What a miserable eight months it has been for Indianapolis Colts fans. They saw a dominant team, perhaps a dynasty, crumble and stumble to a 2-14 record. And that was a mere two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance.
Fans didn't get to see Peyton Manning under center all season, something they've been accustomed to since 1998. Instead, they saw Kerry Collins do his best to get a win, or even score a touchdown.
Ah, and who could forget the days of Curtis Painter? The enemy that ruined the Colts' perfect season was back for more. Why try to make amends for a Super Bowl loss when you can lose 62-7 on national television? Players like Reggie Wayne supported Painter, but a horrendous stint got the Colts nowhere.
And who could save the Colts from un-perfection? Dan Orlovsky himself. The former Detroit Lion knew a thing or two about 0-16 and luckily saved the Colts from that dishonor. And he actually played decent ball, defeating the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. Actually, Orlovsky earned himself a job in 2012 in Tampa Bay.
But he couldn't save everyone's jobs.
Bam, Jim Caldwell. Thanks for a 14-2 record in 2009 and a 10-6 record in 2010; you're fired. And then went most of his staff.
Bam, Bill Polian. Thanks for building a "dynasty" through the draft and for two Super Bowl appearances; you're fired. Then went his son.
Heck, even quarterback Peyton Manning couldn't be saved. Hall of Fame-bound and four-time MVP Peyton Manning, that is. And then went Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Gary Brackett.
All of this because of one lousy season. owner Jim Irsay thought it was time to clean house. Fans were forced to wave good-bye to the players they grew to love in Indianapolis. And all of this for one prized prospect, quarterback Andrew Luck.
A coaching staff, front office and core of a roster vanished with the hope that a kid from Stanford can save the roster. Anything close to Manning's career would be impressive.
The Colts didn't intentionally suck for Luck, but chances are he will be taken first overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Not only must the team rally around Luck; the city must also embrace him.
There shouldn't be high expectations for Indy heading int 2012. What should be expected are some rough patches, plenty of ups and downs and highs and lows. Hopefully, Luck will make the transition from Manning to himself a little easier for fans.
Luck is supposed to be a prospect that is seen once every decade or so. Hopefully, he can have some good games and lead many drives into the end zone. He shouldn't expect to take Indianapolis to the promised land in 2012. Rather, he should enjoy playing ball and show flashes of why he is the future, and face, of the franchise.
Poor Colts fans. They understand why the 2012 offseason happened and though it's hard to accept, ultimately they understand the business part of the game. But that doesn't make things any easier.
So here's to Andrew Luck. Enjoy the NFL; learn a thing or two. Just enjoy playing ball and make the most of your throws. And if Luck is as good as advertised, it shouldn't take long for Colts fans to fall in love with him like they did No. 18.
Maybe, just maybe, if Luck wins over the heart of Indianapolis with a great 2012 performance, the city and its fans will let go of the anger and heartache of the cruel reality of football. The business side of what happened this offseason was necessary and what had to be done was done.
And Andrew Luck must prove that it was all worth it.