It has been a whirlwind of a season in Indianapolis this year, with much of the mess centering around the quarterback position. The Colts have had ten different players at the position on either the active roster or the practice squad during the 2015 season, trying to find an answer to a year-long struggle.
It wasn't supposed to be this way for the Colts. They were supposed to have an MVP candidate in Andrew Luck and were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders - largely because of Luck. Instead, the Colts are 7-8 and facing incredibly slim odds of making the postseason. And the season can really be traced by simply following the saga at the quarterback position.
Andrew Luck entered the year as the starter, and he played the first three games - though struggling for much of 11 of 12 quarters. There are some who think Luck was injured in the first or second game, but the Colts say that in the third game of the year, against the Titans, Luck suffered a shoulder injury. That led to him missing his first career NFL game, as Matt Hasselbeck started against the Jaguars - a game the Colts won 16-13 in overtime. Five days later, Hasselbeck started again in a 27-20 Thursday night victory over the Texans in a game that he played while very sick - a sickness that had landed him in the hospital earlier in the week.
Luck returned ten days later against the New England Patriots and played a very good first half, but the Colts fell apart in the second half in the Patriots' win. After the Patriots game, Luck would start the next three games as well - all losses except for the final one, a week nine home game against the then-undefeated Broncos and their top-ranked defense. Luck played by far his best game of the season and led the Colts to a victory, leaving many Colts fans thinking that things were finally turning around.
The following Tuesday, however, the Colts issued a statement saying that Andrew Luck had suffered a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle in the team's win and would be out 2-6 weeks. Though, with it being a kidney injury, the Colts weren't going to put him back out on the field until he was 100% healthy, and it was hard to predict exactly when that would be. For the time being, however, it was Matt Hasselbeck as the team's starter, while they claimed Charlie Whitehurst off of waivers to back him up. The team won the first two games under Hasselbeck, bringing him to 4-0 as a starter on the season. Some even tried to make the case that the Colts were better off with Hasselbeck than with Luck at quarterback, but things quickly fell apart.
The Colts lost 45-10 on the road to the Steelers, but in that game Hasselbeck suffered rib and back injuries that would linger for the rest of the season. The Colts dropped the following two games as well, with Hasselbeck missing time in three straight games, before traveling to Miami to take on the Dolphins. Hasselbeck started the game but suffered a shoulder injury in the first half and left the game for good, leaving things up to Charlie Whitehurst. The Colts won 18-12, but Whitehurst was injured and placed on injured reserve the day after the game.
This week, Luck was ruled out for his seventh straight game (ninth of the season), while Hasselbeck is doubtful. The Colts signed Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley to compete with Stephen Morris as the healthy players at the position, giving the Colts five quarterbacks on the roster right now. And, as is fitting with this season, the Colts currently don't know who will start under center on Sunday - other than the fact that it won't be Luck.
If you're looking for what went wrong for the Colts this season, there are a whole lot of things that we could talk about. But simply looking at the mess at the quarterback position is as good of a place as any to start at, as we've seen multiple starters, the franchise quarterback miss nine games, ten different quarterbacks brought in, and a number of transactions made at the position.
As we get ready to celebrate the New Year and reflect on the past year, we can reflect on the Colts' 7-8 season and trace a lot of the struggles through the quarterback position.
Here's a look at the Colts' transactions involving quarterbacks this year:
2/26 - Matt Hasselbeck signed contract extension
5/5 - Bryan Bennett signed as undrafted free agent out of Southeastern Louisiana
9/5 - Bryan Bennett waived during final roster cutdowns
9/29 - Alex Tanney signed to practice squad
10/2 - Josh Johnson signed to active roster
10/5 - Josh Johnson waived from active roster
10/7 - Josh Johnson signed to active roster
10/12 - Josh Johnson waived from active roster
10/20 - Alex Tanney released from practice squad
10/20 - Matt Blanchard signed to practice squad
11/10 - Matt Blanchard released from practice squad
11/10 - Alex Tanney signed to practice squad
11/12 - Charlie Whitehurst claimed off of waivers from Tennesee Titans
12/22 - Alex Tanney signed to Titans' active roster from Colts' practice squad
12/24 - Stephen Morris signed off of Eagles' practice squad
12/28 - Charlie Whitehurst placed on injured reserve
12/29 - Josh Freeman signed to active roster
12/29 - Ryan Lindley signed to active roster