ESPN today said that Big Ben and the Steelers beat the Ravens to advance in the playoffs (that’s right, I saw it on ESPN–I am personally boycotting the playoffs). Then they pointed out how the Steelers have been the AFC Championship so much and that Big Ben already has two Super Bowl rings and could be going for his third. That’s twice as many rings as Mr. Manning, by the way.
Which led me think about our guys and all the preseason chatter about a Super Bowl hangover. Your first thought is that, yeah, the Saints are out of it too, but I would like to offer the following hypothesis: our Super Bowl hangover is from 2006.
Allow me to elucidate.
1. The Colts were pretty much losers (except 1995) until Peyton Manning comes along as well as some front office changes.
2. With The Triplets (Manning, Harrison, Edge) we keep knocking on the door but keep falling short.
3. Eventually, an Edge-less Colts make it to the Big Game. We were finally Super Bowl winners in 2006.
And I think that’s where our collapse begins. While we were all celebratory, I think it is safe to say that more than exhilaration, all us Colts fans–and Manning “the choke artist”–breathed a sigh of relief. I think that collective sigh was the beginning of our Super Bowl hangover. Let me continue:
4. The next season, Dungy begins the whole Brett Favre–will he or will he not return to coaching game that lasts until he retires. His final year he only comes back to make people feel good about paying for Lucas Oil Stadium.
5. Two Dungy-led post-Super Bowl seasons, we honk it against the Chargers in the playoffs. Lackluster efforts, both. We are told we have the pieces and we have to keep what we are doing.
6. Caldwell takes over in order to maintain continuity. Only previous experience–coaching a bad Wake Forest team. Goes on a big win streak with Dungy’s team similar to Gruden’s Super Bowl run with Dungy’s Tampa Bay team.
7. Caldwell honks the perfect season. Despite all of the Colts emphasis on workman-like effort and taking care of business, we commit one of the biggest football boondoggles ever.
8. Proceed to the Super Bowl and lose through poor coaching and lackluster effort. Sound familiar?
9. This season–the Hangover Season–we put in a fairly poor showing. Blame is placed on injuries, but just as many fingers can be pointed at Caldwell and coaching.
Looking back, I could make the case we collapsed with relief after 2006 and have been on some halfhearted cruise control ever since. Where teams like Pittsburgh and New England continue to proactively and aggressively pursue Super Bowls, we seem to have the attitude that continuing to do the same thing will get us there. That continuity will prevail. And this is starting to feel like a passive strategy, that if we do certain things, the championships will come to us. I don’t know how long this will be a viable strategy as Manning gets older. I firmly believe he is probably the best quarterback to play the game and has revolutionized the position. I am sure Big Ben and Playboy Brady would agree, looking down from the top of their pile of Lombardi Trophies.