The future is bright for the Indianapolis Colts, and it begins on Thursday night, when they officially select Andrew Luck as the first-overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft to be the leader of their franchise for the foreseeable future.
The present, however, will be pretty rough.
Which got me to thinking: How long will it take for Andrew Luck to lead the Colts to the playoffs? How long will the rebuilding process last?
Let's take a look at a few of the early years in Luck's career.
Year One: A Coronation by Fire
Luck's rookie year won't be pretty. With a dearth of offensive weapons and a porous defense, the team will struggle.
Reggie Wayne alone can not save you, Andrew Luck.
The young quarterback will adapt quickly compared to most quarterbacks, but he'll nonetheless spend much of the year picking grass out of his helmet. But savvy fans will see the great potential in Luck and will look past an otherwise dreadful 3-13 record.
Year Two: A Glimmer of Hope Must Precede the Shine of Success
With a second draft in the rebuilding process complete, the Colts will show the early signs of the team they might become. Luck will be much improved, the team will look stronger and the new system in place will start to take root.
Still, this team will lose too many games they have the opportunity to win, and ultimately, a 6-10 mark will belie the great strides the team took.
Year Three: An Identity is Forged
Luck will by now have emerged as one of the game's great quarterback talents, and with another wave of young, talented players aboard due to the steady hand of general manager Ryan Grigson, the Colts will finally have a team in place that will be competitive week in and week out.
Much like Peyton Manning's era was marked by his audibles at the line, a dangerous passing attack and a defense built to thrive in high-scoring games (especially when the Colts led), so too will this team have an identity in place, with Luck orchestrating head coach Chuck Pagano's strategy.
But still, this team won't fully understand what it takes to win, and a number of heartbreaking losses will keep them out of the playoffs. But fans will look upon the 8-8 season with a great deal of optimism, for they know Luck will lead them to the postseason soon enough.
Year Four: A Hero Emerges; The Promised Land is Reached
By year four, Luck has emerged as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league. Shoot, he's going in the second round of fantasy drafts, and he's doing car insurance commercials.
How many seasons will it take for Andrew Luck to lead the Colts to the playoffs?
He's made it, folks.
And the Colts have finally figured out how to win. With a young core in place, the front office feels comfortable adding a solid veteran or two via free agency.
Suddenly, the long reign of the AFC South—run for years by the Houston Texans after the demise of Peyton Manning—appears to be drawing to a close. The Colts are contenders to win the division, and even if nothing else, are poised to earn a Wild Card berth.
The journey isn't complete, but this story is. In year four, Luck and the Colts will reach the playoffs.
So say we all.
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