Had he the time and temperament, Frank Kush could have slipped a note to Earl Weaver shortly after the Oriole manager's suspension for cuffing an umpire that read: "I know I'm new in town, but please stop horning in on my act."

For whatever judgments amateur shrinks care to make, the leader of the civil sport here has been more the more violent lately, more of a public embarrassment than the fellow who arrived just before last Christmas reputed to be the Grinch of the gridiron.

There is only a town or two that would welcome Kush, as in bush, the coach who took the foot in football too literally at Arizona State, with almost universal enthusiasm. This is one of them. Any team that couldn't perform for Mike McCormack, the reasoning went, deserved Frank Kush.

The Colts should have been called Shetland Ponies last season, so memorably awful were they. A defense that might have had trouble tackling an ERA picket surrendered more points (533) more touchdowns (68) and more yards (6,793) than any team in National Football League history.

This clearly is a challenge worthy of Kush, who might not be morally uplifting, but definitely knows how to win football games. His winning percentage at Arizona State, .764, based on a 176-54-1 record in 22 years, was second-best among active coaches when he left in shame and scandal in 1979. He made a woeful team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, wonderful in his only Canadian Football League season.

Kush's way of putting the kick back into the Colts: speak softly, but carry a pink slip.

That was a formerly potent gang he either traded or dismissed on waivers: Bert Jones and Bruce Laird, Mike Barnes, Herb Orvis, Robert Pratt and Greg Landry. Don McCauley might yet return; Roger Carr seems more likely to throw a lawsuit at the Colts than catch another pass for them.

Carr may be ruled the winner by earthly authorities in the next few weeks or whoever the referee happens to be when both report to football heaven. But most everyone here sides with Kush, sees Carr as showing the sort of selfish, close-to-spoiled attitude that so hobbled the Colts in McCormack's last 26 regular-season games.

The rebuilding of Kush's own reputation is cause for intense scrutiny. That can be seen as the Colts either wing or wallow under him. One assumes the former, that the question is not whether they will rise again to prominence but how soon.

Betcha they make the playoffs in three years.

Talk of turnaround timetables surely never intrudes Kush's mind. Given what he has said--and says now just about every time someone with a microphone or note pad presses him--his team resembles foals more than Colts. They have so much to learn.

"Miserable," is said of a recent practice. "Horrible. You could see it. Yes, it sure will take time. Nothing magic. Attitude isn't something that you can turn off and on. With an athlete, it's something deep. Ingrained. Rooted in 'em somewhere along the line.

"There's a reason they were 2-14 (last season)."

Kush does have some NFL thoroughbreds in his stable. And some fine rookies, including two quarterbacks (Art Schlichter and Mike Pagel) with a great deal of promise. The coach said one of the reasons he cut Landry was to push the youngsters.

"There probably was the feeling with them that Landry could come in and bail 'em out," he said. "I don't want 'em to feel that way. This is their opportunity."

Opportunity has passed for many once-important Colts. It's kind of a weekly ritual at Camp Kush, a Landry getting cut one Friday and a projected starter, Bubba Green, walking out the next. Also, the survivors duck a salvo fired from afar, from a Jones in Los Angeles saying:

"I'm finally with an organization that wants to win, an organization that's willing to take steps in that direction. In Baltimore, there was nothing. At the end (of last season), I was playing to stay alive. It's one thing to lose. It's another to get your brains kicked in."

To kick other teams regularly in the NFL requires a corps of superior players and a complement of reasonably talented ones with fierce individual pride and collective harmony. Do the Colts, among, say, Curtis Dickey, Randy McMillan, Donnell Thompson and rookies Johnie Cooks, Leo Wisniewski and some others, have such a cast of young stars?

"Some have these traits," Kush admits, "but they're not doing anything."

In defending the growing list of men who have gone from veteran Colts to former Colts under Kush, the coach insists: "We're not running players off. We're trying to produce a football team. And we'll do what it takes."

The light and dark of Kush, his soft side and his crust, often are seen within an instant of each other, sometimes at the same moment. To a larger-than-usual press conference after a morning practice, he smiled and wondered if he'd been fired.

When several reporters and the major television personality drifted away, Kush still was stiff and guarded during a tame radio interview. When that ended and a television camerman started to dismantle his equipment, Kush turned on a frosty grin and said:

"I knew you had that on all the time."

Anyone who has forgotten the intensity and singlemindedness of Kush after his Arizona State exit and Canadian exile very likely will have his helmet handed to him reasonably soon. This is his kind of situation: outwardly chaotic, but organized, disciplined and smart internally.

The Colts are far closer to bad than good at the moment. But if they don't break under Kush, if one of the young quarterbacks emerges as special, horseshoes will be seen on jersey bottoms throughout the league. From here, it seems as though Kush just might be setting us up for the rise.