In general, there isn't much that can be learned from the preseason. The coaching staff can determine who did what right and wrong because they know the caliber of player playing at any given moment, but most of us are just trying to keep an eye open for stand out play.
In the end we 'learned' what we already suspected:
- The first string defense is good.
- Peyton Manning can play this here game of football
- The offensive line is a mess no one knows if the Colts can actually run the ball.
None of that is stop the presses stuff. The two most important stories of camp (the WRs and the line) were impossible to assess because of how many players sat out the game. In the end our chat was far more entertaining than the actual product on the field.
By far, the dominant story was the putrid play of Curtis Painter. On that subject I offer the following thoughts:
1. Painter was bad, but that doesn't mean Brandstander was good.
People can drum up a QB controversy if they want to, but frankly I saw nothing from Brandstander that suggests he'd be any better than Painter. Remember that Painter was facing a higher quality of defender even than Brandstander did, and while his 63.2 rating dwarfs Painter's, it's still not good. In fact on 12 passes, he generated a whopping 34 yards passing. Let's be honest, that's horrid. I saw nothing yesterday to indicate that Brandstander is a better player than Painter.
2. Last year, people were begging for Sorgi to get cut in favor of Painter.
Let's temper our exuberance for Brandstander. Again, Painter is horrible. He has never led a touchdown drive in any game (preseason or regular season). To my recollection, he's only led one field goal drive to date. Still, there's something about preseason football that makes people crazy. Maybe it's just the desire to have something important to talk about. As if by imbuing the games with more import than they naturally carry, somehow we'll have more fun as we suffer through it.
The result of this is that we tend to overreact. Is Curtis Painter an NFL caliber QB? Probably not, but yesterday doesn't prove or disprove that proposition. What happens at practice is far more representative than that the debacle yesterday. The coaches will do whatever they think is best, but the past year plus of practice and workout time will weight more heavily than the second quarter yesterday.
3. What do these numbers have in common?
13-3, 30-16, 23-10, 19-17, 17-10
They are the scores from the Colts' first preseason game dating back to 2005. We always lose. We never score many points. It's always a mess. Let's move on.
4. If not Painter then who?
New rule: the next person who suggests a 'veteran quarterback' has to actually have a name attached to it. There isn't anyone out there who would be any better. Do you know what a 'veteran quarterback' looks like when he's a backup? He looks like David Carr. Yes, I know, Carr lit up the Colts second string to the tune of 9/11 for 98 yards and a score. He also flopped on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf every time Pat Angerer looked at him cross eyed.
Imagine it's a week 10 game, and Peyton can't play. Can David Carr win you a game?
NO. He can't.
There are about 5 quarterbacks who could win a game behind the Colts' offensive line. Sure, Brees, Roethlisberger, maybe Romo could do it. I'm not suggesting that Peyton Manning is the only man alive who could win with the Colts' line. However, usually when the backup QB comes in and plays, the result is a run heavy attack to take the pressure off of him.
Think about that. How well have the Colts run the football the last two years? Imagine a game plan with 35-40 run calls in it. On top of that, the kind of defense the Colts play emphasizes limiting scoring, while allowing lots of yardage and time of possession. You can do that if you have an efficient offense that scores on better than half its possessions.
The Colts shouldn't bother carrying a second QB on the hopes that he could win them a game in a pinch. It's a waste of money and a roster spot. This team wins because of Manning. They are better off carrying a project that they can develop and flip into a draft pick.
If Peyton goes down, we can all pack up the tents and go home. Maybe that's not a PC thing to say, but it's the God's honest truth. The Colts aren't the plug and play Patriots. Matt Cassel couldn't rescue this team. They have a scheme which depends on the health of a half dozen key talents. On top of that pyramid of awesome is Peyton Manning. Take him down, and the whole ship sinks.
5. Curtis Painter really is unassailably awful.
Just in case anyone thought I was defending him: I'm not. No one should look that lost in a system after a year of playing in it. However, if the Colts think he's the guy to be the backup, they HAVE to let him take the bulk of the snaps. They have to let him play (and stink) as much as possible. Ugh. That means three more weeks of this.
I'm open to exploring all options for a new backup, however, my gut tells me the Colts are stuck with him. I just don't believe any other option would be much better.