After the 2012 season, veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was a free agent, but first he took a family vacation to the Bahamas. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was at the annual NFL owners meetings, and he knew that his team needed a new backup quarterback for Andrew Luck.
So Pagano reached out to Hasselbeck - finally getting ahold of him through Hasselbeck's daughter's cell phone. Then, it was time to make the recruiting pitch. Pagano's message was simple: "We've got an opportunity here, we love the direction we're going, we'd love to have you," the head coach recalled on Monday. "The ins and outs of it, I tried to play up the, 'born in the same hometown, Boulder, Colorado,' you know, all that stuff, playing on the emotions a bit... Just tried to be the best recruiter I could be and talk him into coming our way."
Pagano succeeded in that, and Hasselbeck signed with the Colts to be Luck's backup for two years. Once his contract was up after the 2014 season, however, there were questions about whether the Colts would bring him back or instead go with a cheaper option. Those questions were quieted when the Colts made the re-signing of Hasselbeck one of their very first moves, and they brought him back to once again be the backup. Ideally, he would never see the playing field, but the Colts wanted him there just in case.
Now, that "just in case" scenario is unfolding in Indianapolis as the Colts returned from their bye week today to begin preparations for the Atlanta Falcons, which will begin Hasselbeck's extended tenure as the Colts' starting quarterback. It's uncertain how long it will last, but with Andrew Luck dealing with a lacerated liver and a torn abdominal muscle, it is Matt Hasselbeck's team for the time being. This is why the Colts signed him, and they're now turning to the oldest quarterback in the league to help get them to the playoffs.
"Obviously, you don't want to ever be down your starting quarterback," Pagano said on Monday. "We are, but thank God we have Matt in the building, and now Charlie Whitehurst as a backup to Matt until Andrew is back. But again, thank God we've got Matt. We've won with Matt and we'll win again with Matt."
Earlier this season, the Colts also turned to Hasselbeck for a two-game stretch as Luck was dealing with a shoulder injury, and Hasselbeck led the Colts to two wins in five days. He completed 48 of 76 passes (63.2%) for 495 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) and three touchdowns without a pick, and he did so while battling a sickness that landed him in the hospital. He's healthy this time around and ready to go for the Colts.
Hasselbeck said that he had plans during the bye week to broadcast the Titans vs. Panthers game on FOX, but he cancelled those plans once he became the Colts' starter. He knew that he had a job to do, so he stayed around and put in the work to prepare.
He found out shortly before the Colts announced last Tuesday that Luck was injured, as Chuck Pagano recalled his message to the veteran quarterback: "Here's what's going on. We've got all the confidence in the world in you and we know you'll get the job done for us." Pagano said that Hasselbeck's initial feelings was that he was disappointed for Luck, but that it's next man up and that Hasselbeck will be ready to go.
"If you just look at what he's done over the course of his career," Pagano said on Monday, "he's got, obviously, a ton of experience. You look around, there's not many guys winning football games with backup quarterbacks right now. You guys looked at the same numbers I probably looked at. He's a great leader. [Has] great experience. There's nothing he has not seen. He's still got arm talent. He can still make all of the throws. [He is] athletic enough to extend plays. [He is a] very good decision maker. Again, we're very fortunate to have Matt in this building."
That's the sentiment around the Colts' complex today as they begin the second half of the season without their franchise quarterback on the playing field. The good news is that they have a very capable backup who can step in and help the Colts win games. As Chuck Pagano said, thank God the Colts signed Matt Hasselbeck.