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Colts Preseason Quarterback Competition: Stephen Morris Still the Best Option

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Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Let’s face it, good backup quarterbacks are hard to come by in the NFL. One of the biggest issues is defining what is good. After all, if your number one quarterback isn’t clearly superior to your backup, you probably have a quarterback problem.

Good quarterbacks are too scarce to have a legitimate shot of having two of them on one roster for long. When teams do have a solid backup quarterback that player quickly becomes a trade piece because other teams are willing to give up value at other positions in return for a player who can help them win games from under center.

While unquestioned starter Andrew Luck is still recovering from a shoulder injury there is battle to make the regular season roster behind him and more importantly a battle for who will take first team reps and start regular season games until he can return.

On the one hand there is veteran Scott Tolzien who has made enough NFL starts to be something of a “known quantity” and has enough experience running NFL offenses, including in Indianapolis, to be relatively trustworthy from a knowledge standpoint. That is his upside.

His downside is that he is not particularly strong in the pocket, can make rushed decisions, gets rattled, and is more likely to make a costly mistake than he is to make an eye-popping play that will lead to a W.

What you see is what you get and Tolzien will never have teams clamoring for his services at this point in his career.

Another player who is familiar to fans in Indianapolis as one of the best preseason quarterbacks Colts fans have ever seen is Stephen Morris. Morris has spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles before joining the Colts in 2015. He is 25 years old and played collegiately at Miami (for those curious, Tolzien is 29).

This kid started his career getting passed over for two years. When he joined the Colts that all changed, as he has shocked fans and commentators alike with impressive play. This year, I can’t ignore his natural ability anymore. Frankly, the Colts new General Manager Chris Ballard and Head Coach Chuck Pagano shouldn’t look it over anymore either.

This is a no-brainer folks. Stephen Morris has shown me enough to believe he can be a starter in this league. The Jaguars would be lucky to have him back at this point. It’s hard to name anyone who hasn’t been given regular season reps a legitimate starter but I’m willing to go out on a limb at this point.

This kid can play in the NFL, Week 1, and beat the Rams.

Tolzien, I fear, cannot.

Let’s put it this way, not only does Morris give the Colts the best chance to win, in my mind he is the best chess piece to have on the roster. If you want to help fix a team with existing holes, what better way than to leverage a young promising quarterback on the rise to trade for a valuable draft pick or head-up for a player at a position of need?

If you don’t feel comfortable with what you can get in return, what could be better than to have a backup on the roster who you know can come in and keep the ship on the right course?

Oh yeah, and he’s humble, patient, and says the right things to reporters when they are begging him to tell them that he is getting a raw deal in Indianapolis.

I’m not asking you to just believe me. Watch the tape and tell me he doesn’t have the intangibles, an uncanny pocket-presence, ice in his veins, and puts his ball on the money almost always.

I’m not making his bid for the Hall of Fame here but seriously, the kid is good.


One of the most difficult throws for a quarterback is making an accurate pass with pressure in his face. Throws from a quarterback’s back foot tend to sail and for the vast majority of NFL quarterbacks — like Tolzien on his long bomb that was picked in the back of the end zone — they are inadvisable.

Morris? He makes it look easy. This is a difficult throw with a defender coming into his chest, off of his back foot, on the money to a receiver just over the top of coverage. This is a big boy NFL quarterback play. This wasn’t lucky. This wasn’t a one time thing.

This was Stephen Morris just doing what he does and not giving it a second thought.

If you were unsure and thought I was over-selling it, here is another example for you. Morris is back in the pocket and a free rusher comes full force into his body. You can rest assured that Morris saw the rusher coming out of the corner of his eye. He knew he was about to get smoked.

His response? No flinch. No change in motion. He calmly gets lit up and completes his throwing motion on the money to Phillip Dorsett.

Very few quarterbacks do this with regularity. In fact, one of Andrew Luck’s most celebrated traits is finding a way to get rid of the ball in spite of pressure and make big plays. Morris isn’t Luck, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t do some of the same things Luck does.

This is a designed screen play to Marlon Mack but Morris has been very comfortable dumping the ball off to his release valve in the Colts three preseason games. There is a ton of value to a quarterback who is comfortable selling a play and effectively delivering the ball on a screen to get positive yards instead of forcing the ball into coverage or throwing the ball away.

On this play you can see Morris move through his progressions quickly. He reads right, middle, and left and avoids pressure. While he is running he stays focused on his receivers and turns a broken play into a first down to Bug Howard.

He moves very comfortably out of the pocket, runs smoothly, keeps himself in position to make the pass, and does exactly that.

If you’re looking for accuracy, if you’re looking for an NFL caliber arm, look no further than this play. It takes a very good quarterback to make this throw to the exact spot the tight end needs it to make the catch. It takes a confident quarterback to thread the needle between two defenders.

What is even more impressive is once again, Morris makes this throw from a lazy chair. There is no strain, no struggle, no panic, just a pinpoint, precision pass that he makes look effortless.


I’m not going to apologize to the Colts brass or coaching staff. I won’t apologize to fans who might disagree or who think I’m stretching things too far with Morris. I believe this kid can play. It’s all he has done in Indianapolis.

If Andrew Luck is unable to go Week 1 — as it assumed at this point — it’s time he got his chance in the regular season.