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Colts Have Had the NFL’s Fourth Best Quarterback Play During the Super Bowl Era

The Indianpolis Colts’ Peyton Manning raises the Lombardi Trophy after the Colts’ 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Florida, on Sunday, February 4, 2007. Photo by Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Doug Clawson (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts have had the 4th best quarterback play of the Super Bowl era among NFL franchises:

4. Indianapolis Colts

Best QB: Peyton Manning. Manning received an NFL-record five regular-season MVP awards, including four with the Colts from 2003 to ‘09. During that span, he led Indianapolis to seven straight 12-win seasons, the longest streak in NFL history at the time. He also commanded the most prolific offense in the league during his 13 seasons as their starter. Had pre-Super Bowl era numbers been taken into account, the Colts would be higher in these rankings and Johnny Unitas would have had a case for their best QB.

Worst QB: Art Schlichter. Schlichter was the fourth overall pick in 1982, drafted one spot ahead of Jim McMahon. He didn’t start as a rookie and finished his career with an 0-6 record, marred by a lengthy suspension for gambling, while throwing three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

Full Rankings


Overall QB Production 3

Pro Bowl-caliber seasons 2

QB continuity 9

Overall 4

Remember ... Kerry Collins? The Colts signed Collins in 2011 as insurance for Manning, who was recovering from neck surgery and would miss the season. Collins made three starts, all losses, in his final NFL season.

Did you know? The Colts are the only franchise to have four different quarterbacks win NFL MVP (Manning, Unitas, Earl Morrall and Bert Jones).

Clay’s 2020 projections for Philip Rivers: 26 TD passes, 15 INTs, 3,835 passing yards and 229 fantasy points

Of course, the Colts were expected to be high on this list with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck largely combining for nearly the last 20 seasons at starting quarterback—and Baltimore legendary great Johnny Unitas proceeding them many years earlier.

The criteria for the overall ranking was as follows:

“We judged overall performance, peak performance and continuity to rank all 32 teams based on how productive their quarterbacks have been in the Super Bowl era, which is 1966-2019,” Clawson writes. “We then picked every team’s best and worst quarterbacks of the past 54 years, along with interesting stats for each team and 2020 projections for their starters from ESPN fantasy writer Mike Clay.”

Unfortunately, this means that many of Unitas’ best seasons in Baltimore didn’t count for consideration. That being said, the Colts still received key contributions from quarterback Earl Morrall and Bert Jones—who had MVP seasons in 1968 and 1976 respectively.

Additionally, while he’s not mentioned, the Colts also received solid production from Jim Harbaugh (1994-97)—who was a Pro Bowler and AFC Offensive Player of the Year in 1995.

There’s also been some dark days for the Colts franchise at starting quarterback worth noting (see: Art Schlichter, Jeff George, and Curtis Painter, etc.).

The other listed franchises among the Top 5 are hardly surprising: New England Patriots (Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe), Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, and Bart Starr), Dallas Cowboys (Tony Romo, Troy Aikman, and Roger Staubauch), and the San Francisco 49ers (Steve Young and Joe Montana)—although choosing between them could really just be personal preference, rather than on any actual merits.

Here’s hoping that Philip Rivers can soon join the Colts’ list of franchise standout quarterbacks during the Super Bowl era—even late into his playing career.