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Descendants of the Mayflower:
The Peyton Manning Era

The Peyton Manning Era

1997 was a season many Indianapolis Colts fans would like to forget. The 1998 season, on the other hand, looks to be one that many Colts fans can look back on as the start of a new era of pro football in the Hoosier State.

Owner Jim Irsay cleaned house after a disastrous 1997 campaign, replacing general manager Bill Tobin and head coach Lindy Infante with proven winners in Bill Polian and Jim Mora, respectively. Those changes have given the Colts an air of respectability and leadership in the front office that has been sorely lacking since the franchise relocated from Baltimore in 1984.

But the front office isn't the only place where important changes have been
made. Polian and Mora have been busy rebuilding the franchise in the offseason, acquiring veterans such as Jeff Herrod, Jeff Burris, Tyrone Poole and Tom Myslinski to help improve the team at linebacker, in the secondary and on the offensive line.

Polian also planted the Colts' seeds of the future with this past April's college draft, selecting Peyton Manning with the first overall pick, then following that up with receivers Jerome Pathon and E.G. Green and offensive linemen Steve McKinney and Aaron Taylor.

It's a known fact that rookie quarterbacks struggle their first few years in the league. Peyton Manning may be the smartest quarterback to come out of the college ranks since Bernie Kosar, but it's unrealistic to expect him to come in and singlehandedly resurrect this franchise overnight. With an offensive line that surrendered a franchise-record 62 sacks last year, Indianapolis may still be a year or two away from making some serious noise in the AFC.

Nevertheless, the Colts do possess an abundance of talent at the skill positions -- especially on the offensive side of the ball -- and with a fifth-place schedule this year, they could end up surprising a few teams during the season. With an offense that already features such young stars as Marshall Faulk, Ken Dilger and Marvin Harrison, and a defense that includes a number of underrated performers such as Jason Belser and Dan Footman, there's plenty of reason for Colts fans to be excited for 1998 ... and years to come.

For the complete history of the Colts (both in Baltimore and Indianapolis), click here.

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