Because I enjoy getting my head ripped off and tossed in a blender by some members of our wonderful community, let me once again state that, based on the information I have, Anthony Gonzalez will likely not be the starting wide receiver for the Colts for the 2010 season the way he was for the 2009 season. Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne are the assumed outside "flanker" wideouts while Austin Collie will continue to play slot receiver. Two writers from PFT agreed with this assessment, as did a source close to the team (who I cannot name).
Yet, for some of you, the thought of Gonzo likely not getting his starting job back was utterly unacceptable, and based on what Gonzo did for the Colts in 2007 and 2008, that's somewhat understandable.
Last night, I stumbled across a Tweet from the Indy Star's PhilB that caught my attention:
I'm fairly certain Phil's thoughts on the starters at wide receiver will likely not get attacked in the same way mine were. Phil is a very observant guy, and he knows this team quite well.
That said, I'd like to make it clear that it is entirely possible that his opinion and mine, based on what we know on this subject, could be completely and totally wrong when the final Week One depth chart is released. But, this isn't about being "right" or "wrong." This is me (opinionated blogger) telling all of you (rabid Colts fans) what I was hearing, and giving you the likely reasons why things were shaking out the way they were with Gonzo and Garcon.
We can debate until September who "deserves" to start and who doesn't. However, it seems pretty clear that the Colts are higher on Garcon than they are on Gonzo. Like many of us, I'm fairly certain they did not expect Garcon to develop into the playmaker he is today. They may have hoped he would develop, but to have a Division III kid to eventually set a record in an AFC Championship Game, filling in for a highly touted first rounder like Gonzo; I don't think the Colts were expecting that.
Some folks contested that is was silly to think Garcon had supplanted Gonzo, citing stats from Football Outsiders and other websites. All information was appreciated, and helped make our community a bit smarter. However, the Colts themselves don't seem to agree that Gonzo offers more than Garcon. The general sense I have gotten from talking to several people who follow and report on the team is that Garcon offers more upside than Gonzo.
I also recognize that the Colts have told Gonzo he will be able to compete for his old job as a starter again. For me, I see that as a team placating a player they like and respect. However, realistically, Gonzo will likely not start for this team as an outside WR unless there is a injury. He is probably going to fight Austin Collie for snaps at slot receiver, which just so happened to be Gonzo's "old job" prior to 2009.
Despite the intensity of the discussion, the comments we all generated as a result of the "Gonzo is the 4th WR" posts were, overall, good for the site. Strong opinions were raised. Arguments were heated. It was a topic people very much cared about. I have no problem with people voicing strong opinions. I have strong opinions, and I often express them with the tact of a coked-up wild boar. It's just how I am. When i see people get as worked up over something as I do, it means (for me) that I'm doing my job as a facilitator of discussion.
I especially want to point out the many fine posts Jamkel wrote arguing the other side of things. He could probably take many of his comments, tie them all together, and it sell as a 300 page book!
Whatever happens between now and September, it seems obvious to my clearly objective eyes (ha!) that the Colts have the best WR group in football. Remember 2007? Craphonso Thorpe? Aaron Morehead? Any of them ring a bell? Remember how AWFUL they were? Today, we have a guy (Gonzo) who was an unquestioned starter last year heading into Week One battling for snaps at slot receiver this year. Behind him is a promising kid from Canada that Peyton Manning is very high on (Sam Giguere) and a rookie from Michigan State that Colts GM Chris Polian seemingly wants to elope with (Blair White). I haven't even mentioned Taj Smith, who has developed nicely since coming to Indy.
Oh, and there's still Dallas Clark.
This crew might be six players deep! If you are WR Coach Ron Turner and Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen, this crop of receivers has to have you watering at the mouth. As Manning himself said recently, the last time the Colts had a group like this was when Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley, and Troy Walters were all healthy for a season. That season was 2004, and Manning threw 49 TDs that year.
Here's Peyton on June 4th, 2010:
I think we have a chance to be as deep as we ever have been with receivers. I’d say close to Marvin (Harrison,) (Brandon) Stokely, Reggie (Wayne), Troy Walters, (that) was a very deep group and I think even Aaron Moorehead was number five that year and made some deep plays for us. Certainly it’s got a chance to be a deep group, all guys that bring something a little different to the table.
Dear NFL Defenses,
Be very afraid.