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Colts' rebuilding feels more like reloading


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Let’s see. By the end of January, Jim Irsay cleaned out the front office and fired the head coach.

By the end of March, Peyton Manning was gone, followed out the door by a parade of veterans, many with Pro Bowl pedigrees.

By the time of the draft, the Colts had a rookie general manager, a rookie head coach and were banking their future on a rookie quarterback and a supporting cast featuring multiple first- and second-year players.

By any definition, that’s rebuilding. With capital letters. Irsay acknowledged it. Fans know it. There’s no masking it.

But do the Colts know it? Players? Coaches?

Indianapolis is 2-2. It could be, and probably should be, 3-1. That’s not how the first part of a season is supposed to unfold for a rebuilding team. Especially not one depleted by injuries and whose head coach is fighting for his life in the hospital.

Teams like that are supposed to be 0-4. Maybe 1-3, if they’re really lucky.

If this is rebuilding, what does reloading look like?

To hear interim coach Bruce Arians tell it, the Colts were never about rebuilding. It’s not at all how Chuck Pagano, who’s being treated for leukemia in an Indianapolis hospital, approached the season.

Of course, it’s one thing to talk that way. It’s another to back it with results.

Heading into Week 6, the Colts are getting results. Way more, way earlier than anyone had a realistic right to expect.

Everyone, that is, except the Colts.

Either they weren’t told they are rebuilding, or they choose to ignore it — and the negative conventional wisdom attached to it.

“That word was never brought up,” said Arians, formerly the offensive coordinator for Baltimore, who followed Pagano here to fill the same role. “Reload it. I knew we were coming coming in and going to be very, very young offensively.

“We got fortunate, hit guys in the draft that we loved, and we’re plugging them in, and they’re learning on the run.”

Everyone is, from the general manager on down. Ryan Grigson, remember, is in his first year in that capacity. Pagano is a first-time NFL head coach. Albeit temporarily, so is Arians.

Then there’s the 53-man active roster. It features 10 rookies. Four will start on offense, including the one player on whose first-year shoulders so much rides, Andrew Luck.

Forgive the absurdly early comparisons, but it’s unavoidable. Luck appears to be the best thing since Peyton Manning. Can’t argue with results. Luck gets them.

Best of all, he’s barely scratched the surface of what he can do.

But the best aspect for the Colts to date is that the quarterback hasn’t been solely responsible for their success. The best thing they can do moving forward is not build the same cult of personality around the position as happened with the predecessor.

We all know what happened when the predecessor wasn’t around.

At the moment, the Colts are getting it done collectively. Arians is right. They hit on some draft picks, of which Luck happens to be one. A vital one, to be sure, but not the only one they’ll need to become contenders. Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and Vick Ballard will have to deliver, as will the five second-year players on the roster. And the eight third-year guys.

This project isn’t centered around “the face of the franchise.” It relies on many faces, from Luck to Freeney to Pagano to Allen to Wayne to Arians to the next man up.

Rebuilding? No question, that’s what the Colts are doing. On a massive scale.

Remarkably, it just feels like reloading.

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