Building a Dynasty
Colts Fans: It's Not Easy
Warning to Indianapolis Colts fans: Beware the Double-Edged Sword.
There's nothing like winning the Super Bowl, as you now know, and contrary to popular belief, it does not get old. You don't take it for granted -- you can't. If anything, every game, regular season or playoffs, takes on that much more significance, makes your heart pound that much harder and faster, makes you fans all the more rabid.
But, beware. Getting back to the Big Game gets harder, and there are myriad reasons.
The most commonly cited problem is injuries. The Colts have been fortunate not to have suffered many injuries, especially to key players. Not like New England with the loss of most of the defensive backfield, periodic injuries to the offensive backfield, the linebackers, the receivers, the defensive linemen; broken arms, torn knee ligaments, bad hamstrings.
There tend to be two reasons for the increase in injuries: aging players and other teams playing harder against the defending champs.
Let's face it: Like everyone else, players get older. They continue to try to play at high levels, and "while the spirit is willing, the body is not." And it's not just injuries to older players. Athletic prowess fails over time. That's just the way it is.
But getting back to injuries, opponents definitely bring their 'A'-game when they play the best of the best, division opponents especially. Look how Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston played the Colts this year. It only gets harder. Want evidence? See the Jets and Dolphins against New England.
But every team lines you up. To them, take Detroit against the Patriots this year, that is their Super Bowl. The schedule is no longer filled with creampuffs. Every game is a brutal challenge.
Another issue is holding on to your players and coaches. The Colts already cleared a major hurdle when head coach Tony Dungy, who some media outlets said would consider retirement after the Super Bowl, after the game said he planned to return to defend the title.
Indy catches a bit of a break with Tom Moore, too. At, 68 years old, it's more likely that he'll retire before he considers a head coaching job elsewhere. Defensive coordinator Ron Meeks is still on board, but that might only be because of the Colts poor regular season showing. After the playoff run, you can guarantee other teams will be eyeing him soon, if they aren't already.
New England held onto their coordinators for a few years, but it didn't last. And even one of their replacements have been snatched up. It's just a matter of time.
The same goes for players. Free agency can devastate a team. You should know. You "stole" Adam Vinatieri (although he wasn't really that much of a factor this year, was he?). If you think all those guys with horseshoes on their heads are loyal to the fans, think again. Because pretty soon, a lot of those guys will be telling themselves, "OK, I have a ring. Now it's time to make some money."
The Colts were way over the salary cap last year ($6 million sound about right?), and they're going to have to pay for it. While the cap is up this year, Indy starts $6 mil in the hole. And if you think your big free agents are all going to settle for "hometown discounts," you're kidding yourselves. Check out Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Damien Woody, Willie McGinest, Vinatieri. The list always gets longer.
And it's not just free agents, but guys who think their current contracts are "disrespectful."
Alas that it would end there.
The league no longer feels obligated to help you. Other people on the competition committee are going to start telling Bill Polian that it's someone else's turn. Mike Pereira is going to have enough of the complaining. The way officials watch the Patriots defensive backs like hawks is the way they'll start watching Ryan Lilja, Jeff Saturday and Tarik Glenn for offensive holding. And other teams will get away with the things your team gets called for.
Oh, I know. It's all my imagination. Keep thinking so.
The league will jerk with your schedule too. If you think back-to-back road trips to Denver and New England a couple weeks after your bye is tough, brace yourselves. The Colts have the AFC West and NFC South next year. Be happy you have the Broncos, Patriots and Saints at home and only the Chargers and Panthers on the road.
The biggest land mine can be the toughest to avoid. Call it complacency, contentment with past achievements, resting on your laurels, lack of desire, loss of the fire, not wanting it, whatever. Reaching the summit of Mt. Everest once makes it less enticing to do a second time, especially when you have to put the work in and not just watch on TV. It happens, and even when you guard against it, it can fester like a dormant disease.
Coaches like Bill Belichick excel at maintaining the necessary motivational levels. I think Dungy may be similar. Time will tell.
Despite all the pratfalls and pitfalls, it's unlikely the Colts will collapse the way Pittsburgh did. I expect Indy to compete for a top seed again in 2007. But the road gets a lot steeper, a lot bumpier, a lot more perilous.
A wise man congratulated his players who won a Super Bowl. "No one can ever take that away from you."
Enjoy this feeling. Then watch your back. All glory is fleeting.
On a scale of 10, how tough is it to repeat?
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