Due to a shortage of quotes from yesterday, our Thursday Notebook is another of those "different" ones. Tomorrow, it shall return to its usual glorious form. For now, we’ll kick off the day by discussing staying the course, playoff mojo, keeping the peace with Baltimore fans, and playoff milestones that may or may not be within reach.
Maintaining Consistency and Building Momentum
As the Indianapolis Colts prepare travel to the city and state that once cheered for them as their own, the hype of the playoffs, the talk of Pagano going back, and the old stories of Baltimorean angst will reach a fever pitch.
The young Colts team will need to be able to tune out all the noise and stick to their routine. “We’ve done a lot to get to this point so I don’t think you need to wholesale change things,” Andrew Luck said about getting ready for the Ravens. “Obviously, intensity is going to ratchet up, things are going to kick up a notch but trust in the same preparation, in the same process and hopefully that’ll pay dividends.”
For the players and coaches, this week has nothing to do with the history between the teams, or the Irsays, or crab cakes, or moving trucks. They have earned another chance to suit up and play football. This week is about staying their normal course in preparation for a playoff game, and, they hope, a playoff run.
“Keep the routine the same,” said Chuck Pagano, “and try not to deviate just because you can get caught up in the playoff hype and all that other stuff. At the end of the day, they’re going to kick that ball off and it’s still football. Field doesn’t change, it’s a different team, you just pull the decals off and slap a different decal on there, and you’ve got another 60-minute game to play. We’re just going to stick to the process.”
While the Ravens are likely viewing the Colts as a very beatable opponent, it would be unwise to ignore their momentum. Baltimore is on a rough streak, losing four of their last five, one of the few division winners ever thought to be backing into the playoffs. The Colts, on the other hand, in spite of all reasonable odds, are entering the postseason with a great deal of momentum and are on a 5-1 streak.
Pagano and Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians had talked late in the season about going into the playoffs with momentum. Pagano even used the word mojo at times. “We wanted to play our best football at the end of the year,” Pagano said. “To win five out of the last six games, to go into that last football game and play a complete game in all three phases and have contributions from everybody. You want to go in with that mojo, with that momentum rolling. So I think we, obviously playing the way that we played last Sunday and weeks prior to that, we get to go into this ballgame feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
Dealing With Angry Baltimore Fans: Be Classy
At some point, in the time leading up to Sunday’s playoff game, Colt fans may have to deal with confrontational Baltimore fans. First, let’s remember to counter any of that deep-seated hatred with kindness. Indianapolis supporters have a reputation to uphold as some of the classiest NFL fans in the country. In the past, it was easy to be hospitable to fans from other cities, because our team was going to trounce theirs anyway. Now that the Colts are an underdog, it’s important to respect the process, so to speak. Stay the course.
Please also remember that no matter the circumstances, Baltimore fans who can remember what happened in the 1980s were heartbroken. Despite how their city may have botched the situation with Robert Irsay, the fans had no control over the matter. They were helpless; unable to do anything to prevent their beloved team from leaving them, yet they are the ones who suffered because of it. If you are able to put yourself in their shoes for a moment, even the most fervent of football fanatics, have trouble shouting into a sympathetic ear.
However, if some wishes to debate with you about the Colts move to Indy all those years ago, here are some counterpoints to the three most popular attacks against the Colts’ manner and decision to leave the East Coast:
1. Bitter former Baltimore Colts fans may hurl insults toward Indianapolis, and its residents. Countering these attacks with more insults is a fool’s errand. The Circle City and the Charm City are both great places to live, similar in size, with Indy having a larger city population, and Baltimore holding the edge in suburban population. There are no real reasons to exchange cheap shots about either of these fine American cities. Indy is a fast growing metropolis, both economically and in population, and it has an amazing downtown, as Super Bowl attendees discovered earlier this year, and Baltimore is no slouch as metro areas go either.
