Being a Colts fan last year wasn’t much fun. It also didn’t provide very good material for blogging. Please allow me to talk about horses for a while.
Yes, I am still a Colts fan. I am still a spot of blue in the sea of drunken green and gold that is Packerland. As bad as last season was, this offseason was even worse, as I watched my favorite player in all of sports kicked to the free agent market in favor of his heir apparent. And then, to make matters worse, the madman at the top decided to purge the Blue Nation of all those tied to Manning, as the Polians were removed from power and Jim Caldwell was sent packing. A mass exodus of players followed, as Jeff Saturday headed to (ironically) Green Bay, Pierre Garçon made a big payday in Washington, Joseph Addai ended up with my worst enemies, and Dallas Clark landed in Tampa. And amazingly, Reggie Wayne, one of the few stars left on the team, fresh off of one of his least productive seasons in his career, re-signed.
So you can understand that my love of the Colts was challenged. They weren’t the same team anymore. I allied with Indy in the first place because of Tony Dungy, and he was long gone. It wouldn’t have been wrong to follow Manning to Denver, but what would I do when he retired in 5 years? And there was no way I was going to conform to the Packers. So, I decided to continue to pull, a little less enthusiastically, for the Colts.
And now there are things to write about again. I was reminded this week of some of things I love about being a member of Blue Nation. I’m focusing on three of players: Wayne, Luck, and Manning. Each of them played in a way on Sunday that meant a lot to me as a Colts fan. Happy days in Indy don’t seem like they’re right around the corner, but what I saw from each of these players made my experience as a Colts fan a little more special.
Watching the Colts offense was, for most of the 2000’s, a real joy. Watching my favorite teams is very stressful, and when I’m by myself or with family, I FREAK when big things happen in the game, good or bad. Thankfully, I could relax, watching Peyton Manning drop back, look for his targets and deliver a strike. My stress levels were also spared by the sure hands of Dallas Clark, Marvin Harrison (the great one), and Reggie Wayne.
There was no question that Marvin was number one in Indy, but Wayne wasn’t so much 2 as he was 1a. From 2004-2006, no receiving tandem was as good as they were. When Harrison called it a career, Reggie picked up where his mentor left off and continued to put up big numbers in 2007, ’08, ’09 and ’10. He was a joy to watch. He didn’t need to burn his opponent downfield for big plays to gain his yards. Rather, he ran precise routes and caught anything thrown his way. He also put up his great numbers without fitting the diva wide receiver stereotype (which is dissipating with guys like Andre and Calvin Johnson). He was, as he was described many times on Sunday by the CBS broadcasters, the consummate professional. Not what you always expect from a guy from the U, is it?
Unfortunately, Reggie’s career catching passes from Peyton Manning didn’t end well. In a playoff loss to the Jets in 2010, Wayne was targeted once, catching the pass for a gain of one yard. This was after he caught 111 passes for 1,355 yards during the season. After the game he said: “It’s bull. It’s bull, man. I give everything I’ve got no matter what. Every day, I give it everything. And, one ball, that’s all…. I shouldn’t have even suited up, I should have watched the game like everybody else. I was irrelevant.” It was disappointing to hear him say that, but he had a point. It was a painful loss and he could have helped a lot.
The next season, he criticized the signing of Kerry Collins to replace the injured Manning and play ahead of Curtis Painter, the Colts’ regular backup. And then, throughout the season, he just didn’t look like himself. Whoever was throwing him the ball, whether it was Collins, Painter, or Dan Orlovsky, he looked out of sorts. He even took to showing up his quarterbacks when they missed him with a pass. He was a star trapped on a terrible team without a legitimate quarterback.
There was, however, one brief special moment in that season, for Wayne and for the Colts. In Week 16, with only one tally in the win column, the Colts faced the division-leading rival Texans. The attention was not on whether or not they would win, but whether or not they could win and still keep the number one draft pick to take Andrew Luck and replace the injured franchise quarterback. The game was really an afterthought, even though it was the Thursday Night NFL Network game.
That sad bunch of Colts went out and beat the Texans, winning in dramatic fashion with a late touchdown pass from Dan Orlovsky to Wayne. It was just like old times again, and Reggie celebrated, looking happy for seemingly the first time all season, as he smiled and lifted his arms out in celebration while his teammates swarmed over him and the crowd exploded. Orlovsky, who had not had many redeemable moments in his NFL career, was so fired up he was beside himself. It was a truly special moment for so many reasons.
