very special team to do just that, all delusional thoughts aside. Are you guys up to the challenge? The ship is yours, Kerry.