There has been some revisionist history going on recently among Colts fans, and it has to do with Jerry Hughes.
With free agency beginning in just over a week, there has been quite a bit of talk about Jerry Hughes, how much he is worth, and where he will eventually land. Pro Football Talk ranked him as the ninth-best free agent on the market. NFL.com ranked him number ten on their list of free agents. By a number indications, Hughes could be one of the most sought-after free agents this offseason.
It's deserved, too. In the last two seasons with the Bills, Hughes has played in every game and has recorded 161 tackles, 20 sacks, five forced fumbles, and two passes defensed. In a league that is constantly looking for legitimate pass rushers and that really values players who can pressure the opposing quarterback, Hughes has made his mark and has stepped up over the past two years.
But because of that, it has caused many to criticize the Colts for trading away Hughes in 2013 and place the blame on the team for Hughes' lack of productivity with the Colts. And that's basically showing a mindset that easily forgets what happened a few years ago and that is not entirely accurate.
Think back to the time when the Colts traded Hughes - in exchange for Kelvin Sheppard from the Bills. Most people didn't care who the Colts got in the deal from the Bills; they were just impressed the Colts got something out of the first round bust. Keep in mind that GM Bill Polian admitted that he probably should have taken Roger Saffold over Jerry Hughes. And remember the reaction people in Indy had when Hughes had the audacity to say that he felt like he didn't have a fair shot with the Colts - fans were bewildered and scoffed at the notion that Hughes didn't get a fair chance, because everyone in Indianapolis thought that the pass rusher got more than his fair share of chances.
But now, Jerry Hughes has stepped up with the Bills. And that has led a number of Colts fans to say that the team should have given the pass rusher more chances. Or that they should have kept him. Or that only getting Kelvin Sheppard in the deal wasn't a good one.
So first off, did the Colts give Hughes enough chances? He played in 40 games with the Colts, starting seven. According to Pro Football Focus, Hughes played 873 snaps in three years with the Colts. He averaged over 20 snaps per game with the Colts over a span of 40 games - I'd say that's a fair chance. In 873 snaps, Hughes (a first round pick) recorded just five sacks with no forced fumbles. By comparison, in 2014 Jonathan Newsome (a fifth round pick) recorded 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 531 snaps. Clearly, the Colts gave Jerry Hughes plenty of chances to impress in Indianapolis and he did not.
In turn, the Colts should not have kept him around. They gave him plenty of chances, including in different roles and in two different systems. He played both a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker, and while he was clearly more impressive in 2012 he still didn't have a great impact. There was really no reason for the Colts to keep him, and fans realized that at the time.
So was it a bad deal that the Colts only got Kelvin Sheppard in exchange for Hughes? Looking at where Hughes is now, then yeah. But keep in mind that the trade didn't happen in 2015 but rather in 2013. At the time, I called it a "pretty even trade" and that was the consensus of most fans. In fact, many felt that the team getting a player out of Jerry Hughes was a good move.
So no, it wasn't a bad move for the Colts to make at the time and they gave Jerry Hughes plenty of chances, but he didn't produce. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 and it'd be great for Jerry Hughes to have played like he has the past two years while he was with the Colts, but it wasn't happening and he needed a change of scenery just as much as the Colts needed to move on from him. One of the dangers that we can encounter is putting so much emphasis on the present that it tends to erase the future, but we can't forget about how bad Hughes was with the Colts and what was going on with that situation. I think it's awesome that he has turned his career around with the Bills and is now playing well, but that doesn't mean that Jerry Hughes was anything but a bust with the Colts.