News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 14, 2012

HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Colts? Broncos? Maybe there’s more than enough room for both

David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

---- — I’ve got a longtime buddy who I’m fairly sure rarely, if ever, reads this column.

Great guy, but he’s just not a huge sports fan.

That’s fine by me. I’m not much of an opera fan. Or a car-parts fan. Or a Food Network fan, although I do like food.

We all have different likes and dislikes. That’s what makes the world go ’round.

Anyway, this buddy occasionally brings up sports-related topics in conversations because he realizes I am a newspaper sports writer. Sometimes he mentions the NFL and he starts telling me which team is his favorite, which is his second favorite, which is his third favorite, etc…

During these discussions, I always think to myself: “C’mon man, pick one team and stick with it. There’s no need for multiple favorite teams.”

But now I’m struggling with the reality that this fall I will be almost as indecisive as my friend. That’s because the Indianapolis Colts, my favorite team since the late 1980s, are now Team 1A and the Denver Broncos are Team 1B on my short list of favorites.

Figuring out why should not be difficult.

Like many Hoosiers, I did not appreciate how Colts owner Jim Irsay kicked Peyton Manning and his surgically repaired neck to the curb after all those years he dedicated to the organization. On the other hand, I understand why Irsay would want Andrew Luck wearing the horseshoe for the next 12-15 years.

So when Manning became a free agent, the Broncos and John Elway recruited him as if he were a tall Terre Haute kid who could play basketball.

As you all know, their efforts proved successful and Manning is wearing orange in 2012.

Although I have no inside sources, media reports out of Denver say the 36-year-old Manning appears to be about 90 percent of his former self. Give him a couple more months and maybe, just maybe, he can get close to 100 percent.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but I’ve always been a positive thinker.

So a season I originally thought would be disastrous — with Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai and Jacob Tamme also leaving the Colts for new teams — might actually be fun to watch if Manning can strike up Reggie Wayne-like chemistry with Demaryius Thomas and/or Eric Decker.

Now let’s look at the Colts. For some reason, Wayne decided to stay, even though he was a free agent and could have signed with a more veteran-based team. But I’m glad he’s still a Colt.

Besides Wayne, there aren’t many familiar names returning — mainly Austin Collie (one more year removed from his concussion issues) and the improving Donald Brown on offense along with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on defense.

Then there’s that new guy filling Manning’s shoes, although Luck doesn’t like to think of it that way. In order to contend for the AFC South championship or a wild-card playoff berth, the Colts will need Luck to play more like a veteran than a rookie, which is easier said than done.

But this won’t be the NFL’s toughest division this season. A slip-up or key injury for the Houston Texans could send them tumbling back to the pack, giving a fast-starting surprise team the confidence to jump into the lead. I doubt if Jacksonville is capable, so that would leave Tennessee or Indianapolis.

Odds are against the Colts because they’re incorporating new coaching philosophies with a bunch of new players, but Luck is considered a once-in-a-generation quarterback. If he plays like Cam Newton did as a Carolina rookie in 2011, Indy might not be as bad as the so-called experts expect.

Now that I’ve proclaimed my allegiance to two NFL teams, I fully anticipate being labeled a bandwagon jumper, especially by a couple of Facebook friends I have in mind. But who can blame any Colts fan for wanting Manning to do well, even in a different uniform? It’s not like the Colts and Broncos are scheduled to play each other this season, so I won’t be forced to choose between them anytime soon.

I’ll even keep a closer eye on Tampa Bay (Clark), Washington (Garcon), Green Bay (Saturday) and New England (Addai), although I refuse to root for the Patriots under any circumstance.

Such diversity in my NFL attention will put me in the same boat with my longtime friend for a few years (until Manning retires), but he’ll never know I wrote this column unless someone tells him.



David Hughes can be reached by phone after 4 p.m. at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at david.hughes@tribstar.com; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.