If you don’t know that Peyton Manning now plays for the Denver Broncos and that the Indianapolis Colts’ new QB is Stanford grad Andrew Luck—read something else because this article will make absolutely no sense to you.
- While Indy fans surely felt that the 2-14 2011 season was a painful experience, the reality is that the Colts “lucked” into segueing almost directly from one franchise quarterback to another. (Probably) If Manning hadn’t been hurt, the team wouldn’t have qualified for the first overall pick. If Manning hadn’t convinced Luck to stay in school for another year—he would have been a Panther. So, let’s not complain too bitterly, shall we?
- The team showed character throughout the nightmare year. That would matter if more than about three of the former dynastic Colts were still on the roster. Yes, that is an exaggeration.
- Despite being generally considered a GM genius, only 1/4 of players drafted during Bill Polian’s administration remained on the team as starters through 2011. Then there was that “Backup QB? What’s a backup QB?” thing. The team’s new GM is Ryan Grigson and the new head coach is former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
- All anyone wants to talk about is Andrew Luck, but the other seismic shift in Indy is that Pagano brought in the 3-4 defense. He did that while still keeping textbook outside DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on the roster. He’s trying to turn them into outside linebackers. The two standouts are probably stuck in Indy due to age, but they cannot be happy.
- Reggie Wayne is the only remaining offensive star. Center Jeff Saturday is in Green Bay, WR Pierre Garcon is in Washington, TE Jacob Tamme is in Denver, Dallas Clark is a Buc.
- Grigson remade the offense with some new linemen, Donnie Avery at WR and new backup QB Drew Stanton. They drafted highly regarded TE Coby Fleener and plan to start talented but concussion-prone Austin Collie opposite Wayne. The new starting RB is Donald Brown, who has shown potential as a backup behind Joseph Addai but isn’t getting anyone too excited.
- Defensively, Pagano brought in free agent veterans like Cory Redding and NT Brandon McKinney to install his new scheme. Anything less than a massive yearlong defensive struggle will be a pleasant shock.
- Jim Caldwell seems like a very nice man. That’s the best I can do. Pagano has the luxury of coming into a “you can’t do any worse” situation.
- Andrew Luck scored a touchdown on his first NFL pass in preseason. Courtesy of a 60-yard run by Donald Brown. That’s nice. Luck is literally supposed to be the next Peyton Manning. Hard to imagine anything more unrealistic. He seems to have a strong character. He’ll need it.
- However, Luck’s first Sunday as a pro resulted in 10 completed passes out of 16 attempts for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Uh, wow.
- Bruce Arians has come over from the Steelers as offensive coordinator and will probably operate with autonomy under defensive coach Pagano. Arians did an excellent job with Ben Roethlisberger and knows how to “break in” an NFL star.
- Pagano will have the gift of low expectations as he remakes the defense. Although officially a 3-4 scheme, it should be noted that in the first preseason contest the D sported quite a few four-man fronts. Film at 11.