[Note by VanRam, 06/21/10 6:25 PM EDT ] I'm bumping this up to the front page.
The 1998 Colts went 3-13 and finished last in their division with a number 1 overall rookie QB. The surprising fact is that said rookie QB was Peyton Manning, and he threw for 3739 yards and 26 TDs and it was only good for 3 lousy wins. The next season, In 1999, with the help of a decent draft, and no more than average roster turnover, they went 13-3. Interesting.
In looking at stats from that fateful 1998 Colts season, the first thing that stands out as really impressive is Manning's 16 games started. Manning was being protected by an O line of non-probowlers and journeymen like Jay Leeuwenburg Tarik Glenn, Jason Johnson, and Tony Mandarich. Yet, with a no-name line they managed to only allow Manning and his face to get sacked 22 times. You must remember, this was before Peyton started walking back and forth between under center and shotgun and audibling in Cantonese.
Other than Manning, our beloved Marshall Faulk was supplying the rest of the offensive firepower. He started 15 games, scored 6 TDs rushing, 4 catching and 2200 all-purpose yards. Without much of a blocking presence up front, and no sturdy FB to hide behind (Ironhead Heyward and Zack Crockett played 6 games combined), Faulk managed to find space in the flat, being the best friend of a scared shi*less QB staring down the rush.
Ken Dilger and Marcus Pollard were also reliable valves at TE. Each played all 16 games, and together were good for over 50 catches and 5 TDs. Marvin Harrison, flashing moments of pre-car wash entrepreneur mobster brilliance, was the go-to WR with 7 TDs in only 12 games. At the time I remember scoffing at Harrison's dominance, thinking of him as Reverend Ike Jr. I stopped thinking that quickly. His ability to behind the defense and open up the underneath routes for the TE's was not to be taken lightly. Also, he has a bunch of guns.
Defense, you say? The 98 Colts D was led by runaway freight trains (wink) like Jason Belser, Ellis Johnson, Larry Chester, and a young Bertrand Berry. No defender in this unit had more than 1 interception. Belser was the leading tackler from the safety position. The defense on the whole gave up 444 points to the opposition, and ranked 29th in most of the major comparative categories.
No touchdowns were scored in the return game, despite the best efforts of one Aaron Bailey. Mike Vanderjagt was solid with the one weird shoe, splitting the uprights 87% of the time, and a pretty sweet 6/9 from 50+ yards.
As I sit here in my basement, glancing at the lovely Christina Hendricks, whom I keep in a cage next to the furnace- I'm wondering if Sam's present situation is greater to/equal/or lesser than Manning's rookie predicament?
I hate to say it, but- Faulk>SJax by a nose. I believe the key here is health. If Jackson can play 15 games and score 4 passing TD's, get some of his mobility back and bail out the kid, then I'll stand happily corrected.
'10 Rams Oline>98 Colts Oline. Is there an offensive line in the NFL that has more potential than the Rams? I know I shouldn't judge something so immeasurable (especially after my recent viewing of GATTACA), but our unit has a very high ceiling.
98 Colts WRs>10 Rams WRs. Do any of you guys wonder what kind of season Laurent Robinson woulda had last year barring injury? Probably not that great, still- but MAN, this guy could be great. The TE comparison isn't even close. Donnie, Brandon, Mardy et al seem like a sturdy foundation, but the 98 Colts totaled 326 receptions and averaged 233 yrds/game. I never thought I would wish that Donnie Avery could be as good as Jerome Pathon. Come on Donnie!
10 Rams D> 98 Colts D. Pretty easy one in my estimation. With a few additions, scheme familiarity seeping in, and some explosive young talent- our D should stay out of the cellar. Obviously, Atogwe would be a welcome return (and to all of you guys who say that if we resign him he'll stop playing with as much passion, energy or focus- you have obviously never had bad-breakup makeup-sex, whilst yelling out "THIS is what you were missing!".
Special teams seem to be a push. I mean, I don't really expect us to score any return TDs this year. Josh Brown is good for 87% in field goals and 100% in PAT and trophy Buck huntin'.
Spagnuolo=Mora. Kind of hard to gauge this one. Mora was on a slow train outta Indy. All signs point to Spags stock rising.
Regardless, this is what I've personally learned from little trip back to 1998.
1. I'm glad I was a Rams fan and not a Colts fan in 1998.
2. TE production and sacks allowed are stats we should be scrutinizing.
3. Even the glorious Sir Peyton Manning threw more INTs than TDs his rookie year.
4. In the offseason the Colts traded away their best player because of team chemistry concerns. The next season they went 13-3. (Dude, do you guys realize how lucky we were that we drafted Torry Holt in '99? The first 10 picks of that draft read like roster of the all-time Insane Asylum Team. Of all our bad drafting, we really lucked out there.)
5. They stayed healthy, relatively speaking. I don't know much about this new trainer the Rams brought in, but hopefully he has something in his bag other than dirt to rub on injuries.
6. Manning was a big, studious, accurate QB. Sam is a big, studious, accurate QB. His situation could be worse, and I for one am very excited to see Sam heroically lose 13 games and throw 28 interceptions if that means what it meant for Manning. And yes, barring cancellation, Sam should host SNL before 2016.
Congrats to those who made any type of sense of this incoherent rambling. Maybe I should have included an Olivia Munn shot halfway through? Maybe next time. Oh and for the record, I was just kidding in good jest. I live in California where basements aren't allowed. Or are they?
As always Go Rams, and let's get those 3 wins!!