The Colts passed the off-season with flying colors. At least thus far.

They cleaned house in the coaching staff and front office quickly and completely.

They handled the release of Peyton Manning with respect and honor. While there was some drama to the finals weeks of Manning’s Colts career, it never became a nasty divorce.

They handled the lead-up to the draft perfectly, not playing media games about who they might pick and making an announcement that Andrew Luck would be their selection once they were sure.

And, amazingly, that’s probably the easiest part of the rebuilding process.

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: there are no sure things in sports. Luck may blow out a knee or arm and never live up to his potential. He may be great but the Colts may fail to put enough talent around him to win games. Robert Griffin III may turn into a game-changing, era-defining quarterback that shadows everything Luck does. A million things can go wrong. The chances of this working out as well as the Manning era are very long. But so far, the franchise has taken the correct step each time.

I never commented about Peyton going to Denver. I was surprised by his choice, like many others. San Francisco seemed like a better fit. I just hope he’s able to close out his career with dignity and not look back and think he should have retired when the Colts released him.

After he signed, I asked my brother-in-law in Denver, a life-long Broncos fan, what he thought. His response: “I love it. I want to take a bath in it.” Safe to say his opinion is shared by many out there.

Predicatbly, after Peyton’s release the local news stations went out on the streets asking for people’s thoughts. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there were a lot of people who thought the Colts were making a monumental mistake. “They just let the best quarterback ever walk away and are going to replace him with an unknown quantity,” was a common refrain. I have a feeling most of those people didn’t watch a game last season.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the Pacers, who go into the NBA Playoffs as the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ve been red hot for the last month and get a Dwight Howard-less Orlando team in the first round. They’re not good enough to take out Miami or Chicago, but they’ve made terrific progress this season. Anything less than a first round win and a competitive second round will be a major disappointment.

After that it will be their turn for off-season drama. Larry Bird refuses to comment on his plans, but most expect him to walk away from the franchise and officially retire. After a rough start, he did a fantastic job putting the franchise back together in the post-Artest era. His replacement will have a lot of tough choices in the summer. How much do you offer Roy Hibbert to stay.1 Do you try to hang on to George Hill? Do you try to sign local hero Eric Gordon? Is there money to chase another impact free agent?

The team still has not won back the city. Attendance remains dreadful. As well as this season has gone, this summer will go a long way towards deciding whether the Pacers can be competitive and financially successful in Indianapolis.

  1. Hibbert is an effective big man, but screams of someone who is going to get overpaid this summer and wreck someone’s salary cap for the next 4-5 years.