According to team owner Jim Irsay, if the Indianapolis Colts had even had the #1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft—instead of a few picks later at #4, his franchise still would’ve taken Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson because they loved him that much:
“I think really if we had, we felt if we had the first pick in the draft, we’d probably take Anthony, that’s how much we liked him. So, we were really fortunate when of course, (Bryce) Young went when we thought he would. (C.J.) Stroud was a little bit of a surprise. So all of a sudden, two (quarterbacks) are gone right away, so that’s a little bit different than we kind of thought, and then they (Houston) made the trade, and then there we were (at #4).”
In Irsay’s mind, he had initially entertained the possibility of drafting a top quarterback prospect in the draft since after Philip Rivers ‘retired’ following the 2020 season:
“It feels a little like a time machine. Four years ago this summer, when Andrew (Luck) retired, and he and the franchise move forward. It started weighing on my mind right after the Philip Rivers year about going young and having a chance to be at a draft and having the opportunity for the future quarterback for the franchise—and bringing in our own and developing them. So it was a special day on Thursday to see that day finally come.”
Instead, the Colts traded for both Carson Wentz and later Matt Ryan in ensuing consecutive offseasons, with neither working out because of their own respective shortcomings.
However, instead of a castoff, reclamation project, or veteran stopgap this time around, it was clear that it was long overdue that the Colts finally take the plunge and look to draft a top quarterback early on—even trade up if needed to ensure securing their guy.
Following another disappointing season, Irsay said that he knew as early as February that he felt Richardson would ultimately be the franchise’s choice come draft day:
“I always kind of felt Richardson was going to be the guy that we went with early on. I mean early in the process going back into February. I just felt his upside and what he brought to the table, and as I learned more and more and more, as we went up towards the draft.”
For Irsay and the Colts, the primary goal was not only to land Richardson, but to not surrender any additional draft capital in the process by way of trade up—which is a risky proposition especially with two of the top quarterback prospects going back-to-back from the start #1-and-2 regarding Young and Stroud:
“So we were very elated. I think our goal going into Thursday on Wednesday night was, ‘Can we get Anthony Richardson and not give up anymore compensation?’ Stay at four, and that was the dream goal, and we were able to achieve that.”
Irsay even went as far as to call Richardson a few hours before the draft to let him know that barring anything unexpected like a quarterback needy team jumping them at #3, that Richardson would likely be an Indianapolis Colt on Thursday night:
“I called him about three hours before the draft, and I said, ‘You can’t share this call with anyone, the fact that I’m calling, and what’s going on, anyone calling you?’ And he named a team that had interest in him, and I said, ‘Did they call today?’ And he said, ‘No.’ I said, “Okay, well there’s a good chance you’re going to be coming to Indy in three hours. So he was excited, and I said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Had Richardson been selected ahead of the Colts at #3, Irsay also shared that he believes the franchise would’ve actually selected Kentucky quarterback Will Levis at #4, who surprisingly free fell all the way to the Tennessee Titans in the second round to pick #33.
None of that really matters now though because Richardson is one of the newest Colts, and Irsay is hoping that he just found his franchise quarterback again—after a few years of patiently waiting.