Imagine that you're a rookie quarterback. At your college alma mater, you beat most of the school records set by another former graduate from your university and the guy just happens to have recently won a Super Bowl (Drew Brees). Then your rookie season you get picked by the team that has presumably the best quarterback in the entire NFL. You know you'll never get a chance to start, but what an opportunity to learn from the very best! In practice, the guy hogs all the snaps and you never get to practice once with the starters. Then in route to a 16-0 season with your team 14-0 the coach pulls the starters with your team winning against the top ranked defense in the entire NFL and throws you in with all the back-ups. The other team is playing for their play-off lives and still has their starters in. Talk about leading a lamb to the slaughter!
I think anyone put in that kind of situation is going to falter on their first outing. Granted, Painter looked AWFUL in those outings, but he wasn't given the slightest facsimile of a fair chance.
Let's compare that with this year. This year, he's practiced all summer with the starters. The lock-out didn't make the situation the best, but at least he actually got to throw the ball and actually to the starters, even though a number of the receivers were still out injured. And all the while he had the chessmaster of football there to help him polish and perfect his technique. The first preseason game or so was a little rough, but not bad. But after 2 years it was really more like his first real games with the Colts. Actually getting to practice and all. But I don't really think we as Colts fans really got to see Painter get to settle into his role properly until the Colts played the Packers in the preseason.
So how did he do that game?
Well for starters, he outscored Aaron Rodgers who won the Super Bowl last year. He made a few mistakes. I saw about 3 balls dig into the ground. But I easily see Manning throw that many in most any game. I liked what I saw in that game. Almost all of his passes were on target. The problem moreso was the receivers, not the QB. Pierre Garcon dropped numerous passes that should have been caught. While he's always had great speed, he's always been known for dropping balls. But I see why Reggie Wayne likes Painter so much. Wayne basically never missed one pass with Painter. And there were some tight passes and long bombs to boot. I think that shows just how good Painter can be if the receiver does his job. Brooks also did a great job catching Painter's passes.
Painter hit his targets. He threw the ball away when he should have. He played smart. He had a good stance and took only the few minor moves in the pocket that he needed to avoid being hit. He still needs to get slightly faster on his release and to get a little better at finding his second go-to guy when the first is covered. But that comes with a little time.
Kerry Collins does have a great resume. He's been to the Super Bowl. He made the pro-bowl twice. He led the Titans to the best record in the NFL in 2008. But he also started the Titans off 0-6 last year and only completed about 50% of his passes last year. Colts fans may find out that Painter may well be a better option than Collins as starter if Manning is out. He knows the playbook better and he's practiced more with the starters.
My concerns aren't so much with the quarterback as they are with the rest of the team. My main concern is the defense. The Colts rarely to never focus their attention on acquiring talent for the defense, especially the secondary and it shows. Teams move down the field with ease against the Colts defense. An opposing team will go for it on 4th and 8 and make the first down the majority of the time against the Colts defense. That's just plain sad. If it weren't for the Colts having great pass rusher's like Freeney, the Colts defense would be in dire straights. The great pass rushing of the Colts covers up a blaringly weak secondary. Hopefully the 3 to 4 veteran defensive players the Colts brought in will help the defense some.
My other concern is the health of the Colts receivers. Pretty much all of them except maybe Wayne have been plagued with injuries. I think that partially explains why many of them are dropping and missing passes that they shouldn't have.
Lastly, I think the Colts need to settle in on a game plan with the O-line and go with it. The players need to get comfortable with their roles and it is going to be hard doing that if they keep getting moved around like people playing musical chairs.
One thing that is looking better than normal is the Colts running game. Addai is healthy and playing well. And Brown is finally getting up to speed and becoming a good runner now that he has more NFL experience. The Colts will need a descent running game with Manning out.
Painter has the capability to be a good quarterback. Caldwell knows it. Polian knows it. Reggie Wayne knows it. I just don't think Colts fans know it. The players know it. Quit bashing the guy for ending the 16-0 streak. Blame Caldwell or Polian or whoever made that stupid call. But give Painter a chance to be the good back up that he can be. He needs the support of Colts fans.