Every year, it feels like the Indianapolis Colts are finally heading in the right direction. They’ve hit on draft picks that turned into stars like linebacker Darius Leonard and running back Jonathan Taylor. They’ve acquired key pieces via trade like defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. They play in easily the worst division in all of football. This has to be the year for them. It has to.
Until we remember that the Colts are now the most cursed franchise in the NFL. Quenton Nelson and Carson Wentz, the starting left guard and newly-minted quarterback, are now on the shelf with — weirdly — the exact same injury.
How these two somehow ended up with the exact same injury two days apart is beyond odd. Regardless, it’s just another notch in the Colts’ chain of bad voodoo, or karma, or whatever you want to call it.
It started with Peyton Manning
The Colts weren’t always snake-bitten.
Throughout the late ‘90s and into the early 2000s, they were a constant fixture in the AFC playoff race. In 1999, his second season in the pros, Peyton Manning flipped the script of the franchise that finished 3-13 the year before, leading it to a 13-3 record and a division title. Indianapolis met the division rival Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round, falling short 19-16. The Titans would eventually go on to play the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl, which ended half a yard shy of a Titans victory in one of the greatest Super Bowl finishes of all time.
A few years later, in 2003, viewers were treated to the first playoff showdown between Manning and Tom Brady, which became a familiar spectacle and rivalry. In all, Manning would lead the Colts to 11 playoff appearances, making it to the Super Bowl twice and winning it once. He finished far and away as the all-time leader in Colts history for passing yards and touchdowns, winning four MVPs during his Indianapolis tenure. He’s a franchise legend.
Then he got hurt. The Colts have never been the same.
Manning was reportedly dealing with a neck injury heading into the 2010 season, but he played through it, somehow scraping together a 10-6 record. They lost in the Wild Card Round to the New York Jets, 17-16. He missed the entire 2011 season, recovering from three surgeries on the herniated disc in his neck. The Colts tumbled to an abysmal 2-14 season.
After a year of recovery and rehabilitation, Manning was released by the Colts on March 7, 2012. Two months later, the Colts selected a quarterback out of Stanford University with the first overall pick who was supposed to be the second coming of Manning. His name was Andrew Luck.
It didn’t get better with Andrew Luck
Luck jumped out of the gate, throwing for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns during his rookie season. He led the Colts back to the playoffs on the back of an 11-5 record, giving fans hope once again. They lost in the Wild Card Round. Luck built on his success for three straight seasons, first getting to the Wild Card Round, then the Divisional Round, followed by the conference championship after the 2014 season.
Unfortunately, the conference championship game, where they were waxed by the Patriots 45-7 in the infamous “Deflategate” game, would be the mountaintop for the Luck-led Colts.
Luck fought through rib and shoulder issues early in the 2015 season before a lacerated kidney forced him to miss the final seven games. The shoulder issues continued in 2016, and he missed the entire 2017 season recovering from surgery. He made his return in 2018, which was once again derailed by injuries — this time, a calf problem.
On August 24, 2019, two weeks before the season opener, Luck abruptly retired.
“I felt stuck and the only way out of it is to no longer play football,” he said per CBS Sports. “It’s taken my joy away from the game.”
Now Carson Wentz and Quinton Nelson
The last two seasons since Luck retired have been filled with questions in Indianapolis. The 2019 season was a struggle just to stay afloat, with Jacoby Brissett operating as the starting quarterback. Heading into 2020, the Colts were able to get a one-year rental out of Philip Rivers’ final season, making it back to the postseason before losing in the Wild Card round.
This year, the Colts took a shot and traded for Wentz, reuniting him with former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Frank Reich. With a solid offensive line, a system he knows from his time in Philadelphia, and a studly run game headlined by second-year running back Jonathan Taylor, Wentz and the Colts were lined up to thrive.
Now, in a matter of days, their starting quarterback and All-Pro left guard have been put on the shelf with a range of possible recovery times from five to 12 weeks. Whatever spell the injury of Peyton Manning cast on the franchise is alive and well.
Colts fans just can’t win.