It looks like the bad old days are back for the Indianapolis Colts.
After the Colts made their midnight move from Baltimore in 1984, they didn’t win 10 games until Peyton Manning’s second season in 1999.
They then posted seasons with double-digit victories 11 times and went to two Super Bowls, winning one.
When Manning was injured in 2011, the Colts went 2-14 — but that was a good year to get the first pick in the draft. It gave them a chance to start over with Andrew Luck.
Owner Jimmy Irsay released Manning, when went on to appear in two Super Bowls with the Broncos, winning one – and fired general manager Bill Polian and coach Jim Caldwell. He replaced them with Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano.
For two years, it worked as the Colts went 11-5 with Luck both times. But Grigson didn’t do a good job of rebuilding the roster and didn’t give Luck a good offensive line, and he started to be battered by injuries.
And their medical decisions were questionable. Luck first suffered the shoulder injury that he’s still recovering from in September 2015. He came back too soon and suffered a lacerated kidney, ultimately playing in just seven games.
Instead of the Colts having Luck undergo shoulder surgery after the 2015 season, he kept playing and suffered ankle, thumb and elbow injuries and a concussion in 2016.
He still threw for 4,240 yards, but the Colts went 8-8 for the second consecutive year and Iray fired Grigson and hired Chris Ballard as the new GM from Kansas City, but kept Pagano.
And with Luck still sidelined, the bottom seems to have fallen out for the Colts.
The first problem is that they didn’t sign a veteran backup (a guy named Colin Kaepernick was available) to protect them until Luck returned.
Instead, they had Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris fight it out for the job. Morris outplayed Tolzien in the preseason games, but Pagano gave Tolzien the ball supposedly because he did better in OTAs.
And finally, the Colts traded 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett to New England for the Patriots’ third-stringer and 2016 third-round pick Jacoby Brissett last week. You have to wonder if coach Bill Belichick would have traded Brissett if he thought Brissett had a future in New England, considering since Brissett is under contract through 2019.
And giving up on their 2015 first-round pick after just two years was an example of Grigson’s misfires in the draft.
Anyway, the Colts seemed to have a winnable game against the Rams in the opener. The Rams had the worst offense in the league the last two years. Their quarterback, Jared Goff, was 0-7 last year.
But Tolzien’s first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He later threw another pick-six, and the Colts defense – totally revamped by Ballard with 11 new starters – was strafed by Goff for 306 yards. They did stop the Rams’ running game, holding them to 1.9 yards a rush with 63 yards on 33 rushes. But the Rams didn’t need to run the ball as they won in a rout, 46-9.
Pagano was so shellshocked after the game that he called the Rams the 49ers by mistake.
Pagano has to decide whether to switch to Brissett as his starter.
Pagano is likely to be fired at the end of the season, if not before that, although Irsay hasn’t fired a coach in midseason in his 21 years of running the team.
With no timetable for Luck’s return and no guarantee they can keep him healthy when he does, the Colts are likely in the running to be the worst team in the league.
Ballard has a major rebuilding job on his hands.
The Manning years now seem a distant memory for the Colts.