Now that the shock has worn off, it’s easy to forget that the team that reports to training camp today in no way resembles the group that reported a year ago.
From the front office on down, virtually all familiarity is gone. About all the 2012 Indianapolis Colts have in common with last year’s version is that they have the same owner, the same name and play in the same stadium.
Apart from that, wow.
A new general manager. A new head coach. A new staff. A new roster.
A new quarterback.
Of all the seismic shifts of the past seven months, the last is still, by far, the toughest to digest.
At this time last season, the Colts reported to Anderson with the realistic expectation of playing in the Indy Super Bowl. It was simply a matter of giving Peyton Manning enough training camp rest to be ready for the season-opener.
But you know the story.
Manning never played. The Colts were the NFL’s worst team as a result. A different Manning won the Indy Super Bowl.
When the dust cleared, all that was left of what had been one of the league’s elite teams for more than a decade was Jim Irsay and the brand name.
Gone was the NFL’s best-known team-builder. Gone was a head coach who was in the Super Bowl two years earlier. Gone was a wealth of household-name players, whose jerseys fans sported by the tens of thousands on game-days.
Gone was Peyton Manning, arguably the brightest NFL star of the 2000s and indisputably the Colts’ greatest asset of all time.
Old news, to be sure, but the rapid-fire pace of change, and the breadth of scope, is still stunning as the Colts take their first baby steps back to relevance.
In many ways, this first post-Peyton training camp is that first step.
Here is where fans will get their first impression of what the Colts are assembling. It’s where first-time head coach Chuck Pagano will truly learn his craft. It’s where No. 1 draft Andrew Luck will take the first real step in filling Peyton’s shoes. It’s where rookie general manager Ryan Grigson will get his first panoramic look at an overhauled roster that bears no resemblance to the one dismantled after Bill Polian’s exit.
It’s Day One of a new era that dawns Sunday, when practice begins.
What should fans expect?
Losing. Lots of it. For how long depends on any number of factors, not the least of which is how well Luck plays.
But Luck isn’t the only factor. There’s also plain old luck — as in staying healthy; hitting on more draft picks than missing; improvement coming from within; and the new front office and coaching staff proving to be an upgrade from the old.
Time will tell on all fronts. But it all starts this weekend, when the nitty-gritty business of carving a new post-Peyton identity, one that will still command a loyal following, begins.
With any Luck, there won’t be blackouts. Stay tuned.
Sellouts permitting, that is.
Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. Send comments to email@example.com
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