In 2015, the Indianapolis Colts were getting their first dose of life without quarterback Andrew Luck. A litany of injuries had him on the shelf for the second half of the season. Backup Matt Hasselbeck filled in sometimes masterfully for Luck, but the season began to wear on him.
Poor pass protection from the offensive line left Hasselbeck in the line of fire often. Everything that he had in the tank physically, he gave it all. For several weeks, it seemed like every time that Hasselbeck took a hit, he writhed in pain and often had to leave the field. The Colts also got their first taste of life with “Clipboard Jesus“, Charlie Whitehurst, that year when Hasselbeck would need to leave.
As if the season’s quarterback situation couldn’t get anymore bizarre, Hasselbeck could not give it a go in the final game of the season, and Whitehurst had been placed on Injured Reserve on Monday of game week. On Tuesday, December 29, the Colts brought in and signed veteran journeyman quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley. The game was to be played just five days later on Sunday, January 3.
While Freeman (61 starts) and Lindley (6 starts) had NFL experience, the general consensus about them at that point in their careers was that they were awful. If a team was in position to be starting either of them, then their quarterback situation was screwed, and the Colts’ was.
That Sunday, the improbable happened and the Colts beat the Tennessee Titans, 30-24. The combination of Freeman and Lindley actually did well, combining for 21-of-38 passing for 207 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Fast forward two years later and now the Colts are in another quarterback conundrum. Luck is finishing his rehab from shoulder surgery and his backup, Scott Tolzien, is as bad as everybody thought Freeman and Lindley would be. Last week, the Colts waived the best quarterback on their roster behind Luck in Stephen Morris, then traded for New England Patriots backup Jacoby Brissett.
Last Sunday in the Colts’ opener, Tolzien got the start—understandable since Brissett literally just got there the weekend before. However, as stated before, he was bad. Real bad. Two interceptions returned for touchdowns on awful boundary passes, and then at least two other would-be interceptions dropped by defenders helped lead the Colts to a 37-point loss.
Tolzien was benched to start the fourth quarter after only leading the Colts to three points. Enter Brissett, backed up on the Colts’ own 16-yard line. After just five plays and 84 yards, the Colts had their first touchdown of the day.
After an offense that is completely void of life and enthusiasm gets an enormous jump-start like that, you have to follow that spark, don’t you? If the Colts are not going to bring Stephen Morris back, which it is clear that they are not, then they ought to right that wrong by going with the obvious correct decision—start Brissett.
On Monday, head coach Chuck Pagano was asked about making a change at quarterback, and he responded, “It’s something that we’ll discuss later tonight and into tomorrow as we game plan.”
When asked about what would go into that decision, Pagano said, “We’ve got to do what’s best for the football team and what gives us the best chance to move the ball and put points on the board.”
Pagano also commented specifically on Brissett starting, saying, “There’s nobody that can come in and digest and learn a playbook in that period of time, so there’s challenges that would be with any quarterback in any system in any NFL building.”
You can’t bank on Brissett being some savior, but everybody associated with this franchise deserves better than what the offense looks like with Tolzien under center.
The Colts have made this work before with a couple of guys that were probably worse options than what they have now in Brissett. The Colts have the same head coach and offensive coordinator that they did when Freeman and Lindley came through. It’s time to acknowledge that Brissett is what is best for the offense right now.