Indianapolis Colts Fans Send a Message to Jim Irsay

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistMarch 28, 2012

Only one of these three guys is still around in Indy. We'll see how that works out.
Only one of these three guys is still around in Indy. We'll see how that works out.Doug Benc/Getty Images

The last few months of upheaval have taken a toll on season ticket holders of the Indianapolis Colts. For the first time in a decade, the renewal rate for Colts season tickets fell below 90 percent.

Despite the fact that the much-anticipated release of Peyton Manning occurred after the renewal date, that still represents a six percent drop from 2010. The Colts sell roughly 60,000 season tickets each year, so a six percent drop represents about 3,600 extra tickets that weren't renewed.

Going into last season, the Colts had a waiting list of more than 9,000. That vast majority of those on the list should be able to claim seats this season. For long-time season ticket holders (like myself), the exodus represents an opportunity to improve seat location in 2012.

Despite the buffer, the Colts have to be nervous. After a wave of unpopular moves to cut the most recognizable faces on the roster, Jim Irsay has heard the message loud and clear: Fans don't like where this team is headed.

While they didn't occur until after the season ticket deadline, the moves surprised no one. It's also not widely reported that many fans typically renew a few days late, meaning that the Manning release still likely affected renewal rates.

Colts games will be sold out this year, and the team should have little trouble selling out 2013 as well, especially if fans take to Andrew Luck. If the franchise hasn't turned the corner after the 2013 season, Jim Irsay could well be facing the kind of blackouts that plagued the franchise in the early '90s.

The move to rebuild was not popular in Indianapolis and if Peyton Manning goes on to have success in Denver while Andrew Luck struggles, fans may never forgive Irsay for cutting their hero.

The Colts are still the most popular team in Indiana, and not many franchises could survive such a disastrous season as the Colts had in 2011 and still sell out the stadium the next year, but the team is on the clock.

It's not "win now." It is "win soon."