When cancer-stricken head coach Chuck Pagano, breathlessly congratulated his team Sunday afternoon, as he visited the locker room after they had beaten the Miami Dolphins, it started to look like the NFL’s best unfolding story is the heartwarming turnaround of the Indianapolis Colts.

Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano addresses team after win over Miami Dolphins

The Colts having let go of all-time great quarterback Peyton Manning after finishing a league worst 2-14 last season were expected to be a bottom feeder team at best once again.  But expectations can always be wrong.

Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck despite being the number one pick in the draft was expected to be good but like most quarterbacks in their rookie year was also expected to struggle.  But at the halfway point in the season, Luck has already passed for more than 2400 yards, and Sunday set the all-time rookie passing yardage record for a single game.

But no one, and I mean, no one, expected the Indianapolis Colts to be 5-3 at the halfway point of this NFL season. Which means all of those prognosticators will have to admit that something special is happening with this team and it’s possible all of them could be wrong.

The next several games on the Colts schedule now all seem winnable, and the playoffs are not only possible but are beginning to look probable.  Playoffs! No Jim Mora exasperation this time.

What about Peyton Manning you ask? Manning is having an extraordinary season with his new team the Denver Broncos, especially considering the doubts about his future with four surgeries on his neck.  But although Manning is gone so too is the heartache over his loss.

Seven months ago Indianapolis was torn over the loss of Peyton Manning.  But a winning record a really good rookie quarterback, superb receivers, a solid running game and a feisty defense, have eased the pain of Manning’s departure.

Also redeemed is Colts owner Jim Irsay, who now looks like a prophet for his decision to release Manning and to remake the team by letting go of a bunch of other veterans and firing future Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian and bringing in the untested Ryan Grigson to evaluate talent in Polian’s place.

The harder decision of course was saying goodbye to Manning who almost singlehandedly gave the Colts a national profile and also gave Irsay credibility.

While coach Pagano continues with leukemia treatments, the team he has helped inspire plays on without him, renewing hopes in Indianapolis by proving that being knocked down doesn’t mean you can’t get up.

 

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