On Wednesday, the Buffalo Bills announced that they will retire Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith's jersey number, 78, at their home opener this year. It will be just the second retired number in franchise history, joining Jim Kelly's number 12.
The discussion got us thinking: are there any Colts players who deserve to have their jersey number retired but haven't yet? Earlier this offseason, the Colts made official what they had been saying for years: that Peyton Manning's number 18 jersey is retired. That was a no-brainer, and Manning became the first Indianapolis player to have his jersey retired by the Colts.
It is the eighth retired number for the franchise in total, however, as seven players who played for the Baltimore Colts have their uniform numbers retired: Johnny Unitas (19), Buddy Young (22), Lenny Moore (24), Art Donovan (70), Jim Parker (77), Raymond Berry (82), and Gino Marchetti (89).
Because the Colts were very eager to retire numbers of Baltimore Colts, they don't exactly have the luxury of being able to retire a bunch of numbers for the Indianapolis Colts either, which is probably the way it should be anyway: a retired number should only be for the absolute best of the best, while the Ring of Honor is an appropriate way to honor other very good players. Peyton Manning is absolutely deserving of both honors, but is there another Indianapolis Colt deserving of a retired number?
Honestly, there's only one option, and it's unofficially retired. Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison spent his entire 13-year career with the Colts and became one of the best to ever play the game at his position. His number 88 has not been worn by a Colt since his release in 2008, marking seven years since someone has worn that number. In other words, it is unofficially retired, though the team hasn't announced anything and therefore it is technically eligible to be given out to a player.
Understand that retired numbers are rare. For example, Dwight Freeney's number 93 was given out the year after he left, and Jeff Saturday's number 63 was worn just a couple of years following his departure. No one has worn Reggie Wayne's number 87 since he left the Colts, but that has only been a year - meaning we still need a larger sample size to see whether they will hand out that number or not.
In other words, I think they should make the number 88 officially retired, but other than that I don't think there's another number they should retire just yet (though I'd listen if you wanted to make an argument for number 87). There are plenty of Ring of Honor-worthy players, but retired numbers should be an even more prestigious honor. And honestly, if the Colts wanted to keep it at just number 18 retired from the Indianapolis era, I'd understand that too.