For years, the competitive hatred between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots was intense and beautiful. Symbolized in the epic quarterback duels between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the rivalry drove NFL ratings and popularity to new heights. There couldn’t have been starker contrasts:
- The impersonal coach, Bill Belichick vs. the lovable Tony Dungy
- The mysterious quarterback with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, Tom Brady vs. the face of the NFL, Peyton Manning
- The working-class, low draft picks of the Patriots vs. the high-pedigree, big names of the Colts
To be sure, with a few notable exceptions, New England usually got the better of Indy – a reality no less complicated by the Patriots’ notorious cheating scandals:
- Willie McGinest’s fake injury prior to stuffing Edgerrin James at the goal line and proceeding to sprint down the field in celebration…completely uninjured
- Spying on opponents’ locker rooms
- Tom Brady having equipment managers illegally deflate his footballs for better grip
But sadly for fans of the NFL, the rivalry has been anything but exciting in recent years. The Colts have been mired in mediocrity with their promising franchise quarterback sidelined by repeated injury, and the Patriots have kept on winning.
After last night, all that may be about to change.
For weeks it has been a foregone conclusion that Patriots’ Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels was on his way to Indianapolis to take over the struggling team as their new head coach. How sure was it?
- The Colts had passed on all their other coaching options, and were patiently waiting until McDaniels was done coaching the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
- McDaniels had agreed to the contract terms offered by Colts’ owner Jim Irsay.
- McDaniels had put together a coaching staff to join him in Indy.
- Many of those coaches that were joining McDaniels in Indy had quit their current jobs, uprooted their families and come to Indy.
- The Colts had extended contracts to several of these new McDaniels’ picks, and some – like new Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus – are already on the job.
- The Colts officially announced McDaniels was the new coach and scheduled his introductory press conference for Thursday.
- Colts owner Jim Irsay had scheduled to fly McDaniels to Indy today aboard his private jet in anticipation of the official introduction.
Then last night, in an unprecedented bush league move, Josh McDaniels backed out. He left the Colts hanging, left his new staff hanging, left the families of those new coaches hanging, and forever harmed the coaching prospects of NFL assistants who are forced to coach deep into the playoffs with their current teams.
League sources are reporting that this is all the workings of Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft who has promised to try to screw the Colts every chance he gets as payback for the deflated football scandal. A scandal that he, in classic Patriots’ style, blames on the Colts rather than his own team for deflating the footballs.
So where does all this go? That may be the best part of this whole story.
- For McDaniels, he has perhaps wisely recognized he lacks the character and management skills to coach his own team apart from Bill Belichick. His first attempt at doing so years ago in Denver failed miserably, after all. He will stay safely huddled under the wing of a great coach.
- For the Patriots, they have successfully screwed over their former rivals and, if they actually want him, have a successor for whenever Belichick retires or moves on.
- For the Colts, they are putting on a brave – if not angry – face. But let’s be honest: they’re in turmoil. No coach, no quarterback, a roster in flux, and now looking for someone to come in and manage a staff that is already hired for him.
If nothing else, this is sure to stoke the fires of an old rivalry that has been far too boring in recent years. The Colts play the Patriots next year in New England. It won’t be boring.