PhilB: How did you become a Colts fan?
Dustin: I just loved the simplistic beauty of the emblem. It was classic and I just liked the color scheme and everything was cool. That’s how I pretty much fell in love with the Colts and I’ve weathered the storm since then. We’ve had some good years and some really horrible ones. I’ve never really been much of a fair-weather fan and I’ve stuck with it.
PhilB: What’s it like being a Colts fan in Tulsa?
Dustin: It’s pretty lonely. We have a high school here, Union High School, and its really, really into football. It has a similar logo, so there’s actually a little bit of a young Colts following. But after Andrew Luck decided to do what he did (and retire), it kind of fell off a little bit. We’re in this weird conundrum of Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, now Kansas City Chiefs fans here. We also have the Tulsa Packer Backers, which neither here nor there, I think they travel well anywhere.
PhilB: Are you kidding me? You’ve got Cheeseheads in Oklahoma?
Dustin: Yeah, yeah, we do. I pride myself in wearing my Colts gear wherever I go. It is what it is. I don’t need to be a part of any bandwagon. That’s kind of where I pride myself. I’m going to wear the horseshoe wherever I go.
PhilB: How did you find ColtsSpeak?
Dustin: You actually turned me onto that. I’m always checking Bleacher Report and it was posted there. I pretty much check the Colts feed every single day. I think the offseason is one of those times where the NFL draft is super exciting and everybody wants to post some stuff that’s clickbait and this and that. I kind of get suckered into it. On the other side, if there’s nothing else I’d rather do, I want to read about it and be educated about what’s going on.
PhilB: Yeah, on my site, there are probably some stories that qualify as clickbait, but I try to provide in-depth stuff because I’ve got a lot of experience. I just got off a Zoom call with Colts head coach Frank Reich this morning.
Dustin: I’ve actually enjoyed your pieces.
PhilB: Thank you.
Dustin: I commented on your Jacob Eason piece. I’m really happy with the quarterback situation, the way it’s turning out. I’m hoping that it’s still positive next season. At the same time, I don’t think Jacob Eason could have fallen into a better situation for himself. We’ll see he adapts. I can’t speak for his personality and whatnot, but he definitely has the makings of a next franchise quarterback with his arm talent. We’ll see. I don’t think there’s a better quarterback to learn from with Jacob Eason and Philip Rivers going at it together. If (Eason) has a brain on him, we’ll be good.
PhilB: I had some pointed commentary in the Eason piece and some people thought I was being overly harsh. How do you walk the fine line of explaining why a guy projected late first round would fall to the fourth round? You have an obligation to tell people that. But in delving into that, you need to provide perspective. I think people thought I was ripping him for having character issues or convicting him? No, I’m staying that’s why he dropped. The perception was there. He’s got the great arm. I hope he learns from the cautionary tales of the past. We just got reminded again over the weekend. Ryan Leaf got arrested again. That’s all I was trying to do, but some people got upset.
Dustin: You know what? You can’t be popular with everybody or else you’re not doing your job, right?
PhilB: You are correct, sir. I’ll be honest, I was stunned when they took him. GM Chris Ballard was gushing about other guys, but sounded defensive about taking Eason, saying, ‘Look, he’s a fourth-round pick, he’s got to earn his spot.’ It was almost like if I didn’t know any better, Chris got talked into it.
Dustin: It’s possible. I don’t want to question Chris. He knows what he’s doing. When it comes down to the draft, I don’t think there’s another guy I’d want. Maybe Ozzie Newsome, but that’s about it.
PhilB: I agree with you on Ballard. He’s done a good job. It started off slow. If you look at his first draft, you’re thinking holy cow. But he hit the home runs with Quenton Nelson and ‘The Maniac,’ Darius Leonard. We like to say if you’re batting 40-to-50 percent on your draft picks, you’re doing OK. He obviously traded his first-round pick this year for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. How did you feel about that?
Dustin: I like Buckner. I don’t want this to be painted the wrong way. I really, really like Buckner. I thought that they had the money to spend and they spent it where they needed to. Especially being in Oklahoma, I was really in love with (Sooners wide receiver) CeeDee Lamb. I’m not an OU fan, but just having so much availability of him and seeing so much of him, I was in love with him and really, really thought that prospect at that draft pick would have been perfect. But I quickly got out of that mindset after the trade happened because it wasn’t going to happen. I’m happy with Buckner. The defensive scheme obviously runs through that three-technique. His character speaks a million miles about what he does as a person and a player. His best ability is his ability to be on the field, his availability. I think that’s pretty much where we’ve dropped the ball a little bit over the last couple of years with people having bad luck with injuries. I don’t know if they’ve retooled the training staff or anything like that, but I’ve been calling from the rooftops. There have been so many injuries that have been so debilitating. Andrew Luck is not our quarterback anymore. It’s not because he can’t throw the ball. It’s because he probably doesn’t like to rehab anymore. To get back to what I was originally saying, I really like Buckner. I like him as a player. He’s better than any of the prospects we could have possibly got at No. 13. But I was disappointed that we couldn’t go get CeeDee Lamb or somebody that was available at that pick. It’s a little bittersweet for me, if I can be honest.
