A few weeks ago I was at a high school football camp on at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center – home of the Colts – on the west side of Indianapolis. I have always been intrigued by the beauty of the facility. While maybe not as nice as Jerry Jones’ palace in Dallas, everything is so clean and crisp. The building carries a tone of excellence. Hanging on the indoor practice field are the banners the Colts have earned over the years.
Looking at those banners brought back feelings of nostalgia. They have a bunch of “AFC South Championship” banners, an “AFC Conference Champions” banner in honor of their Super Bowl appearance in 2009-2010, and finally their 2006-2007 Super Bowl banner.
Those sure were good days, right? All that excellence and history stands in sharp contrast to this season, where the Colts lost to a 9-7 Houston team at home, missing the playoffs yet again. That wouldn’t have happened back in the old days represented with all those banners hanging on the wall. The Colts wouldn’t be in a position of “Win and your in” at the last week of the season anyway. But even if they were, Peyton Manning would hang 42 points on a 9-7 Houston team. Tony Dungy would be itching to rest him halfway through the third quarter. It is a sad thing that countless young Colts fans will never experience those days.
Instead, this is what we have: three straight years of missing the playoffs. This is not something Indy is accustomed to. You see, when the Colts are playing well, there’s a little skip in our collective steps as Hoosiers. Even if you’re not a Colts fan – which I am not – Indy, as a city, is in a better mood. The cloudy and miserable days seem brighter, the wintry weather seems more bearable, people seem a little happier, sort of like an extended Christmas time.
What’s ironic is that I actually believe the Colts are a good team, at least in a league where most of the teams are mediocre. What they have suffered from is a series of bad decisions at critical junctures.
The final offensive play of the Houston game best sums up the story of recent years. The issue was not the play call – a pass on 4th and short. As ESPN writer and defensive backs coach Matt Bowen wrote on X, the Colts played for man coverage and got exactly what they asked for. Goodson had two hands on the ball; while Gardner Minshew’s throw could have been better, you have to make the catch.
But even blaming Goodson misses the point. Goodson is an undrafted free agent who makes peanuts; he never should have been on the field to begin with. Your star running back who has a $42 million deal with $26.5 guaranteed should have been on the field. Why didn’t Shane Streichen have him in the game? Better question: why is management paying Jonathan Taylor all that money only to sit on the sidelines when he is needed the most? Taylor makes that catch, the Colts convert on 4th and 1, Houston’s defense likely doesn’t hold, and the Colts knock an extra point through and would have hosted a playoff game this past weekend. In a parity-driven game, who knows what would have happened.
Instead, all we’re left to do is wonder. Back when the Colts were truly bad, there was a song – “Lord, help our Colts” – to be sang when things were truly dire. While the Colts aren’t that bad today, they aren’t up to the level we’re used to.
Lord, help our Colts.