A Look Back at 2008

It gave me flashbacks.

I was listening to Bill Simmons’ podcast with Mike Lombardi the other day, and suddenly I was transported to 2008.

Lombardi was waxing eloquently about how Peyton Manning’s neck injury was super serious, and how Manning should think long term and should probably just sit the first 6 or so games of the season.

Lombardi has a history of screwing up stories about the Colts. Back in 2008, he declared Peyton Manning’s knee injury was a “concern to the Colts in both the short and long run”.

Manning won the MVP award that year.

Now, Lombardi is at it again claiming the Colts will struggle because they won’t be able to win games with Curtis Painter.

I doubt very seriously they’ll have to.

It’s popular to compare 2011 to 2008 these days. There are obvious similarities. In both years, Manning had a late surgery and missed camp. the Colt struggled out of the gate to a 3-4 record and had me posting long-faced articles. Of course, then Manning got healthy and got hot, and the Colts stormed to 9 straight wins to close the season.

There are some stark differences this year, however.

First, Manning is visible and accessible. If you recall, in 2008 he was practically invisible. The Colts snuck him into Terre Haute in a limo, and treated his location like a state secret. They were tight lipped and mum about everything regarding Manning.  This year has been different. Manning is still front and center at practices, interacting with fans and players. There’s talk that he might even travel for the preseason game. He’s been seen throwing the ball.

It feels like Manning is much further along in 2011 than he was in 2008. Everyone will feel better if Manning gets in a few snaps in the preseason and comes off the PUP list, but the angst level is noticeably lower.

The 2008 struggles weren’t just about Manning either. Jeff Saturday suffered a knee injury, and missed several games. Jamie Richard, a rookie, started in his place. The Colts offense sputtered with Saturday out. The Indy problems were compounded by the team losing Joe Addai to injury for two games (losses to the Packers and Titans). On top of everything else, Marvin Harrison was still getting loads of targets from Manning, and it was painfully obvious to everyone that he just wasn’t the same player any more.

What is worrisome is that it was instability on the offensive line that helped set up the slow start. Saturday’s injury was a problem, but it went deeper. The Colts forced rookie Mike Pollak into the lineup and he responded with the single worst season of any lineman in the NFL (he’s never been that bad since). Tony Ugoh struggled with injuries, and the line never recovered until he returned to play left tackle supplanting Charlie Johnson who was horrid. Meanwhile, Saturday was playing on one leg. Between Addai’s injuries and the problems on the line, the Colts offense averaged just 17.3 points a game in the four losses. Manning’s rating was 66.4 with 4 TD and 6 INT in the four losses.

All in all 2008 was a perfect storm: no camp for Manning, line instability, injuries to key players, some bad luck (the Jacksonville game), and Marvin Harrison getting old before our eyes. The result was four losses in seven games.

Eventually, however, the Colts got healthy…at least until Gary Brackett was lost for the season dooming the Colts’ hopes of making a playoff run.

The storm clouds over the 2011 season aren’t nearly as pronounced. The Colts have some concerns for sure, but there’s no downpour yet.

A few key injuries in the preseason, however, and the skies will cloud up quick.