Colts lack QB insurance

November 4, 2008
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manningWatching the Dallas Cowboys struggle recently under the leadership of back up quarterback Brad Johnson and the Pittsburgh Steelers flourish behind second-stringer Byron Leftwich during the second half of their game last night has me wondering if the Indianapolis Colts have enough insurance behind Peyton Manning.

Earlier this year, the Colts took a pass on several veteran quarterbacks on the market, staying instead with seldom used Jim Sorgi. Unlike the Cowboys, the Colts don’t even have a third string QB on the roster to turn to if times get really rough. For the Colts, this is a calculated risk that is as much about economics as playing the odds. Manning hasn’t missed a start since 1998, and Colts President Bill Polian has decided not to sink a lot of money into a back-up.

But watching the Cowboys, who clearly put their stock in Tony Romo going the distance, has made Colts followers wonder if the team would take a similar free fall without Manning, who looks more physically human than ever this year.

Spending more on a second-string quarterback doesn’t guarantee success. Sorgi, who will make $760,000 this year, is a relative bargain. The Cowboys are paying Brad Johnson $2.8 million. There’s a good argument the aging Johnson is less competent than Sorgi.

But there are bargains out there to ensure that a Manning injury wouldn’t necessarily wipe out the season. The Steelers grabbed such a bargain in 28-year-old Leftwich, a former first round draft pick from Marshall. Leftwich earlier this year signed a one-year $605,000 deal to join the Steelers. Because he signed for a minimum exception, the deal will count only $445,000 against the Steelers salary cap.

If starter Ben Roethlisberger can’t go this Sunday when Pittsburgh hosts the Colts, we will find out first-hand just what kind of a bargain the Steelers got.
  • The Cowboys were not that great even with Romo. What are the bargains out there? Leftwich has a history of inconsistancy. That's why he's not at J-ville. Sorgi has looked fairly decent when he plays with the first string. Plus, when Sorgi goes in, they change their play sets. Less play action and more shotgon schemes with greater protection. Worst case, they have Hunter hand off the ball to Rhodes for a series or two. And, the least of the Colts concerns are QB. They need a couple huge D-line guys to put middle pressure and clog the run.
  • Easier said than done. With the salary cap, most teams opt to have a mediocre player as the QB backup and hope for the best. Name 10 or 15 teams that have better backup QBs than Indy. PM has been rock solid in terms of toughness, not that that couldn't change in one play, but he doesn't have a history of getting gimpy. Finally, who is out there on the street that you'd suggest we pick up?
  • Jeff George is available. Ha. Well, Chris Carter seemed to think he'd do pretty well as a back-up, anyway.
  • Anthony, who is out there? Please name a few. The Colts have looked at several QBs but they were unable to learn the complicated Colts offense.
  • Lance, you ask a good question. I think you have to look at Bill Polian's tendencies over a number of years, not just this year. He has consistently decided to save money and stay with the unproven Sorgi, who for all I know if given the reins of the Colts first-team for a prolonged period of time, might do just great. But I think that's an awfully big question mark. Kerry Collins is the most obvious right now. I could name the likes of Byron Leftwich and Daunte Culpepper, who were available this year, but I also realize these may be guys looking to become a No. 1 somewhere in relative short order. But Collins signed with the Titans initially as No. 3 on the depth charts in 2006. As far as I know the Colts never seriously sniffed much at guys like Collins or even Chris Sims who have at least a little more of a track record than Sorgi. If the Colts think Jim Sorgi is a guy who can lead the team if the need arises, fine. If not, as Peyton gets older, I just think they might have to think about changing their back-up QB strategy, and placing a little more of an investment there.

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