Colts GM Chris Ballard has regularly stated that his philosophy is that you build teams through the draft. That makes this time of year critical to the Colts’ long term success. So in the lead up to this year’s draft, I wanted to do something to honor some of the meaningful draft picks that the Colts have made in their time in Indianapolis. These players have helped to tell the story of the Colts franchise we love. Every day leading up to the draft, we’ll drop a story about a different player from Indianapolis Colts draft history.
Today we’re talking about the most important position in football, and a significant player in Colts history, quarterback Jeff George.
Perhaps no Colts player has been as costly as was Jeff George, the Indiana native who led Warren Central to back-to-back state championships in 1984 and 1985. George had a cannon for an arm, and as a hometown hero, the Colts thought he could be the perfect player to fix their quarterback woes and get buy-in from the local market that was still getting established after relocating to Indianapolis.
To make it work though, the Colts would have to trade up to get the first overall pick, and it would be a costly trade. They sent wide receiver Andre Rison, offensive lineman Chris Hinton, a 1990 fifth round pick, a 1991 first round pick, and a 1991 conditional pick to the Atlanta Falcons for the first overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft. As we’ve already discussed, Rison would go on to be a perennial All-Pro, and Hinton finished his career with 7 Pro Bowl appearances and 5 All-Pros.
The results were… not great. Far from turning around a struggling team, George had just one winning season as a Colt, and his record as the starting quarterback for the Colts finished at 14-35. There were other problems as well. George was incredibly talented, but his character showed some holes that quickly became problematic for a player you want as your long-term franchise QB.
George demonstrated a complete lack of mental toughness in his time with the team, struggling consistently to deal with pressures of the NFL and with having competent backups on the roster. After being benched several times throughout his career with the team, things came to a head in the 1993 off-season.
George didn’t show up to training camp, and reportedly demanded a trade of Irsay, which was refused. He eventually did report, and played with the team during the 1993 season, but was traded in the following off-season to the Atlanta Falcons.
The current Colts can take heart knowing that they would likely never suffer from this kind of major miss given the infrastructure in place. It seems like a virtual lock that Colts Director of Player Development Brian Decker would have weeded George out in his process.
Unfortunately for Colts fans, they had to suffer through that bust, and like Chris Ballard has said, missing on a first round quarterback sets you back 4-5 years. The good news is that next time the Colts took a first round QB, it would work out pretty well.