Curtis Painter has been the subject of much opinion during his tenure as the backup quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts — most of those opinions negative.
He’s not a NFL-caliber QB. Anyone would be better than that no-talent waste of a draft pick.
Are these opinions really the case? Is this thinking based on his play in meaningful games (his total is one, last Sunday’s 23-20 loss to Pittsburgh)?
True, the former Purdue field general has looked mostly poor in his outings, but last week’s game-tying drive (never mind Kerry Collins‘ possible concussion … or Peyton Manning’s long-term health uncertainty, for that matter) should be enough to say that it’s time to find out once and for all how Painter stacks up as a NFL QB.
It’s time for the Colts to start Painter.
At 0-3 and facing the possibility of not having Collins for Monday’s contest at Tampa Bay, Indianapolis might not even have a choice but to do so.
But I believe — and I’m sure I’m in the minority — that starting Painter is the best move for the Colts at this point in time.
And no, don’t accuse me of saying that because it would be the surest way for the franchise to obtain the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and select quarterback Andrew Luck. It isn’t.
In fact, I view it as quite the opposite. I feel giving Painter the green light would give the Colts the best chance to win games.
Yeah, call me crazy. Just like you would have called B.S. at the prospect of the New England Patriots winning 11 games without Tom Brady in 2008.
Matt Cassel, who at the time hadn’t played a down of meaningful competitive football since high school (he backed up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC before being drafted by the Patriots and holding the clipboard for Brady) had recently been blasted in the media for his poor preseason efforts, even to a degree that prompted Brady himself to defend Cassel publicly.
Folks then were criticizing the Patriots for their seemingly careless attempts at finding a serviceable backup to their future Hall of Fame QB — much like the opinions we’ve been hearing about the Colts and how they have put what many consider blind faith in Painter.
Then Brady took a shot to the knee in the 2008 season opener — ironically against Cassel’s current franchise, the Kansas City Chiefs — and Cassel stepped in for the remainder of the season.
Eleven wins later, sports writers around the country and analysts on every sports network were calling for Cassel to be named to the Pro Bowl, and even one panelist on ESPN’s Around the Horn recommended him for NFL MVP.
Not that I ever agreed with those sentiments, but my point is that perceptions of a player can change drastically once that player gets an actual, extended shot in meaningful games.
It’s time for Painter to get that chance. For comparative purposes, Painter’s arm is much stronger than Cassel’s.
Yes, yes, I know how Painter has looked whenever he has been in.
His career numbers in regular-season games? A whopping 13-of-39 for 143 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has held onto the ball too long on multiple occasions and has been sacked for fumbles, including one last Sunday that Steelers safety Troy Polamalu returned for a go-ahead touchdown.
But that sample size is microscopic and severely skewed. Painter’s only other regular-season action came at the end of the 2009 slate after the Colts called off a run at a perfect record. This infamous moment commenced in Week 16 at home against the New York Jets.
It was an impossible situation for Painter. The fans were angry with the decision to sit the starters and didn’t want him in the game, hence the chorus of boos. The Jets, who boasted the league’s top-ranked defense, were desperate to make the playoffs. Hardly a situation in which a franchise can expect to throw in a rookie quarterback for the first time and see him succeed. Ditto the following week in a blizzard in Buffalo.
Yes, Painter has also looked bad during the last two preseasons, and his lackluster play in the first two exhibition games this year was a big reason the Colts signed Collins to man the fort while Manning recovers.
People get so preoccupied with Painter’s struggles that they forget some of the promise he has shown (yes, he has shown promise). Was it not so long ago that these same Colts fans were lobbying for a rookie Painter to be the No. 2 quarterback ahead of long-time backup Jim Sorgi? Do they forget a Painter-led offense outscored Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the first half of this year’s preseason meeting? For the record, that was the third preseason game in which starters traditionally play into the third quarter.
And most recently, he helped tie the Steelers by leading the Colts on a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, something Collins couldn’t do while in that contest. Moreover, the only times this season that Collins has been able to engineer a touchdown drive have come when the games were all but decided in favor of the opposition. Painter’s drive came in crunch time against an elite opponent.
Look, I don’t know for sure which Painter will show up for the duration of a regular season if he indeed gets the nod. As I said, I tend to believe he gives the Colts, who have become more committed to the run in Manning’s absence, the best chance to have a balanced offensive attack and score touchdown drives. To this point, Collins has missed plenty of key throws and has been unable to finish in the red zone.
Sure, Painter could just as easily fall flat on his face. Either way, I don’t think he’s going to fare that much worse than any other QB the Colts could deploy for a season (not named Peyton Manning) as far as the win-loss columns are concerned.
All I know for sure is that this is the time to find out once and for all. Manning could be out for the season, Collins could have a concussion and the Colts are 0-3. Is Painter a lost cause like everyone thinks, or can he vindicate himself and the Colts’ sixth-round selection of him by playing winning football?
There’s only one way to know. Start him.