Colts owner Jim Irsay wants first-round bye in 2019

Fresh off a return to prominence in 2018 that featured a near-10-game winning streak and a wild-card win, the Indianapolis Colts are entering the 2019 season with high expectations, from outside and inside their building.

After all, Andrew Luck is healthy(-ish), Darius Leonard is a star in the making and Frank Reich looks like a rising coach in the league. Given all that, Colts fans should be feeling bullish about another playoff run.

But the Colts' No. 1 fan has even higher hopes than that.

"It's not a commitment to excellence," Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters Saturday, per Fox59's Mike Chappell. "Excellence means ... very good. What we want is a commitment to greatness, which means you distinguish yourself as the single team standing."

Invoking the trademarked creed of Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders suggests Irsay would like to see his Colts go on a run a la the '70s Raiders, reaching the AFC title game year after year and eventually the Super Bowl. Irsay thinks the Colts, as currently constructed, have the potential to reach that paradigm and that of the early-aughts Colts.

"Being realistic, this team is one of the best teams that I've had the privilege of bringing to our fans with a general manager and head coach and have a situation that honestly matches those days of Peyton (Manning), Edgerrin (James), Reggie (Wayne) and all those guys," Irsay added. "Those guys were special.

"It's really exciting. Andrew's in that sweet-spot area for him age-wise and there's really not a lot of weakness with the roster, only the excitement with these guys coming back. You can sense the air of confidence ... but we have to prove it."

That's setting the bar quite high. Manning's Colts won at least 10 games and made the postseason in 11 of 13 seasons, reached four AFC title games and played in two Super Bowls, winning one. Luck's iteration has so far made the playoffs four times and reached the AFC Championship Game just once.

But Luck has been sidelined by injuries early in his career in ways Manning never was, a fact of which Isray is mindful.

"Everyone knows (if) Andrew stays healthy and has a great year, we're going to have a great year," Irsay said. "It's almost impossible to imagine us not having a great year if Andrew has a great year."

So what's the goal in 2019? What's the landmark dangling in front of Luck, Leonard and Reich to reach so as to satisfy the owner's wishes? Indy's first first-round bye in 10 years.

"What I'd like to see us do, and it's not essential but it certainly would be helpful, is to see this team get home-field advantage, where you're two games away from the Super Bowl and hopefully they're both home games (but) at least one of them," he said. "To get the bye week is a huge advantage. That's a tall order. Most people would say you've got to probably win at least 12 games, and they're right. That's very difficult."

Very difficult, indeed, but not if you commit to greatness.

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