The Colts were way too quick to put names on the Ring of Honor in the first place.
When those early names (Robert Irsay, Bill Brooks, Chris Hinton, Ted Marchibroda, Jim Harbaugh) went up at the Hoosier/RCA Dome, the Colts were trying to establish their Indianapolis identity, new and separate from the Baltimore Colts. So they put up the best of a snapshot in time. Would they still be among the best if the slate was clean and new vote taken? A couple would, a couple wouldn't. But there's no erasing what's already done. No one should be scrubbed off the ring, except perhaps the ridiculous “12th Man.”
I'm simply advocating some strict standards moving forward. Don't put everyone else up there. Don't put most players up there. Honor the elite of the elite.
James belongs in the group, as did the previous two, Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison.
Dungy is the Colts all-time most successful coach, directing Indy's only Super Bowl winner. Harrison was the team's greatest receiver.
James' name is all over the Colts record book (most yards in a career, a season and a game; most times leading the team in rushing, most 100-yard games). He's the man. His numbers would have been even better, no doubt, if he hadn't had the devastating knee injury which slowed, but didn't stop him.
James said this week, with friendliness but seriousness that, if he hadn't had a knee injury, “We wouldn't be debating about me going in the Hall of Fame. It'd be automatic.”
It's a shame James left the team in free agency before the Super Bowl win from the 2006 season. He still felt connected to that team. In fact, he said this week he would talk regularly with then-rookie Joseph Addai about how to handle the offense. Considering James was part of the Arizona Cardinals at that point, I'm not sure how that would have been received if known then.
At any rate, he was part of the branding of the Indianapolis Colts during the Peyton Manning Era, teaming with Manning and Harrison as the big three stars for several years.
Manning will eventually join the ring, once he retires from his late-career stint with the Denver Bronocos.
But the Colts would be best served to be stingy about awarding the honor to anyone else. I'm not saying they should stop at Manning. They should make judicious choices.
Are there some no-brainers other than Manning on the horizon? Sure. Reggie Wayne and Jeff Saturday come to mind. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis seem destined. Bill Polian deserves the nod.
But there will be some incredible players who, if the standards are high enough, end up missing the list.
Dallas Clark, fourth on the team's all-time receiving list (behind Harrison, Wayne and Raymond Berry), would be one of those players who might be a debatable name for the Ring of Honor. I'd love to see Clark up there because of the type of person he is, and he has enough stats for the argument to be made. Ranking so high in receptions as a tight end ought to be enough to push him into the ring.
But it's at this point – when you're fourth- of fifth best in some category – that the debate should be long and hard before adding the name to the ring.
Consider running back Marshall Faulk, a Hall of Fame player. He had a great run in Indy, but at five years it was fairly brief. Some of his greatness came after Indy. Faulk's best rushing season with the Colts (1,319 yards in 1998) ranks behind four different James seasons and one from Eric Dickerson. Dickerson is another name to debate.
Do you put Adam Vinatieri up there, given the first chunk of his legend was built with the New England Patriots? In the record books, Mike Vanderjagt (who might not be able to get a ticket, let alone an honor) is the team's all-time leading scorer. How about offensive and defensive linemen, whose stats are so hard to quantify? Saturday, with his 13 years of playing center, is an easy pick. Others are more difficult.
Putting a high standard on the Ring of Honor does not slight people who don't make it. It adds an extra level of honor to those who do.
I get the feeling the Colts lean toward too many names rather than too few. That's their prerogative. I'd just rather see a celebration of greatness, not greatness and pretty goodness.