Vick Ballard is no Jim Mora, yammering away out there in our institutional memory. He will never be a meme unto himself, never be a running gag on YouTube, never be the ringtone that leaves you in stitches every time it goes off.
Playoffs?! Dont talk about playoffs
Remember that? Heck, its hardwired now, isnt it?
Well, come on out to the west side of Indianapolis, then, where the Colts sit at 4-3 midway through the season, and Playoffs?! suddenly is an echo of an echo. Its an echo that has been turned inside-out and upside-down and played backward like the Beatles white album, only instead of revealing that Paul Is Dead, it reveals that the Colts are very much alive.
And the voice you hear saying that, or one of them, is Vick Ballard, who stood on his head last week to get the Colts their first road win.
Is it weird to think you guys are in the playoff hunt? someone asked Ballard last week.
I wouldnt say weird, Ballard replied. Its just the fruits of our hard labor.
Nope. No Playoffs?! there.
What there is instead is a football team that, halfway home, is nothing like the crash site so many envisioned. Instead its visibly growing every week, to the extent that its now in a place not even the truest of True Blue zealots imagined it would be.
Coming to Week 9 against Miami, the Colts are tied with the Dolphins, Steelers and Broncos for the fourth-best record in the AFC, and who saw that coming? Who saw it coming especially after their new head coach, Chuck Pagano, got sick and had to go off to fight a larger battle against leukemia?
You can credit general manager Ryan Grigson for putting together just the right balance of youth and age, and you can surely credit Pagano for building a team culture sustainable even in his absence. But you can also credit the players and the X-and-O guys and whatever it is that makes Ballard hurl himself recklessly at the pylon when the circumstances call for it.
Next up: Learning how to live with success.
Thats the whole focus this week, Arians said. Dont read about yourself, dont pat yourself on the back, respect the process of a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday and a Saturday on how to prepare. As long as you respect the process, you dont get caught in those peaks and valleys of Im good, Im bad, Im good, Im bad.
It doesnt matter what your record is now. It matters what it is after that last week, quarterback Andrew Luck added. We are not looking ahead to anything.
(Arians) talks about not having a rearview mirror, Ballard said. Whenever you have a rearview mirror, you get to looking back at what you did and not what you have to do.
They all get that, or as much as young teams can until it gets taught to them on the field. Some of them, like tight end Dwayne Allen, already have had it taught to them.
Ive been fortunate enough last year at Clemson to be a part of a young team (that) had a lot of success early and didnt handle it well, he said. We got to a point where we were 8-0, top five in the country and we werent ready for that type of pressure.
Hey. Stick around.