The Curtis Painter Situation

At least he has long, flowing locks... He looks like Sunshine from Remember the Titans

Just like you, I wish the Colts had a solid, veteran, backup QB who could step in and run the offense if Peyton Manning (gasp!) ever suffered a serious injury.  Instead, the Colts have Curtis Painter.  Here are Painter’s numbers in 2 regular season appearances:

  •  8-28 (28.6 completion %)
  • 83 yards (2.96 ypa)
  • 0 TD’s
  • 2 INT’s, 1 lost fumble
  • 9.8 QB rating.

Yikes.  However, rather than bemoan the fact that the Colts have arguably the worst producing backup QB in the league, I have accepted it, and here are the reasons why: The first reason is obvious:  We have Peyton Manning, who has started 227 consecutive regular + post season games for the Colts.  To my knowledge, he has missed one meaningful snap in his entire career – in a 2001 game against the Miami Dolphins, Manning broke his jaw and came out for one play.  During that play, backup QB Mark Rypien lost a fumble (sound familiar?), and the Dolphins drove for the game winning score.  But I digress.  The Colts’ front office has bought into the notion that Peyton Manning is indestructable; thus, have placed a low priority on who his backup is.  And I’m okay with this.  (Not to mention – most good backup QB’s don’t want to come to Indy, since they know they’ll never play.)

The second reason is cost.  The Colts have a philosophy of paying top dollar to a few elite players (Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea, Dallas Clark, etc.) while filling out the rest of their roster with bargain contracts, rookies, and some leftovers. No team has a more top-heavy salary cap than the Indianapolis Colts; therefore, they simply don’t have enough money to bring in a quality backup QB.  Curtis Painter is on the books in 2011 for a measly $480,000.  How does that stack up against the rest of the league?  The most recent figures I found were from 2008, but the average salary for an NFL backup QB is aproximately $1.7Million.  Quality backups (like Billy Volek and Jon Kitna) can cost upwards of $3-4Million dollars. No thanks. Besides – Jon Kitna played out of his mind last season as Tony Romo’s replacement, and the Cowboys went 5-6 with him as their QB.  In 2008, Matt Cassel accounted for nearly 4,000 yards and 23 TD’s for the Patriots when Tom Brady was injured – yet the team missed the playoffs.  For elite teams, backup QB’s are overrated. The third and final reason is the simple fact that the Colts don’t look for a backup QB who can win them games.  It may sound counter-intuitive, but they have higher priorities for their backup QB. Do you think the front office kept Jim Sorgi around for 6 years because he’d be able to step in and win 10 games if Peyton Manning went down?  Of course not; and we are seeing the same situation play out with Curtis Painter.   My guess is that Painter knows the Colts’ system better than any outside QB the Colts could bring in.  This allows him to act as a 2nd quarterbacks’ coach or offensive coordinator during practices and training camp (especially important when Manning isn’t participating in camp).  He can make the line calls, the audibles, and the hot-routes to keep our O-Line, RB’s, and WR’s up to speed during practices, whether it’s with the 1st team or 2nd team. Painter can also help Peyton Manning with his film studies, and we all know how important Peyton’s film studies are.  So who cares if Painter can’t execute on the field?  We don’t need him to!  As long as he has a firm grasp on the team’s playbook, and at least some physical ability to execute during practice , he’ll remain as the Colts’ backup QB, whether we like it or not.  It will undoubtedly lead to some painful preseason games (and meaningless regular season games), but as long as Peyton Manning stays healthy, keeping a guy like Curtis Painter is what’s best for the team.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.