Colts QB steps out of shadows

September 3, 2010
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One of the biggest decisions Indianapolis Colts Coach Jim Caldwell has in front of him this weekend is whether to keep two quarterbacks on the roster or three. And if he decides to keep just two, does he keep Curtis Painter or Tom Brandstater?

And if he keeps three, is Brandstater or Painter the No. 2 guy?

There’s a pretty good case for keeping Brandstater, and after the Colts’ final pre-season game last night at Lucas Oil Stadium, it looks like the youngster from California should be the back-up behind No. 18.

The Colts have at times kept just one true QB behind future hall-of-famer Peyton Manning to free up a roster spot for another position. But with Jim Sorgi gone and Painter’s performance inconsistent (I’m being kind here), Caldwell might want to think about keeping Brandstater, a Fresno State grad and Denver Broncos cast-off.

For the handful of people who stayed for the entire Colts game last night, Brandstater looked pretty impressive in the exhibition against the Cincinnati Bengals. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns. But more importantly he had a presence on the field that Painter has never shown.

Brandstater consistently found open receivers, and exhibited poise and confidence that had a few in the stands wondering if this guy could really run the Colts offense if Manning (gasp!) went down with an injury. During a late-game two-point conversion, Brandstater had to check down to a fourth receiver before getting the ball into the end zone. That’s not easy for a veteran, let alone a guy who has scarcely seen any action in one NFL season.

Also consider that Painter has had well over a year to come to grips with the Colts offense, Brandstater just more than two months. Painter completed barely 50 percent of his passes this pre-season playing mostly with first and second stringers, while Brandstater completed 66 percent of his passes playing with guys who will be working back down at the loading dock next week.

When it comes to Colts President Bill Polian, it’s always about a cost-benefit analysis.

Now I don’t want to get ahead of myself on the benefit side, but Brandstater, who turns 26 on Oct. 21, could be (could be!) the first guy on the Colts roster who has a legitimate chance of some day replacing the 34-year-old Manning. That’s likely four or five seasons away. And Brandstater would have to prove he could do what he did last night on a consistent basis against No. 1 defenses. That's no small mountain to scale.

Still, Brandstater looks like he could be a very nice insurance policy. And wouldn’t it be nice if the Colts win their first 14 games again, that they actually have a legitimate shot at an undefeated season when Caldwell and Polian decide to rest Manning.

So what’s the cost?

About $400,000 for the Colts this year. That’s not much of the Colts $130 million player payroll. Denver drafted Brandstater in the sixth round, and signed him to a four-year, $1.6 million deal, with a $124,000 signing bonus. He would have earned an additional $2.285 million through final-year escalators. The Colts wouldn’t have to worry about that right now, but if he’s as good as I think he could be (and I’m not alone here) the Colts will eventually have to pay up to retain him.

So why did the Broncos ax Brandstater? Simple; Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn acquisitions. In the end, keeping those two high-profile signal callers of questionable ability could look pretty unwise if Brandstater pans out as well as some scouts think he could.

Brandstater is low cost and has at least moderate, if not high, potential. Sounds like Polian’s type of guy—at least for now.

  • He's always been a winner.
    Pat Hill recruited Tom out of his HS where he played defensive safety and an option QB. He was noted for his defensive play, not his QB skills.

    Pat converted him to a prostyle QB and Tom had 4 defensive OC's in 4 years at FSU. He had to learn 4 schemes in 4 years.

    Pat always said Tom could read defenses and he was tough as nails. He has always risen to the top no matter where he has played. He has always been a leader. He was working on his masters degreee when he left FSU.

    Josh made some very important changes in Tom's game last year. What I saw last year in the 4th preseason game against AZ I had never seen Tom do. He looked unbelievably comfortable in the pocket and I thought played very well. Josh was even gushing over him after the game.

    With all of the injuries Denver had I thought he was going to start the 1st game, but he didn't and the rest is history.

    He has always been a gamer. Doesn't always look pretty, but he will take shots to deliver the ball.

    I would bet he would be like a sponge under Payton. I would bet you have a real winner that nobody has paid attention to. Yes, I'm biased, but it seems like the game is really slowing down for him.

    Pat told Ryan Mathews to go out and run on his proday even thought he had it made. He told Ryan basically you need to show them you can do it every day. Let your ability be how they judge you. Tom did that yesterday in spades. He has made it tough on Colts management. That's the way he was taught by Pat Hill.
  • Forgot a detail
    I forgot to add now that he is learning the Colts offense it means he will have learned 6 offenses in 6 years. I would say that speaks for itself.
  • I am thinking you are being way to premature. While he looked good on some plays, he looked downright lost and pitiful on the first drive. He was playing against Cincy's 3rd string. I am thinking it is way to early to be thinking second stringer, let alone Peytons replacement. For one thing, he will be 30 or 31 when Peyton is ready to retire. Close to retirement himself, and all without a real start. I am thinking Peytons replacement is playing high school JV ball right now and we will see Polian pull him out of a draft in 3 or 4 years. Polian likes to build players, not try to convert them.

    As far as number 2 or 3 on the depth chart, I am not sure that is a big deal, because if they are having to call the #2 guy off the bench in a meaningful game, the season is probably over for us. Painter had some good tosses and his receivers made some incredible drops. Sure some of that could be Painters fault, but without seeing Painter and Brandstater playing with the first string against a first string defense, I do not think any of us arm chairs will know which is better. But I am betting Polian and Caldwell already have seen it in practice and know who is better.
  • Whachu Talkin' About?!
    Peyton's playin' until he's 45 at least!
  • any but Painter....
    ...would be an improvment. I dont know if Brandstater is a future starter or just a clipboard holder but at least he wouldnt be Painter who has proven in regular / preseason games that he has no business on an NFL roster.
  • I think Painter Haters are the new fad.

    Of course that is the same thing people said about Sorgi and he hung around for 5 years?

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