NFL VETERAN AND CBS ANALYST RECENTLY VISITED INDIANAPOLISINDIANAPOLIS – Charley Casserly has a unique perspective as an NFL analyst for CBS Sports. Casserly in 2011 will be entering his fifth season on the network pre-game show, a stint that developed after a distinguished 29-year tenure in the NFL with Washington and Houston.
Casserly served as a general manager for 16 of those 29 seasons. Casserly's tenure with Washington spanned the 1977-1999 seasons. He was elevated to the general manager post in 1989. Casserly joined the Houston Texans in their 2002 expansion season. During those NFL years, he brought teams to Indianapolis to face the Colts. Even before doing so, he was near the epicenter of activity when the Colts arrived in the area in 1984. He noted the franchise's new beginning.
"Talk about things being in a small world, I was scouting at Indiana University the day the Colts come (to Indianapolis). You pick up the morning paper and (it says), 'Here Come the Indianapolis Colts.' You think, 'OK, how is this going to work? It's a basketball state. There's no previous history here.' Obviously, what happens in those situations is the fans immediately embrace the team," said Casserly. "There is a waiting list for tickets. So, all those things happen. Then, there's a settling period after that where the newness is over and the team has to settle in."
He ventured to Indianapolis four times with the Redskins (including that inaugural 1984 season), then made annual treks to Indianapolis while with the Texans. He has had a true exposure to how Indianapolis has developed as a league city.
"Obviously, this team (has) had tremendous success, and that's certainly a big part of growing a fan base and a tradition. I think that's been based on primarily Bill Polian coming here and establishing a winning culture and tradition. You have had three very, very good head coaches during that reign. Certainly Peyton Manning has given the team an identity not only nationally, but worldwide. All of those things have contributed to it.
"I think it's a great NFL city. I think it has a character to it, a small-town environment. But it's a big-city environment, too. When you go to Indianapolis, it's a fun place to visit. The downtown area is a vibrant area. There is a tremendous passion here from the fans. You can tell they have really adopted the Colts and love their team. When you come into the stadium, you can see the jerseys all over the place. There's a real passion here that comes through when you see the city and the team."
Since 1999, the Colts have had only one season without a winning home record. The club has won seven or more home games in a season five times during that span. Casserly notes the biggest task a team coming to Indianapolis will face, along with the type of atmosphere it will endure in the process.
"Well, Peyton Manning. Let's not kid ourselves here. This guy is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game, if not the greatest quarterback in the history of the game. When you play the Colts, the first thing is you know they are going to be able to score points. Right off the bat, that puts you in a position that you have to score. If you're not real good on offense and you don't have the talent as good as Indianapolis, then you have to play a defensive-oriented game, control the ball, limit the possessions. At the end of the day, your margin for error is so slim against the Colts that it comes down in those kinds of games to playing red-zone defense and holding the Colts to field goals and you get touchdowns. That does not happen very often," he said. "I think the tremendous presence of Manning and the offense dictates the kind of game (you have). If they get ahead, then (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis can tee off and go. Through the years, you can see here the fans have gradually taken over the stadium. You talk about knowing what to do, you can hear a pin drop when the Colts are on offense, and you can't hear yourself when the Colts are on defense. That's an educated crowd."
The Colts have posted nine consecutive seasons with 10 victories, the second-longest NFL streak. The team also has nine straight playoff berths. As a person who was an architect of more than one team, Casserly recognizes the achievement.
"It's something you absolutely should be immensely proud of. How does this get equaled over a period of time? It's going to be hard to do when you consider how many teams have done it in any era. That's an amazing thing. I think that is something the team should certainly be proud of and the fans should be proud of."