The Indianapolis Colts had a chance to establish a new standard for the team this season and they fumbled the opportunity away.
If you’re a fan of the Indianapolis Colts, then you know the team can often be overlooked at times. A smaller market team that isn’t completely dominating the NFL, it’s easy for the league and media to skip over the Colts. That’s why Shaquille Leonard is vocal about demanding respect for Indianapolis, why Jim Irsay complained about Indy’s lack of home primetime games, and why many fans are already anticipating that Grover Stewart will be snubbed in end-of-year accolades.
While that has been the case in the recent past, it seemed as if things were changing entering this season. The Colts were suddenly an interesting team. With young, elite stars like Leonard, Jonathan Taylor, and Quenton Nelson, it seemed like Indy would be contenders this year. After the impressive stretch of football last season, and sending a league-high seven players to the Pro Bowl, the Colts suddenly became a team to talk about.
That’s why Indianapolis entered the season with four primetime games— two at home, and why the team was also considered a Super Bowl sleeper. Now, 13 weeks into the season, the Colts are just an underwhelming team with a lot of Nationally televised games that even die-hard fans struggle to watch. After Indy played the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in consecutive weeks, NFL viewers began pointing out that Indianapolis has two more spotlight games in the next three weeks and everyone wondered why since Indy is so bad right now.
Well, the answer is that the Colts weren’t supposed to be bad this season. Everyone believed that this was the year that Indianapolis would be a serious contender and the team would jump back into league-wide relevance. Indy had that opportunity but unfortunately, the team didn’t capitalize.
Colts missed their opportunity to remain in the NFL’s spotlight
Underwhelming seasons aren’t rare in the NFL, they happen every year. In fact, Indianapolis is just one of a few teams this season that have been performing well below expectations. Translating on-paper expectations to an on-field reality is just tough, everyone understands that. However, what makes this year especially tough for the Colts is that they are a team that has been demanding respect. The NFL world finally gave them the respect and platform they were asking for and Indianapolis froze when the lights came on.
Of course, Indy will have the opportunity to reset this offseason. The franchise will go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan of attack for free agency and the draft as Indy tries to build a contending team. Each season is its own entity, so failures don’t necessarily carry over; each team starts each season 0-0. Unfortunately, the NFL’s spotlight isn’t that forgiving, it doesn’t just provide a clean slate.
That means the Colts will likely descend back to being somewhat of an afterthought in the big picture of the league, a middle child of sorts. Have other teams fallen flat before but remained prominent in the league? Absolutely. Look no further than Indy’s last opponent. But, just like players, certain teams have different privileges and far more room for error.
For teams like the Colts, the NFL is kind of like long lines at an amusement park without a fast pass. Indianapolis waited in line, complaining about how long it was taking to get its turn on the ride. When Indy finally reached the front and it was time to strap into the seats, the team chickened out. Unfortunately, the NFL has no mercy as a ride conductor. If you weren’t ready to get on when it was your turn, you have to go back to the back of the line and start all over again.
As Indianapolis rebuilds its team this offseason to be more competitive the Colts will also have to rebuild their reputation to show that they’re deserving of the NFL’s spotlight.