2. ‘The Colts left in the middle of the night.’ Well, we can’t deny that one. However, there was a reason. In March of 1984, the late Robert Irsay began asking for things along the lines of what Phoenix and Indianapolis were promising, such as guaranteed minimum attendance levels and a 15 million dollar loan.
Baltimore Mayor William Schaefer and Secretary of Economic Development Frank De Francis met with Irsay on March 25, 1984. According to the Baltimore Sun:
They offered an expanded package they believed met Irsay's demands.
On March 26, however, the Maryland state Senate began kicking around a couple different proposals, one of which was an eminent domain bill. The state of Maryland was planning to seize Mr. Irsay’s personal business and make it a state-run NFL team.
Irsay found out, of course, and on March 27, he raised his demands to the city, asking for a minimum game attendance of 43,000, among other things, according to the Baltimore Sun. That same day, again, straight from the Baltimore Sun:
Meanwhile, the State Senate approved by a vote of 38-4 the eminent domain legislation that would give Baltimore power to seize ownership of the Colts. It had not yet gone to the House of Delegates.
On March 28, Baltimore officials couldn’t get a hold of Irsay, who, after the eminent domain bill, had lost what was left of his love for Baltimore. He was done. That night, he loaded up his NFL franchise in moving trucks and never looked back. What a strange road trip it must have been.
The next morning, Maryland’s governor signed the bill to take ownership from Robert Irsay, but the Colts were already gone. They had escaped state seizure of their team by just a few hours. Baltimore would go on to take the fight to court, eventually losing in December, 1985. You can read the whole 9-year timeline of the Colts’ departure to Indianapolis in my source, Baltimore Colts Timeline: Anatomy of a Move, from the Baltimore Sun Archives. They give a very detailed, if somewhat slanted, account of the events leading up to the midnight move.
3. ‘The Colts took our history. We didn't do that to Cleveland.’ This is the Baltimore fan's strongest argument. Art Modell announced he was moving the Browns in 1995. A year later, they were in Baltimore. There was no drawn-out battle to find a way to keep the Browns in Cleveland, and Cleveland never tried to condemn and seize ownership of the team. When the
City of Cleveland NFL asked Modell to leave the history and logo of the team in Cleveland, he agreed. The NFL wanted to have a team in Cleveland and did four years later. For the former Baltimore Colts fans, though, I do wish there had been some compromise, and I wish they didn’t have to wait for so long to get another team.
In a happier world, the Indianapolis Colts history would probably begin in 1984, leaving the Baltimore Colts history for Baltimoreans, who actually once felt connected to it. However, that logo and history have now been a part of Indianapolis for almost 29 years, and they're not going anywhere. For some of the longest-tenured Colts fans, that is just fine.
Odds, Ends, and Obscure Milestones
-The Colts will be, as you may have heard, the first team to start a number one overall drafted rookie quarterback in the playoffs. However, there are a few other achievements within reach here and there.
-If Safety Antoine Bethea can pick off Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco just one time Sunday, he would push his career postseason total to 5, tying him with Jerry Logan and Rick Volk for the franchise record. Bethea would also break a personal drought since, although he has two sacks this season, he hasn’t had an interception since 2010 (I’m not sure if he had one in the postseason that year).
Pat McAfee could reach the more mundane milestone in quite some time: 3rd most punts in the playoffs in franchise history. He would have to punt 8 times, which would make for a hideous game. Few punters can reverse the field quite like McAfee, but let us all hope he can spend more time kicking off and less time punting this weekend.
-Reggie Wayne is currently 5th in NFL postseason history in receptions and can move into a 4th place tie with Andre Reed with just 3 on Sunday. With 6 catches, Wayne would jump to 2nd place all-time.
-Last, but not least, on the off chance that the Colts could explode into a barrage of touchdowns on offense, Adam Vinatieri is 5 extra points from tying Gary Anderson for the most in postseason history with 57.
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