Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/21/12
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay, isn’t familiar with the old adage, and why would he be?
 
Just as his current franchise quarterback, Peyton Manning, putters into the twilight of his Hall of Fame-caliber career, along comes Andrew Luck, a two-year media darling that has scouts around the league crying the second coming of Elway.
 
It also just so happens that Irsay and the Colts have pole position in the Draft – for the first time in fourteen years. Or, as a Jaguar fan would write it: “Go to hell.”
 
Andrew Luck is the most anticipated college prospect since Michael Vick — back when he fought dogs and made you throw your controller at your Madden game — and he has the most publicized upside since Peyton himself.

Hold on though, Mr. Irsay. The sins of your 2-14 squad this year won’t be dowsed on Draft Day. This article assumes the Andrew Luck-era will soon begin in Indy, but if the Colts don’t usher in a new team philosophy with it, they will be in for more of the same results that they got with Manning under center.

This is where you ask, “Why wouldn’t they want that?”
 
It is true that, despite going 3-13 in Manning’s debut season, the Colts have been one of the most successful teams going back to the late 90’s. In Manning’s thirteen active seasons, the Colts have gone 141 up and only 67 down.
 
Here’s the problem: despite averaging over ten wins during that stretch with a first-ballot future Hall of Famer at the helm, Indy has won just one Super Bowl in the Manning-era, and only two since 1970 (Super Bowl V).

Both the problem and the solution, especially following their Super Bowl XLI victory, has been Manning. Indianapolis’ identity is too tied-up in Manning’s individual play and, for years, it has prevented the franchise from making the personnel and philosophical changes that would’ve put them in more than just two Super Bowls in the last thirteen years.
 
Jim Irsay and the recently departed duo of Bill Polian and Jim “I’m Just Happy to be Here” Caldwell knew Manning was amazing at throwing the football, so they played to his strengths, but they never allowed the Colts to be amazing at anything else.
 
Indy’s running game has always been laughable, but as you track it through the years, it becomes baffling. Going back to 2001, the Colts have been outgained in cumulative rushing yards by their opponents every year. Every year.
 
From 2008-11, the Colts have been outgained by 2,680 yards. It’s enough to make any Football Nation contributor pull up his calculator and re-crunch the numbers. Especially considering, from 2001-2008, the Colts were outgained by 2,222 cumulative yards – 458 less than the aforementioned, three-year period.
 
Then again, Indy has always been about their fast tracks, but, when it comes to the running game, Indy’s opponents are the ones in the fast lane. Manning and the Colts had an answer though: Go deep, baby!

They put the ball in Manning’s hands. From 2002-05, the Colts had 271 more pass attempts than their opponents. From 2007-10, that number increased to 319. Since Manning dawned the blue and white, the Colts have treated football like a sprint, and, in their defense, it did bring them a Super Bowl, but the league is changing.
 
Back in the Colts’ super 2006-07 season, a decent NFL team would average 20.7 points a game. In 2011-12, that number has increased to 22.2. The advent of truly dual-threat quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, the call for specialized offensive game-plans, and the evolution of the tight end position have all contributed to this.
 
Even with Luck at the helm, the Colts cannot stay competitive in the ever-changing NFL with their old philosophy. Not unless they want to become the Raiders.
 
But when they draft Luck, the Colts will also have to embrace their dismal running game. It is, after all, a budding quarterback’s best friend.
 
This, however, doesn’t start with them making a splash move to snag a highlight-machine running back; it starts with the Colts addressing a position that they have neglected over the last half-decade: the offensive line.

Now you definitely think I’m an idiot. What about Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem, two veteran main-stays that spent years protecting Manning? While I personally think Saturday is one of the most cerebral centers I have ever seen, he’s a twelve-year man and needs an heir-apparent. The same goes for Diem, a nine-year man.
 
To Indianapolis’ credit, they did introduce rookie tackles, Jeff Linkenbach and Anthony Castonzo, who started in fifteen and twelve games respectively in Indy’s last, abysmal campaign.  But to improve the running game, the Colts need big bodies so their backs can gain the tough yards between the hashes.
 
Diem withheld, the Colts dressed four other guards this season: Mike Tepper, Joe Reitz, Seth Olsen, and (my favorite name) Quinn Ojinnaka who combined for 17 starts.
 
Indianapolis brought this inconsistent guard rotation on itself with suspect OL drafting since 2007. You may recognize names like Tony Ugoh and Mike Pollak, but probably not Steve Justice, Jaimie Thomas, and Jacques McClendon. That’s because, of all seven Colts’ offensive line Draft selections since 2007, each player has averaged just under 12 starts.
 
This is the part where Colts’ fans have me consider how they are always further down the draft order because of their consistent success over the last decade and change. To those people, here are several offensive linemen selected to the Pro Bowl this year.
 
·      Ravens guard, Marshal Yanda (2007 Draft: Round 3 – Pick 86)
·      Patriots guard, Brian Waters (Undrafted in 1999)
·      Eagles tackle, Jason Peters (Undrafted in 2004)
·      Saints guard, Jahri Evans (2006 Draft: Round 4 – Pick 108)
 
The Colts only recently, with Castonzo and Linkenbach, addressed their need at tackle in order to protect Peyton’s flanks and the run-stuffers were just house dressing because the Colts didn’t need to run. They had Peyton. Well, they thought they did.
 
The same goes for the secondary where the Colts have had an even more difficult time finding young talent. With the exception of Jerraud Powers, the Colts have selected six defensive backs in the Draft since 2007. They have averaged 5.4 starts and 0.85 interceptions.  And by that I mean, a Colts’ corner intercepted a pass and sliced off the tip of the football during the run back. It was weird.
 
I’m being figurative about the Colt secondary’s ineptitude, but not necessarily hyperbolic. From 2003-08, the Colts’ interception turnover ratio was +38, but over the last three seasons, that ratio has flipped to -16.
 
This lack of aggression in their run-blocking and coverage has saddled them with the title of a “soft team” and, considering how the turnover rate in Indy is the highest it’s been since 1998, Andrew Luck can’t be expected to carry the team alone.
 
Instead of embracing Luck as some messianic redeemer of their franchise, the Colts should see him as one, big piece to an even larger puzzle.
 
The Colts and Jim Irsay are looking forward to a bright future with the promise of Andrew Luck taking up the mantle, as they should. It feels like Montana-Young all over again.
 
Indianapolis will go as far as their new coach and GM can take them, handling this Manning-Luck tango. They will have to refuse to do what everyone wants to do: anoint Andrew Luck before he steps on the field. Once Indy sheds its moniker as Peyton’s Place, the new management has to make it clear that Andrew Luck works for them, not the other way around. 

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