Indianapolis Colts: Optimism vs reality

Dec 5, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) calls a play during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) calls a play during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

Optimism is a wonderful feeling, whereas the likelihood of that being reality is rare. Is the optimism for the Indianapolis Colts setting fans up for a huge letdown?

The Indianapolis Colts have undergone a remarkable transition this off-season. General manager Chris Ballard and company have wiped the slate and started anew. With these changes an optimism has been brewing in Colts Nation.

Overall reviews have been extremely positive. The Colts have been praised repeatedly for their offseason maneuvers. From the hiring of Chris Ballard as GM, to the subsequent moves throughout free agency and the draft, people like what has been done. In general, most agree that the Colts will take the field a much improved club all around.

One of the few negative remarks were those of Peter King with Sports Illustrated’s MMQB. Per, King placed the Colts only 24th in his power rankings. Even then, not much could be said detrimentally. King does not claim that they are not headed in the right direction, rather his thoughts are more in tune with injury concerns and areas of need that have yet to be addressed, mainly along the young offensive line.

Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, one of the aforementioned free agent acquisitions, has been outspoken with his optimism, claiming on the NFL Network that, “Right now, I feel like we got probably the best defense in the AFC.”

More from NFL Spin Zone

He again voiced his optimism on Sirius XM NFL Radio with a statement that the Colts have guys to “shock” the NFL.

I am a big fan of Big-Time Hank and I am all for the optimism he shares, as confidence is a major key to success. On the other hand, outspoken confidence can result in negativity very easily. If they struggle right off the bat he may find himself inserting a big-time foot in his mouth. We will hope his predictions ring true, but in reality, it may not come as easy.

My point is this: Reality is much different from confident optimism. I am optimistic, myself, but the drastic changes within the organization will require a good amount of time to bind together.

Say, for instance, the Colts have indeed gathered all the pieces for a championship run. The puzzle is complete, right? Not so fast. They may have all the pieces, but the reality is more like a jigsaw puzzle piled up on a table in need of assembly. It is also one of those puzzles that make you question your sanity for beginning it in the first place.

It is good to have thoughts of things going right. I would caution those with extreme expectations, however, as a rough awakening might be in store. The Colts defense may very well be one of the best, in time, but I must remind you that reality is not based upon stat sheets, sports writers, and outspoken players. Reality offers only a dire need for hard work, determination and teamwork. The reality of the situation Colts’ players are facing is one loaded with injury concerns and a boat-load of new faces.

It has recently been revealed that Clayton Geathers underwent an offseason surgical procedure to repair a bulged disc in his neck. Andrew Luck and Malik Hooker are currently rehabilitating from surgery and, admittedly, no negative issues have been reported. However, I expect negative issues would not be mentioned willingly if any exist. I have gone into some detail regarding Luck’s labral repair found here, and a follow-up piece found here.

There are many injury issues among the projected starters for the Colts. Whether remnants from last year or recent undisclosed issues, they are troublesome and leave many concerns in their wake. Players deemed “healed”, still have much to resolve, and players in recovery must still recover.

Aside from injury concerns, we must also consider the abundance of new faces. Many players must not only learn a new system, but new teammates as well. It takes time and practice to develop a feel for what the guys around you are doing.

More from Indianapolis Colts

Each man must learn their duties and do their job. That is a lot of guys taking in a lot of stuff, leaving a lot of room for error. They must learn the tendencies of the players around them and build relationships among one another, both in the locker room and on the field.

They must learn to trust that this guy will make a tackle here, or that guy will drop in coverage there. Each guy must earn the trust that he will handle his own duties. If this trust falters, oftentimes players will in turn overcompensate, neglecting there own duties in order to pick up the slack on someone else’s.

Learning to work together and building trust in each other’s abilities are not things that happen overnight. Here are several questions to consider:

  • Will they adhere well and get along, or find discontent with one another as they battle for each others jobs?
  • Will they learn the system, their duties, and their individual roles, walking out on the field the first time a solid well-oiled machine capable of being the “best defense in the AFC”?
  • Or, will they walk out onto the field a group of newly assembled guys that have never worked alongside each other before?

It is easy to dwell on the optimism and all the positive changes, however, it is good to understand the full spectrum of things to come. I expect the Indianapolis Colts to be a much improved team, but I also expect significant growing pains.

Some have predicted a 10-plus win season, a division title, and a run in the playoffs. I see these things as certainly possible. However, the optimism has led to a reality where an eight-win season would be considered a failure. I feel an eight-win season may be a more realistic assessment as so many questions remain.

The reality of the quality we should expect when the Blue Who take the field may leave some disappointed.

Whatever growing pains are to come should be easily remedied for the most part as this group adjusts. Players will heal from their assorted injuries, but the transition back to good health is not always easy, or even complete, in some cases.

Next: NFL 2017: Quarterback depth chart power rankings

We will not truly know how these guys will perform until well into the season or even until the 2018 campaign. Some questions will be quickly answered, others will require time. Optimism is a wonderful feeling, whereas the likelihood of a wonderful reality is rare.