This time a year ago, NFL rumors were flying that Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts were headed to Super Bowl 50. The team was coming off an 11-5 regular season record and made it to the AFC Championship Game in 2014. The team loaded up on expensive free agents in the off-season, including wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore.
The season itself, well, that was another story altogether. The Colts struggled from Week 1 on, battling through poor play and injuries that resulted in an 8-8 regular season record — and a seat on the sideline when the playoffs began for 12 other teams.
The Colts went “all in” for a shot at a Super Bowl appearance in 2015, but what happened was an utter disaster in comparison to the lofty expectations the team had going into the season.
Now we are entering Colts training camp 2016, and the attitude is markedly different than last year. No longer is the team talking about Super Bowls, and frankly, neither are any of the prognosticators. According to the Indianapolis Star, analysts at the NFL Network have predicted the Colts will finish 6-10 during the 2016 regular season, two games worse than their catastrophe of one year ago.
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The Colts understand that all the attention has shifted away from them and no one seems to expect much from this team as they begin preparations for the 2016 campaign. However, the team is hungry for a bounce-back season, as is their Pro Bowl quarterback, Andrew Luck.
Luck did not play well last season, even when he was healthy (which was for a very short period at the beginning of the season). The quarterback from Stanford dealt with multiple injuries, the last of which knocked him out for the last seven games of the regular season. Both in terms of his performance and his health, Andrew Luck had, by far, the most difficult season of his NFL career. Now healthy and refocused, Luck is determined not to let any of this happen again.
Colts owner Jim Irsay observed his quarterback during the course of the off-season, and he has noticed the change in the usually laid-back Luck.
“I’ve never seen him more motivated,” Irsay said. “That fire is in his eye in a special way.”
Despite what happened last year, the Colts recently entrusted Andrew Luck by giving him a new six-year contract worth an estimated $140 million — the largest contract in the history of the NFL, per Forbes. If Luck didn’t already have enough external and self-imposed pressure to deal with, he now has a great deal more. The motivation that Andrew Luck has to redeem himself from 2015 has been pushed to an exceptionally high level, and by all accounts, he is primed for a big year when the lights go on in September.
The Indianapolis Colts, as a team, mirror what Andrew Luck is going through. They underperformed across the board in 2015; there were very few (if any) bright spots during last season’s implosion. The offensive line couldn’t block for running back Frank Gore or any of the quarterbacks who took the field (that would be five in all), the defense was a sieve and failed to put any pressure on the opposing teams’ quarterbacks. Perhaps the best story of the season was the gutsy performance of 40-year-old backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who is now an NFL analyst at ESPN.
In the NFL, rumors of all kinds circulate, and the talk around Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts has gone from “Super Bowl or bust” to “don’t expect much.” How do you think Luck and the Colts will fare this coming season?
[Photo by Darron Cummings/AP Images]