With just a little more than a month left in the decade, there has been a good bit of reflection on the past ten years for this franchise. Over at the Athletic, they named the all-decade Colts team in an exercise that revealed to some degree, the lack of talent this roster has fielded until recently.
Rather than take issue with any of the picks that those guys made, I wanted to ask a slightly different question: Who is the greatest Colt of the past decade? It is an interesting question because initially the answer is obvious, but there are several legitimate contenders to consider. So let’s take a look at a few of them.
There is no conversation about the greatest Colt of the 2010’s that doesn’t include Andrew Luck. The Stanford prodigy stepped out of college and into the shadow of the great Peyton Manning. What’s more, he didn’t wilt under the pressure of following such an iconic legend. He stepped up and was his own man, neckbeard, bookclub, and all.
From day one Andrew Luck was electric. Despite being surrounded by a complete dearth of talent (his first touchdown pass was to Donnie Avery), Luck lifted a roster that went 2-14 in 2011 to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. His elusiveness in the pocket, his big play ability, and his uncanny knack to lead critical 4th quarter comebacks made him an instant success behind an offensive line that got him routinely crushed and ultimately resulted in the premature end to his career.
With no defense, no running game, a coaching staff without a clue, and a front office that continued to waste money in free agency and whiff in the draft, Andrew Luck managed to lay it on the line to make this team a winner. He fought through countless injuries, gutted out a win against a Broncos team after taking a hit that lacerated his kidney, and was the heart and soul of the Colts team.
I for one, will always wonder what could have been if Luck had decided to stick it out through rehab and continue on with his career. He was an uncommon talent, and made the game of football infinitely more fun to watch.
Perhaps no Colt gets more short-changed for their contribution than does T.Y. Hilton. Of course, Colts fans appreciate Hilton, but does he get the credit he deserves for his continued greatness? Probably not. While Andrew Luck came on the scene as a known quantity, identified as easiest quarterback evaluation since the days of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck was expected to be great.
Meanwhile, T.Y. Hilton was just a no-name speedster out of Florida International. At 5’10” and just over 180lbs, Hilton was viewed as a one-trick pony who was too small to ever be more than a speedy slot receiver. Nearly from the jump it was clear that this assessment was a poor one. Hilton proved to be a tireless worker, learning at the side of legend Reggie Wayne.
Hilton has topped 1000 yards in 5 of his 8 seasons, and has proven a versatile weapon both from the slot and on the outside. His deep ball connection with Andrew Luck was one of the most incredible things to watch as a Colts fan, and when defenses weren’t careful to mark him, he could slip past them effortlessly, earning his nickname “The Ghost” because he could seemingly disappear from view of many a defender, only to reappear as the ball sailed deep and into his waiting hands.
In 2018, Hilton further cemented his status as a great Colt by playing the back half of the season with both a low and high ankle sprain. He was unable to practice for the majority of the back part of the season, but still managed to rehab and recover enough to show up on game day and be a big part of the offense. His playoff performance against the Texans put the Colts in a position to win that wildcard game and send them on to face the Chiefs.
It is impossible to talk about great Colts of the 2010s and not have Hilton listed right up there. Paired with Luck he made football exciting to watch, and his name strikes fear into the hearts of young Texans fans everywhere.
Perhaps no one has been as impactful or clutch across the past decade as Adam Vinatieri. In the midst of his struggles in 2019 it is easy to forget just how good he has been. In ten years, Vinatieri has missed just 12 field goals from 40-yards out or closer. Vinny hit 96.2% of his extra points and been 87.0% of field goals, and has done it with games on the line.
While no one could claim that Vinny was as exciting to watch as either T.Y. Hilton or Andrew Luck, perhaps his greatness lay in the fact that he essentially made the kicking game a nonfactor for the Colts. In a season where we’ve seen games lost due to his misses, and teams around the league have struggled with poor kicker performances, Adam Vinatieri’s steady and consistent accuracy stands out even more.
Throughout the decade, Vinatieri consistently provided a reliable and clutch kicker who would win games when put in a position to do so. The Colts knew that they had a man at the position who was virtually automatic. As is the case with many things, that kind of greatness is something that is easy to take for granted when you have it for so long. Because of that, Vinny certainly deserves consideration as the decade’s best Colt.
It is nearly impossible to separate T.Y. Hilton’s greatness from that of Andrew Luck. However, unlike Luck, Hilton has been able to be available with more consistency. While Luck missed time in 2015 and 2017, T.Y. Hilton was there.
When the Colts have needed plays, it has consistently been T.Y. Hilton who makes them. In a decorated hall of Colts receivers, Hilton will be recognized among the best of them when his career finally comes to an end. It is a close call, because Andrew Luck was certainly great, but for my money, T.Y. Hilton has been the greatest Colt of the 2010’s.
Who would be your pick?
Who is the greatest Colt of the 2010s?
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