As the decade winds down, it’s a good time to look back on a very successful decade for the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts made the playoffs 6 times, winning the division thrice, making it to the AFC Championship once, compiling a regular season record of 82-77 (with one game remaining in 2019) and a playoff record of 4-5.
As we look back on the best players of the decade, it’s only right to put together an All-Decade team. Instead of picking individual players, I’m going to choose the best version of a player, so I’ll be selecting players and their best season of the decade. The only rule is that I can’t pick the same player twice (like Reggie Wayne in 2010 and 2012).
Quarterback: 2018 Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck had an amazing career with the Colts, and I believe his last season was his best with Frank Reich. Last season, he exploded for 39 touchdowns, 67% completion percentage, his second lowest interception percentage of his career and 10 wins. He was efficient, smart and won some big games and it was the best version of Luck. The 98.3 passer rating was also his best and it came with only one reliable wide receiver in TY Hilton. It would’ve been crazy to see Luck with Reich for another season, but alas we’ll never get a chance to see that.
Running Backs: 2019 Marlon Mack | 2016 Frank Gore
The Colts have had a bunch of bodies come in and out of the running back room. Names like Vick Ballard, Donald Brown, Ahmad Bradshaw, and even Joseph Addai at the tail end of his career fly around the memory bank. There are only two players that broke 1000 yards and they were, without a doubt, the best running backs the Colts have had this decade: Marlon Mack and Frank Gore. Gore was a hard nosed runner who earned his 1000 the hard way and Marlon Mack earned it with more ease, but also had a better offensive line to work with. Both are very good players, and Mack, who is still on the team, still has a high ceiling he can reach.
Wide Receivers: 2012 Reggie Wayne | 2016 TY Hilton | 2011 Pierre Garcon
Reggie Wayne and TY Hilton were locks for this team. While some would choose the 2010 Reggie Wayne version, I chose the 2012 version because he was thrown into a new offense, with a brand new quarterback and produced identical numbers (and slightly better in some areas). It was a rejuvenation after a down year in 2011 and he deserved an All-Pro nod that season. Hilton’s best season came in 2016 when he led the NFL in receiving yards and was one of the top receivers in football that year.
The third name was tougher to find, but Pierre Garcon in 2011 was one of the very few bright spots on an otherwise horrible Colts team. He broke out in 2009 and 2011 was and still is one of the two or three best years of his career. He nearly reached 1000 yards with Dan Orlovsky, Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins as his quarterback. Kudos to you, sir.
Tight Ends: 2017 Jack Doyle | 2018 Eric Ebron
Dallas Clark’s career slowed down after the 2009 season, so he couldn’t make this list. Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen were average players, but never had one season that was overly impressive as an all around player. Jack Doyle, on the other hand, has proven to be a great all around tight end, with his best year coming in 2017. He was a great possession machine with 80 catches, great in-line blocking and lining up in a multitude of spots on the field.
Eric Ebron was an incredible red-zone target in 2018 with Andrew Luck ending the season with 13 touchdowns. He deserves a spot on this list even though his 2019 season was a big drop off and it seems as if that 2018 was an anomaly.
Offensive Tackles: 2019 Anthony Castonzo | 2015 Joe Reitz
Anthony Castonzo is not only worthy of this spot, but should be considered one of the best 10 offensive tackles of the decade in the NFL. He has been a model of consistency and a stout left tackle for many years. I find the 2019 version of him to be his best as he’s only allowed 3 sacks, 5 hits and is a fantastic run blocker.
Finding a good right tackle from this decade was difficult as the Colts have not had a consistent stalwart since Ryan Diem, but the 2015 Joe Reitz was very good. While he allowed 8 sacks, he only allowed 3 hits, so 11 combined hits and sacks isn’t a bad number. He was reliable and was a good utility player for the Colts that season as he also played tight end, left tackle and right guard, but played 90% of his snaps at right tackle.
Offensive Guards: 2019 Quenton Nelson | 2015 Jack Mewhort
While Quenton Nelson was an All-Pro and a star in 2018, his 2019 campaign was even better as he’s allowed two less sacks (none overall in 2019) and 2 fewer hits (down from 4 in 2018). He is arguably the best guard in football right now.
Jack Mewhort had a very good 2015 season. He allowed no sacks, 11 hits and was a very efficient run blocker. He seems like a great fit on this team as he’s probably the best guard the Colts have had this decade after Nelson.
Center: 2018 Ryan Kelly
In 2018, Kelly had his best season as a pro with only 1 sack and two hits allowed. Despite all the praise for Quenton Nelson (and deservingly so), Kelly was the leader and the anchor of the offensive line. The Colts have had a few average centers over the decade, but they got a gem in Ryan Kelly, who is improving every year. He deserves the spot on this list.
Edge Rushers: 2013 Robert Mathis | 2010 Dwight Freeney
Gotta put Mathis and Freeney on this list. The two best pass rushers in Indianapolis Colts history and two of the best pass rushers of the last 25 years had at least one good season in the 2000s, with Mathis’ 2013 season being Hall of Fame worthy. He had 19.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles and dominated the NFL that year. Freeney’s 2010 season was average (by his standards) as he finished with 10 sacks, some strip sacks and some big moments in big games... as usual. These guys deserve to be on this team together.
