The future is always now in the NFL.
Unlike other sports where rebuilding efforts take many seasons, NFL rebuilds should never take longer than two to three seasons at the most.
The Indianapolis Colts are a prime example.
Here are the top three reasons to expect Indianapolis to be a playoff contender in 2013.
They Solved the Most Important Problem
If you have a quarterback, you have the foundation for a competitive team. By the end of their second year, we have a good idea of how good first-round quarterbacks are. A look back at other teams who have rebuilt quickly shows that the arrival of a franchise quarterback catalyzes a return to contention.
If Andrew Luck is destined to be a good pro, let alone a great one, the Colts will be in solid shape offensively in just a couple of years.
The single biggest factor that leads to long rebuild windows is a mistake at the QB position. If a team blows an early pick on a dud, the rebuild can take five to six years.
If they land the right guy, they move to the front of the pack quickly.
If Andrew Luck is the right guy, Colts fans will know it soon, and the team will win.
They Aren't in CAP HELL
There are two kinds of salary cap problems. There is CAP HELL and cap hell. CAP HELL is what happens when a team has so many bad contracts that they can't afford to cut aging, unproductive players. This can make a rebuild take much longer. Teams have to slowly remake the roster and create cap room.
Indianapolis found themselves in "cap hell" this year. That meant that when they cut aging stars, they had dead money and couldn't sign free agents. This is just a one-year problem, however. The Colts were in excellent position to rebuild, because there are no long-term consequences to previous contracts.
In 2013, no team in football will have more cap space than Indianapolis. There's no reason why they should need more years to restock the roster. With two drafts and a hearty free agency period, they will have most of the holes plugged.
That's not to say that they will have long-term answers at all positions, but they should be able to field a credible defense to go with a developing offense as soon as 2013.
You Don't Need to Be Good To Make the Playoffs
I'm not arguing that Indianapolis will win playoff games next year. They won't be Super Bowl contenders.
All they have to do to compete for a playoff spot is go 8-8 or 9-7.
Can they do that?
The Giants had a negative point differential last year, made the playoffs at 9-7 and won the Super Bowl. Every year, teams with negative point differentials finish 8-8 or 9-7.
Not every team that makes the playoffs is good.
If the Colts are still languishing between four and six wins in 2013, there's a good chance the coaching staff and/or front office doesn't know what it's doing.
Colts fans should be patient in 2012, but if the Colts haven't made the move to being an eight to 10 win team by 2013, something is seriously wrong, and it won't be too soon to hold people accountable for mistakes.