Sure, Hughes was a total and complete first round bust in Indianapolis almost from the moment he arrived in 2010. However, as is sometimes the case, a change of scenery can help a player revitalize his career. For Colts fans, we saw Jim Harbaugh transform himself from a disappointing quarterback in Chicago to "Captain Comeback" in Indianapolis.
With Hughes in Buffalo, I greeted the news that he is impressing his new coaches with, Good for him. Hope it works out there.
Then, this morning I woke up to these comments from Hughes about the Colts and the city of Indianapolis, and I pretty much want Jerry to eat a bison's tallywhacker.
In an article for Associated Press, Hughes was quoting saying he doesn't have much of a connection to Indianapolis, and he didn't have a real chance to succeed while there.
As it turns out, it won't be long for Hughes to face his former team. The Bills open their preseason at Indianapolis this weekend.
The homecoming carries little significance to Hughes.
"It never really felt like home," Hughes said. "So that's why I'm not really too attached to there."
There's lots of reasons for Colts fans to dislike Hughes. Whether it was his dumb arrest during the offseason in 2012, or his penchant to get run over time and again when attempting to tackle a running back, Hughes pretty much stood as a pseudonym for "disappointment" in Indy.
Hughes couldn't even hack it on special teams either.
Remember Antonio Cromartie running that kickoff back 47 yards to set-up the game-winning field goal near the end of the Colts v. Jets playoff game in 2011? Hughes whiffed on tackling Cromartie inside the 20 on that play. Former Colts vice chairman Bill Polian went on his radio show the next day and was steadfast in stating it wasn't Hughes who blew the tackle, but it was. I saw it. Media saw it. Many fans saw it.
Even on special teams - an area of the game that is as basic as it gets - Hughes was a failure.
In a rush-friendly 4-3 defensive scheme that incorporated "Tampa-2" principles by keeping things simple in terms of reads and rush lanes, Hughes was equally worthless. When the Colts dumped Jim Caldwell, hired Chuck Pagano, and switched everything around to a base 3-4 scheme, shifting Hughes to outside linebacker as opposed to defensive end, he still struggled.
When both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis missed games last season with injuries, did Hughes step-up and become the first round, pass-rushing demon everyone expected him to be? No, he didn't. He didn't even put up respectable numbers: 29 tackles (41 combined) and 4 sacks for the entire season. His best game of the year was in a 35-8 blowout loss to the Jets. He had 8 total tackles and one sack. The Jets rushed for 252 yards in that game, mostly by going right at Hughes.
The Colts finally divested themselves of Hughes this offseason, trading him to the Bills in exchange for Kelvin Sheppard. It seems like one of those rare trades in the NFL that actually works out for both teams. Sheppard seems poised to take over the starting inside linebacker position next to Jerrell Freeman, while Hughes is finding a seemingly comfortable role as Mario Williams' back-up.
Still, there's a distinct lack of maturity on the part of Hughes that reads in the AP article.
No, he doesn't have to like Indianapolis, or even miss it. I can't judge him there. I moved away from Indy when I was 18-years-old, and a big reason why was I didn't like living there.
What I take issue with is Hughes' strong suggestion that he wasn't given a chance to succeed in Indianapolis. That is just excuse-making fecal matter, right there.
"Early on with the career in Indy it was definitely tough being the first-round guy and not getting the opportunity to play those first two seasons," Hughes said. "But I just kind of look at that they really didn't know what they have."
Hughes started to turn his game around last year after the Colts switched to a hybrid 3-4 scheme of their own. He started six games and finished the season with four sacks and 41 tackles — which is why he was surprised when he learned of his trade to Buffalo.
"I was a little bit caught off guard just because we just got done with the offseason workouts, but I looked at it as an opportunity to kind of start over fresh," Hughes said. "Really, I've only had one season of football which was last year so I'm excited for this year."
The "they really didn't know what they have" comment is hilarious, and the "I've only had one season of football" line is [kisses fingers] a gem.
Remember that third preseason game in 2010 against the Packers? Remember Hughes getting DESTROYED by Green Bay's third string offensive line, and NBC's Cris Collingsworth pointing it out for an entire national audience to see? Me too. I think the Colts knew what they had in 2010, which was why Hughes was inactive for several games his rookie year. This prompted yours truly to ask the "Is Hughes a bust?" question that very season. During the 2011 season, Bill Polian actively tried to trade the former first rounder, according to a report from Chris Wesseling, now with NFL.com
Maybe Hughes feels that, just as he was getting comfortable in the Colts' new defense under Chuck Pagano's overall direction, that the team shipped him off. If so, fine. Just say that.
If Jerry wanted a decent example of how to express disappointment without it coming off as immature bitternes, he need look no further than the man he backed-up for three years in Indy: Dwight Freeney. Freeney, like Hughes, struggled in Pagano's scheme last year. He also played through a nasty ankle injury, and did so during a contract year, I might add.
Still, despite being one of the greatest defensive players in Colts history (Baltimore and Indianapolis), the Colts didn't offer Freeney a new deal in 2013. Freeney told Jim Trotter of SI.com recently that he was disappointed that the Colts front office did not even attempt to re-sign him:
"I wished they would have offered me something so I could've retired a Colt -- that was something that meant a lot to me -- but at the end of the day they didn't give me an option," Freeney said. "They didn't even try to re-sign me. They were like, We're going in a different direction.
"That cut me deep because it was kind of like, if it's a money issue talk to me about it and maybe I'll say it's fine just so I'll be able to stay and not move and all that stuff. But the fact of the matter is, they didn't offer me anything. They just said, Bye bye, which made me feel like, You think I'm done and I'm washed up; or, You're playing for the future and this is the perfect opportunity to make the change because there's a young guy you really feel can play now, so let's groom him because, really, how many years does Dwight have left? It's the same thing they did with Peyton [Manning]."
Sure, Freeney sounds upset and maybe a little hurt, but it makes sense that he is.
Hughes? Different story. He had plenty of opportunities to succeed in Indianapolis, and he whiffed on all of them. Just as he whiffed on that Cromartie tackle in the playoffs in 2011.