Before I go much further it would behoof me to mention that I have been a Colts fan long before the Manning Era. Watching the Colts lose basically sums up my childhood. Not so in recent years. There has been a lot of good come from that, but also some bad...allow me to elaborate if I may.
There seems to be a general opinion in the rest of the league that the Colts are nothing without Manning. It would seem that former coach Dungy even shares this view. I would disagree.
There also seems to be an attitude among many - some might call recent - Colts fans that Manning is the singular reason for the Colts success in recent years. Well again, kind sir (or madam), I respectfully, yet heartily, disagree.
Both are similar views held by different people. The league is eager to write the Colts off, while these newby fans are ready to jump ship and root for a different team while Manning sits out. Either way, I think it stinks.
That's probably because, as I write this, the stench of defeat is still fresh in my nostrils following the dejecting loss in our season opener against Houston on September 11, 2011. While the loss was painful, it wasn't entirely unexpected. Yet some people - many fans included - are just a little too quick to assume the worst.
Reading some of the chatter on Facebook during the game, it occurred to me that most people suffer from a condition that I commonly refer to as not knowing what they're talking about. Admittedly, I may be one of those people at any given moment, but since this is my blog I'll proceed with the assumption I'm not one of those people.
Did anyone really expect a new backup quarterback to come in and offer a Manning-like performance? If you were even expecting a win I would like to say you were being a little foolish, but that would just sound rude...but true. Think about this:
- It's a well-documented fact that the Colt's offense is one of the most complicated offenses in the league. In fact, the whole system is designed around Manning's style of play.
- The Colts signed their new backup for Manning, Kerry Collins, just a little over two weeks ago. Now, Collins is no Manning...but he is a veteran player who knows how to win games. He took Carolina to the NFC championship, New York Giants to the Super Bowl, and led division rivals Tennessee to a 13-3 season just a few years ago. Having said all that, two weeks isn't nearly enough time to learn all the plays, let alone develop a familiarity with his teammates.
- The Colts have reduced their playbook by two-thirds to make it easier for Collins to learn the system. So basically, they went into the game with only a third of their plays ready to go.
When you take all those things into consideration, it seems more realistic to simply hope the Colts come out and show some signs of progress...maybe demonstrate some positive building blocks to set them up for the rest of the season. What we discovered, however, is that the Colts have a LOT of work to do if they're going to have another winning season. Coming into this game, I had assumed most of the work would have been needed in the offense. Having watched the game, however, it seems the offense was the best thing going for the Colts...and it obviously wasn't great. Think about this:
- Collins connected on more than half his pass attempts, grabbing almost 200 yards, including one TD and no picks. That may not be a pro-bowl performance, but it's not too shabby...especially considering how little time he's had to work with the team.
- Fourteen of the thirty-four points for Houston came from Indy fumbles, one of which was caused by a blindside sack on Collins that the offensive line allowed. The other was Collins' fault...chalk it up to new guy jitters.
- Pass protection was a major issue...when Collins was getting time, he was completing passes. Even Manning, however, struggles to make passes when the pocket collapses around him.
- Another seven points were allowed against the Colts on a kick return. Special teams have been a long-time issue for the Colts.
- Another thirteen points were allowed simply because the Colts couldn't stop the Houston offense in the first half. Stopping the run has plagued the Colts defense for several years, but pass coverage was also a problem in the opener.
Here's where I'm coming from: Manning or no Manning, I want to see the Colts succeed. So I'm officially pulling for Kerry Collins!
Does that mean I'm turning my back on our beloved quarterback in his greatest hour of need? Of course not! How dare you insinuate such sacrilege! But I want to teach the rest of the league that the Colts are a great football team, even if Manning has to sit out a season. For that to happen, the Colts need to be successful without him. And for the Colts to be successful, that means Collins has to be successful. If Collins succeeds, then the city of Indianapolis succeeds. And if the city of Indianapolis succeeds, then Peyton Manning succeeds. And if Peyton Manning succeeds, then all is right in the world once again. And then maybe...just maybe...the critics will be silenced once and for all.
Now, some will say that my views about Mr. Collins may have been skewed due to some personal conflicts of interest. Did I have a personal encounter with Kerry Collins that may or may not have inspired such sudden fondness? Maybe...more on that later.
But if I could offer a few positive notes to close:
- The Colts held the Texans scoreless in the second half, and even posted a touchdown of their own.
- The Steelers lost to the Ravens today, 35-7, and they were playing with their starting quarterback.
I knew I'd say too much, but this far exceeded my expectations.