Colts constituents, it’s here. The 2017 season, with the quarterback situation in more limbo than the Interstate 69 extension.
Andrew Luck is out until … well, only the Tarot card readers might know for sure. No wonder all the worry and pessimism. And that’s just the ticket scalpers on Capitol Avenue. Here’s what everyone needs as the games begin, to soothe the uncertainty:
The Colts used to be as stable as helium. Every season the playoffs, every season the same quarterback. Not many questions, except—can they beat the New England Patriots when the time comes?
But it’s a new and different world and not just because of Snapchat. These are much more fragile times. Forget about what was. That’ll make it easier to cope with what is.
Was: The place where you could chisel the starting quarterback’s name into Indiana limestone. Peyton Manning for 13 years and 227 games in a row.
Is: Predicting Luck’s next game has bcome like predicting the next earthquake. The Colts begin the season with a peanut-butter loving ex-Charger, ex-Packer and ex-49er, Scott Tolzien, one of four Colts to start at the position the past two years.
Was: Indianapolis with a standing reservation at the big-boy table of AFC teams with reasonable Super Bowl aspirations.
Is: On ESPN’s list of odds of winning the Super Bowl, the Colts clocked in the other day at 100-1—same as the Cleveland Browns. It could be worse. The Jets are 1,000-1.
Was: Four entities you knew would almost always be in first place in their division. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Hertz and the Colts in the AFC South.
Is: Houston is looking for a three-peat.
Was: The Colts were the princes of darkness in the AFC South, winning 14 division games in a row.
Is: The streak ended late in 2015 at Jacksonville. Since then, Indianapolis is 4-5 in the AFC South.
Was: The Colts and Patriots keeping a wary eye on each other, knowing their paths would likely intersect in January.
Is: This is the 2017 Patriots’ radar screen: The Colts ain’t on it.
Was: The Colts owned the Houston Texans, beating them 13 consecutive times in Indianapolis.
Is: Two of the most damaging, hope-killing defeats in Lucas Oil Stadium the past two years came courtesy of the Texans.
Was: The Colts and draft day got along fine, with a number of successful decisions.
Is: Lately, not so much, especially in the first round. Say goodbye to Phillip Dorsett. And before him, Bjorn Werner. You have to admit one thing—Indy first-rounders can end up in interesting places. Remember Anthony Gonzalez, plagued by injuries? Now he’s filed to run for Congress in Ohio.
Was: Lucas Oil served as a big, loud weapon. In Chuck Pagano’s first three seasons, the home record was 19-5.
Is: In the past two playoff-less seasons, the Colts were 8-8 at Lucas Oil. Nothing screams mediocrity more than that. Of course, they were 8-8 on the road, too.
As for this year’s home lineup, the Colts crowd can start by saying say hello again to Bruce Arians—Mr. Interim—when the Arizona Cardinals visit next week. Arians’ filling in so well while Pagano fought cancer in 2012 is still one of the franchise’s most shining recent moments.
Later come the Browns, who have lost seven of eight against the Colts. The San Francisco 49ers, with Manning in the house to get his jersey retired and join the Ring of Honor, so there’ll be at least one really loud roar that day. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have made pounding on the Colts a hobby. Denver, without a victory in Indianapolis since 2003.
Plus, the three AFC South cousins. The Texans come last, on New Year’s Eve.
Was: By the final week, the Colts would usually be resting key players for the postseason. Remember 2009? They took the foot off the gas in the 15th game, never mind the 14-0 record. Even Blue booed.
Is: By the final week, they just hope to be relevant. The past two years, they weren’t.
Was: Knowing they stood among the elite.
Is: Hoping to get back there soon. There’s a difference. That, nobody can forget.•
Lopresti was a columnist for USA Today and Gannett newspapers for 31 years.