Defensive Tackles: 2018 Denico Autry | 2013 Cory Redding
The 2018 version of Denico Autry was the best interior pass rusher the Colts have had in 10,000 years. He got to the quarterback consistently, especially in the last 6 weeks of the season and looked like an All-Pro in the month of December. He was fantastic and deserves to be on this team.
The second spot came down to 2013 Cory Redding or 2017 Al Woods. While Woods was a fantastic run stopper, he gave nothing in the passing game. Redding, while he wasn’t as good a run stopper as Woods, was a better pass rusher, and always seemed to have a good impact in big games. This was a tough choice, but I went with Redding because of his all around ability.
Off-Ball Linebackers: 2018 Darius Leonard | 2013 Jerrell Freeman | 2014 D’Qwell Jackson
The Maniac’s rookie season doesn’t need to be argued for as it was a special year, but 163 tackles, 7 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions and 8 quarterback hits (as well as the unmeasurable impact) made him one of the best defensive players in all of football in 2018; he should’ve been more of a serious contender for Defensive Player of the Year. He was named to the All Pro team.
Jerrell Freeman in 2013 was extremely underrated. He finished the season with 144 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions and now that I look back, I’m surprised he received no recognition whatsoever. The Colts defense was at their best during the Pagano era during that season. Freeman wasn’t even named to the Pro Bowl, even though he should’ve been considered for a 2nd team All Pro spot.
D’Qwell Jackson’s 2014 season initially slipped my mind, but he performed admirably on a defense that lacked a lot of star power up front. He made the Pro Bowl in 2014 thanks to a 140 tackle season, with 4 sacks and a defensive touchdown. He was the most consistent player in the front 7 that season and was a rock in his short stint with the Colts.
Safeties: 2014 Mike Adams | 2018 Malik Hooker
To my surprise, the Colts have not had great safety play over the last decade. Mike Adams’ 2014 season was not only a surprise, but one for the ages. Not often do 33 year old safeties have career years but that’s exactly what happened to Adams, whose 5 intereption, 87 tackle season led him to being named to the Pro Bowl and nearly named to the All-Pro team.
The second choice was a lot harder than I expected, but I landed on Malik Hooker, the 2018 version. Hooker was a perfect fit in Matt Eberflus’ cover 2 system that surprised many with how effective it was. Hooker did a great job of taking away half the field due to his great speed and ballhawk ability. Teams didn’t challenge him often, so his numbers don’t catch your eye, but he did his job extremely well and deserves a spot on the team for those reasons.
Cornerbacks: 2014 Vontae Davis | 2017 Rashaan Melvin | 2018 Kenny Moore
Vontae Davis was arguably the best cornerback in all of football in 2014 and the backbone of the Colts defense during that season. His place on this team was a given.
The other two spots were much tougher, but the 2017 Rashaan Melvin was fantastic for most of the season, shutting down some of the best receivers in the league. He ended up leaving for a big contract and ended up flopping so it seems like he only played well in the Indy air. Nevertheless, he was an amazing player during that season and was one of the top 6-7 cornerbacks in the league that year.
The All Decade team needs a nickel cornerback and no Colt played that spot better than Kenny Moore, who broke out last season. He can blitz the quarterback, make plays in coverage and cover some very quick slot receivers. He is a playmaker and a perfect fit for this team.
Kicker: 2014 Adam Vinatieri
With the exception of 3 games, the Colts have had one kicker throughout the entire decade and it’s Adam “Old Man” Vinatieri. So the issue wasn’t who to pick, but what year to pick. The 2014 version of him was statistically his best, hitting 96% of his kicks and all of his extra points. He made all of his kicks beyond 50 yards and he was automatic that season. His lone miss of the season came in the last week of the season. He was the best kicker in football that season and an easy choice for this team.
Punter: 2016 Pat McAfee
McAfee’s last season in the NFL was probably his best and one of the best individual seasons of any punter from the last decade. His 49.3 yard per punt season average would put him in the top 5 for the decade (single season yard per punt average). Very few of his kicks (only 17 out of 55 punts) were returned, which indicates good hang time and good coverage from his special teams.
Long Snapper: 2013 Matt Overton
This version of Matt Overton made the Pro Bowl after a stellar season with no botched snaps and very few snaps that were considered “off-line”.
Returner: 2019 Nyheim Hines
The Colts have been so brutal in terms of special teams returners over the last decade that a player who had ONE insane two touchdown game makes the team. Jordan Todman and Quan Bray were considered.
Coach: 2018 Frank Reich
Reich was organized, he had a great system and he developed some players extremely well. The Colts were not out-coached in 2018 and were not hindered by bad coaching, which is what happened in the Pagano era. Reich is one of the better offensive minds in the NFL and looks to be a very good long-term head coach for the Colts.