If you think that quarterback is the most important position in football, you’re correct. If you think that quarterback has been the most frequently addressed position in Naptown’s Finest Countdown To Kickoff series, you’re also correct.
Former Colts quarterback Kerry Collins is the third quarterback in as many days to be commemorated in our countdown, and, coincidentally, all of them split duties as the team’s starter in 2011 while Peyton Manning was out.
With Manning running the show in Indy for over a decade, backup quarterbacks would barely make much of a ripple because the Colts had relied so much on No. 18. By taking his health for granted–he had never missed a start in his career up until 2011–they never saw the need to sign a competent backup.
But when Manning was slow to recover from offseason neck surgery in 2011, the Colts had to scramble. His streak of 227 consecutive career starts was in jeopardy, and less than three weeks before the season, the Colts signed Kerry Collins out of retirement.
Collins was named the starter for Week 1, effectively ending Manning’s streak, but the Colts were already doomed. Since 1998, they had relied almost exclusively on Manning, whose level of play was simply impossible for any backup quarterback to match, let alone for Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky.
As the season became a trainwreck, it was quite evident that the Colts had been ill-prepared for any injury to Manning. The team’s performance in his absence proved just how invaluable he really was; they lost their first 13 games.
Collins played like a typical backup–48-98, 481 yards, 2 TDs, 1 int, 65.9 rating–before sustaining a concussion in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Painter and Orlovsky did not fare any better as the Colts fell into last place, setting themselves up for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
In a highly-anticipated move, all three quarterbacks–along with Manning–were released after the season, meaning the Colts would start over with Luck in 2012.
It was a fateful way to close a decade of remarkable success, but the 2011 Indianapolis Colts perfectly demonstrate why the quarterback is the most important player on his team.
#5 Honorable Mention
Chandler Harnish (2012-pres.): The Colts already got their new quarterback of the future in Andrew Luck with the first pick in the 2012 draft, but that didn’t stop them from taking another one with the last pick, colloquially known as “Mr. Irrelevant”.
Harnish has been just that–irrelevant. Entering his second year as a pro out of Northern Illinois, he has not appeared in a single game and has bounced back and forth between the active roster and practice squad.
He was among the Colts’ final cuts in the 2013 preseason on Aug. 31; however, he was re-signed the next day to the practice squad, where he will begin the season.
Countdown To Kickoff Archive
Aug 21: Peyton Manning
Aug 22: Austin Collie
Aug 23: Ryan Leaf
Aug 24: LaVon Brazill
Aug 26: T.Y. Hilton
Aug 27: Andrew Luck
Aug 28: Donnie Avery
Aug 31: Matt Hasselbeck
Sept 1: Curtis Painter
Sept 2: Dan Orlovsky
Sept 3: Kerry Collins
Sept 4: Adam Vinatieri
Sept 5: Matt Stover
Sept 7: Pat McAfee