Painting in a corner

Sixth round pick Curtis Painter has impressed all of us this preseason.  Many Colts fans are wondering if Jim Sorgi’s job as backup to Peyton Manning might be in serious jeopardy.  Sorgi has missed all three preseason games with an injury, giving Painter plenty of time to show off his arm.  There has been plenty to like:

  • He has a big arm.  He delivers the ball with authority.
  • He doesn’t look panicked, rushed, or lost.
  • He keeps his eyes downfield even when rushed.

The Colts have a decision to make.  There are two reasons to keep a backup quarterback:

1.  Manning might get hurt
2.  You might be able to develop the younger QB into a commodity for trade
Here’s what’s NOT an issue:  finding the future replacement for Manning.
Peyton has at least five, if not six more years left.  That’s far too far in the future to be worrying about who’s going to take over when he’s gone.  Barring a catastrophic injury, neither Jim Sorgi nor Curtis Painter have any shot at being the regular starting QB for the Colts.
Issue #1 is the primary concern.  The question is how big a concern is it? We all know that Manning has only missed one snap in his career.  Most likely, he’s not going down, but this is the NFL and anything is possible.  So which QB should the Colts have more confidence in right now to take over for 18?  Fans won’t like the answer, but it’s clear:
Sorgi.  The least popular backup QB in the NFL.
Let’s look at the numbers:
In the last two games Painter has been at the helm for 11 drives.  He’s put up four field goals and no TDs.  For the preseason, he is 30 for 50, for 338 yards, and 2 picks.  That’s a rating of 63.6.
Sorgi on the other hand, has a career NFL rating of 89.9 in the regular season. Sure, he doesn’t excite anyone, and his ceiling is limited, but he has played acceptably in the regular season.
He has never actually performed well in the preseason in any of his years with the team, leading me to believe there must be something else about him that the coaching staff likes based on what they see in practice.
Sorgi’s first preseason in 2004, he was 15 for 30 for 111 and a pick. 
In 2005, he posted a 58 rating (46/90, 512, 1 TD, 3 INT)
In 2006, he was hurt most of the preseason.  He was 7 for 19 with a pick.
In 2007, he posted a rating of 76.8 (52/87, 480, 3, 2)
In 2008, he was hurt most of the preseason.
For the Colts the issue is risk.
The safest play is to keep both QBs.  The problem is that it would cost a roster spot the Colts might need later.  If they keep Painter initially, but have to cut him later, it will be a signal to other teams they thought he was worth keeping.  That raises the likelihood someone else scoops him up.
If they cut Sorgi and keep Painter, they are betting that Manning won’t get hurt.  If he does get hurt, Sorgi is better equipped to run the team.  Remember, that the only reason to keep Painter is if the Colts believe he can develop enough that in three years they can trade him.  Cutting Sorgi is a gamble on Manning’s health and the future trade-ability of Painter.
If they cut Painter and keep Sorgi, they have to hope that he clears waivers and they can resign him to the practice squad.  This is the ideal scenario for the Colts.  Painter can work and develop for another year, and he’ll be the odds on favorite to be the 2010 #2 QB.  If they cut Painter, and he’s picked up by another team, then they essentially wasted a 6th round pick (which isn’t the end of the world).
Curtis Painter is all upside.  He has a good arm.  He seems to have the moxy necessary to play in the NFL, but he is raw.  Can the Colts take a chance at cutting an established backup for a kid who has never led a TD drive in the preseason?  I don’t think so.
Then again, betting on Peyton Manning isn’t a bad way to go either.
(Feel free to vote on this issue in the poll to the left)
Quantcast