PhilB: And in the second round …
Dustin: They killed it.
PhilB: They get you a wide receiver in Michael Pittman Jr. and a running back in Jonathan Taylor.
Dustin: I loved both of those picks. I think they did a great job. The only thing that was missing with that Buckner trade was flip-flopping with San Francisco at the back end of that first round. I don’t know if that was discussed or not, obviously I wasn’t in the room, but it would have been great to be at No. 28 to get that fifth-year option on that contract. That’s what I was hoping for on that Buckner trade, but on the flip side, man, I love that kid from USC. He’s going to do great. Pittman, he’s super underrated, he goes to the Senior Bowl and shows out. It just speaks to his character. He wanted Philip Rivers’ number right away. He wants to go to work. We’ve just got to get him under contract, at this point. Jonathan Taylor was a surprise for me. I think it was a surprise for most. Before the draft, I was one of the ones who could see J.K. Dobbins or Jonathan Taylor. I liked Dobbins a little bit more than Taylor going into the draft, but after the draft looking at the highlight reel, there’s no matching it. He hasn’t had any injury history. He’s ready to go. I don’t even think Philip Rivers is going to pass the ball this year. There’s no real reason to, you know? He’s just going to hand the ball off to two 1,000-yard runners this year and we are going to demolish. Really what it comes down to, the way to beat those teams that have separated themselves as the cream of the crop in the AFC, you think about the Ravens and the Chiefs, their most dynamic options are their quarterbacks and they’re scoring a lot of points. The reason they score a lot of points is because their offense is on the field. If you can control the clock against those two teams with running the ball, you don’t let their offenses on the field. You can possibly keep them down to the 20s or possibly the low teens (in points) and win ballgames. I love Jonathan Taylor. Behind that offensive line, he’s going to eat.
PhilB: Any other players you want to talk about?
Dustin: I think (tight end) Trey Burton is going to be a huge steal this year. I think it’s a very underrated signing by us. I also think (running back) Nyheim Hines is just going to be the gadget, everything we need if we can keep him on the field.
PhilB: We have to get to outlook on the season and I’ve been asking fans their thoughts on the NFL being able to pull off a season.
Dustin: I think 12-4 is probably the best we can do, 11-5 or 12-4.
PhilB: You’ve got some optimism out there in Oklahoma, huh?
Dustin: I do. The reason why is mostly because of the schedule. I think the schedule lines out well.
PhilB: The first time I saw it, I thought, ‘They could run the table in the first half of the season.’
Dustin: Yeah, right. The schedule being favorable, the only thing I worry about is the second part with the COVID stuff. I wonder about how much interaction they’re going to be able to get with their new quarterback. I think that’s the only thing that could hold them back a little bit because there’s a lot of teams that didn’t change any personnel and they’re going to be on the same page. We’re going to have a learning curve. I hope we don’t stumble out of the blocks. That’s the only thing that could really ruin anything. I don’t think the season is in doubt by any means. I’m pretty optimistic about it.
PhilB: Anything else you’d like to talk about, a favorite player or favorite moment, however you want to wrap this up?
Dustin: In 2013, the Chiefs versus the Colts, that comeback will forever be in my mind. Oh man, that was great, it was insane. I don’t think I’ve ever been as drunk in my life during that game. Oh yeah, yeah, I was all emotions. I couldn’t believe it, I was mad, I was happy, there was every emotion possible. I sat in a room with my best friend, who is actually a Chiefs fan. We watched it together. We went back and forth the whole time. It was just one of those moments that I’ll never forget. The other comeback, the 2003 Buccaneers game (on Monday Night Football), I was freshly 21. They fell behind and I had other things on my mind. The game was over in my mind. I turned it off and did my thing. I watched ESPN SportsCenter later and, ‘What? What happened?’ I had to go find it and watch it. I learned my lesson that day, Phillip, I learned it, to never give up hope. Watch it until the zeroes because you never know what could happen.
(If you’re a diehard Colts fan and want to share ColtsSpeak opinions, send an email to email@example.com. The response has been overwhelming, so your name will be added to a growing list.)