Like Cinderella at the strike of midnight, or the single guy still standing dateless 10 minutes after last call at the bar, the Indianapolis Colts appear to be out of time.
Since 2000, Indianapolis was on every pundit’s short list to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for that given season. And for the exception of one magical year in 2006, the much-hyped Colts sulked off the field in January following a heartbreaking and surprising playoff loss.
But no matter if it came on a cold, snowy day in Foxboro or in the tranquil 72 degrees in San Diego, a deflated Peyton Manning and company could always rely on the optimism that next year would be the year of the Colts.
But that might not be the case this year.
The 2009 Colts ride into the season in turmoil. Between long-tenured and future hall of fame coaches like Tony Dungy, Tom Moore, or Howard Mudd leaving, and valued talent like center Jeff Saturday getting longer in the tooth, the usually high-octane Colts team could struggle to even sniff the playoffs. Sure, many pundits will still put them at the top of AFC South and possibly the entire conference.
But when the players actually take the field and the 2009 campaign has begun, a new era will begin in the Circle City.
Even the rhetoric and attitude this year from Indianapolis is changing. Gone are the swagger and confidence Super Bowl contenders possess. That is replaced by content and frustration.
Take the normally mild-mannered and company-towing quarterback Peyton Manning. He is expressing his frustration with the state of his team and the lack of communication that ensued following the parade of coaches into retirement.
"I can't tell you what's going on,” Manning told USA Today last week. “I will say I don't think it's been the most properly communicated scenario around here."
And those comments, while minute in some locker rooms, should send fear or at least some apprehension into the blue faithful. Times are changing in Indianapolis and it might not be related to the 56th Street headquarters in the Circle City.
A changing of the guard is taking place in what was at one time considered to be the Colts' division.