And now I finally have arrived at what Sunday has to do with this. What I saw last Sunday was the old Reggie Wayne. Not old as in 33, old as in vintage. He was a beast on Sunday. He made a number of ridiculous catches, tallying 135 yards on nine catches. It didn’t matter that Andrew Luck was not always on time or on target; Wayne did his job and put together a terrific game. For me, as a Colts fan who had loved 87 for so long, it was nice to see the grizzled vet show life again. Wayne will go one, even without his star quarterback or the brilliant offensive scheme he was a part of. Much as Cam Newton was able to rely on Steve Smith last year, Wayne will always be there for Luck as his quarterback learns how to play in the NFL, and as he continues to be the consummate professional. I don’t think you can appreciate that if you’re not a Colts fan, especially if you’re listening to the fantasy football experts who try to compare Wayne to the shell of Torry Holt in his 33rd year. Reggie Wayne didn’t leave Indy this Summer, and he’s here to stay and to play.
The Manning/Luck fiasco is another topic, but let me just say this: I do not like Andrew Luck. I do not like him because the prospect of drafting him drove Peyton Manning from Indy. Still, he’s my quarterback now, so I obviously want him to play well. What I saw on Sunday, versus a pretty darn good Bears defense, wasn’t great, but it was promising. It would be easy to be discouraged after seeing him throw three interceptions and fumble once while RG3 had a terrific debut vs. the Saints. Rather, I’m going to buy into what Eric Mangini said in his assessment: Luck’s mistakes were small, correctable ones. The interception in the end zone was a terrific play by Tim Jennings. It was going to be a first-rate toss to Reggie for a touchdown, but Jennings was just able to get a hand on it.
Luck was going through his progressions and he looked pretty comfortable in the pocket. He did throw a couple of passes that were a
little less than awesome, but most of the time he was under immense pressure. If the Colts had a more capable offensive line, he would have looked much better. As it stands, I think Luck just seemed like he belonged. I have waffled on the RG3 vs. Luck issue (leaning towards Luck) but on Sunday I finally saw what people were talking about: there is something special about this guy. You may say that’s silly considering his poor numbers, but I could just tell. I’m hardly an authority, I know, but I can see it. The Colts lived and died with a special quarterback, and I think they will be okay betting on this horse. I’m feeling good about the future. The Blue Nation will rise again.
Now it’s time to talk about a different equine. A Bronco named Peyton Manning. Sunday Night Football put on display something that was all too surreal to watch. I would venture to say that I have watched Peyton Manning more than 95% of those of you who read this (unless there is a strange excess of Indianapolis readers this week) and I’m telling you if the Broncos were wearing blue and white you would have thought it was 2005 in the RCA Dome. He was just like his old self. With a new team and a (sort of) new offense, he owned the Steelers defense with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker (a significant step down from Marvin and Reggie). He was brilliant. He commanded the line of scrimmage, called the right plays, and made great passes.
You might think that I watched with a what-could-have-been-if-he-stayed attitude, but rather, I was filled with joy as I watched the greatest regular season quarterback of all-time remind us again of who he was and what he could do. In spite of surgeries and destroyed nerves, and an entire year off, he came back to throw his 400th career touchdown over 600 days since his 399th. It really took me back to the days. I won’t mind if the Colts lose all their games this year, so long as Peyton Manning keeps doing his thing and defying the football world. He is the greatest, and he’s still playing like it. Again, if you’re not a Colts fan, I’m not sure if you can truly appreciate that.
“I’m a Colts fan.” As bad as they are right now, I have rarely been as proud to say that as I am now.
In other news
I am vindicated. I was right about the Packers last season. I got criticized for my article in which I suggested how best to beat them, and the 49ers (who I pegged as a team well-suited to taking on Green Bay) did a lot of what I said you needed to do to beat the Packers. I’m not insane; the Packers aren’t perfect. (They are pretty darn good though, and I think they’re going to the Super Bowl this year).
Lecrae’s album Gravity is outstanding, and you all need to give it a listen on Youtube and buy some Jesus Muzik! Christian Rap has arrived, as Gravity is set to debut at number 3 on the next edition of the Billboard. It would have been number one had it been released a week earlier.
Do you miss the bandwagon articles? I won’t be able to cover as many games as I did last year because I’m at college and my TV capabilities are a little hampered, but I still plan on writing a weekly NFL article this year. They will just be a little more specific, like this one. Like, comment, follow/subscribe, post to Facebook and Twitter, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!