Last night the Indianapolis Colts took Andrew Luck’s name out of everyone’s mouth for just a minute. They came back in the fourth quarter (in an admittedly horribly officiated game) to beat the Houston Texans 19-16. That ties the Colts in the win column with the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings at two.
For most of this season everyone has associated Andrew Luck with Peyton Manning and the Colts because most thought the Colts had a good chance to go full Detroit and not win a game this year. I know I’m going to take some heat for this opinion and “talking down” to some fans out there, but this is just perfect justice for smug fans who want to sit back and tell competitive professional athletes in this nation’s most popular game that they should throw games for draft status. I don’t mean to be condescending, but it just goes to show how hard it is for me to ever understand how an organization can ever expect to be good if they entertain the thought of tanking.
That doesn’t mean a team can’t play for next year. There’s a big difference between trying to lose on purpose and making a decision to give young guys some experience. In that case you are still trying to win even as you look toward the future. That was one of the biggest problems that many of us had with Romeo Crennel. He insisted on throwing Ted Washington and Willie McGinest out there in their late 30s even as the Browns weren’t going anywhere that those guys could carry the team.
How ironic is it for the Colts to be teaching this lesson? I guess they should know all too well because they’ve most likely hurt themselves in the past by taking their foot off the gas. They earned what amounted to a bye week when they locked up home field advantage in 2007, but giving Jim Sorgi that time on the field as the Colts dropped a game to Tennessee will always be thought of by some Colts fans as the reason they didn’t go further in the playoffs. As we all know, that game was Tennessee’s 10th win and kept a 10-win Cleveland team out of the playoffs.***
So the Colts won last night in spite of the draft. You could see Peyton Manning and his teammates on the sidelines dying to do well. You could see a 33-year-old Reggie Wayne dying to make a difference and win a second game in a row after losing more than anyone’s seen in Indianapolis in a very long time. They have a spirit and culture of winning there and they just couldn’t bear to see it die completely.
On the one hand, winning the top pick in the draft is thought to be the best way to turn your team around. On the other hand, I think it is easy to see how much quicker the turnaround can happen if you don’t need to find someone to inject that confidence that is such an important ingredient to winning football teams. It is one of the main things that the Browns have been missing other than talent over the years. They have competitiveness, but they’ve almost always lacked that confidence. Of course that is all a part of the chicken or the egg thing. Does winning breed culture or does culture breed winning?
Either way, I would much rather have Indianapolis’ winning mentality and culture and the fifth pick in the draft than the sad sack culture and the first pick.
*** Of course if Derek Anderson could have somehow beat the Bengals by not throwing four interceptions…