A few days ago, during ESPN's show 'On the Clock,' Mel Kiper Jr. and Trent Dilfer had this to say about the Colts.
Dilfer: "There has never been a team with more flaws covered up by a quarterback."
Kiper: "But I think what you look at with the Indianapolis Colts team, where would they be without Peyton? Picking one, two, three, four [overall] clearly. Trent, Where would they be?"
Dilfer: "You're right, definitely the top seven."
Kiper: "They'd be one of the worst teams in the NFL without Peyton Manning, No. 18."
I respect Kiper (Dilfer not so much) and value his opinion when it comes to the draft. However, on this exchange, they are wrong.
No doubt Peyton is the engine that makes the Colts go. He is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. But there are a lot of guys in the Colts locker room who would take great offense to comments above.
Football, after all, is a team game, and Peyton Manning doesn't play defense. Plus, you can't tell me that the Colts' 115 regular season wins in a decade—the most in the history of the NFL—were all because of Peyton.
Even the great Mr. Manning has an off day or two every now and again, right?
The following slides are of Colts players who deserve a little more respect.
Surprised I started with a kicker?
Don't be. Mr. Vinatieri is the Peyton Manning of kickers.
- 2 Pro Bowl selections (2002, 2004)
- 2 All-Pro selections (2002, 2004)
- 4-time Super Bowl champion (3 with the Pats, 1 with the Colts)
- A member of the 2000s NFL All-Decade team
- 11th on the all-time list for field goals made
- Most postseason field goals in a carer with 42
- Most points in a postseason career with 187
- Most field goals in Super Bowls with 7
- 12-time AFC special teams player of the week
- 82.7 life time average field goal percentage
But he's just OK, right?
Did Dilfer and Kiper forget about Dwight Freeney?
He's only been:
- a 6-time Pro Bowl selection (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010)
- a 3-time first team All-Pro selection (2004, 2005, 2009)
- a 1-time second team All-Pro selection (2003)
- Super Bowl champion
- the all-time Colts' sack leader with 90 sacks
- the NFL's 2004 sack leader with 16
- the 2005 AFC Defensive Player of the Year
- a member of the NFL's All-Decade team
Hmmm...to recap: We've covered three players so far (including Peyton), and all three are members of the NFL's all-decade team.
How do the Colts fare when it comes to tight ends?
I would say they are doing just fine with Dallas Clark leading the way.
In Dallas's eight-year career he was racked up several awards himself including:
- Football Digest's NFL all rookie-team honors
- 1 Pro Bowl selection (2009)
- 1 All-Pro selection (2009)
- A Super Bowl championship
- NFL Alumni Tight End Player of the Year (2009)
I can think of about 31 other teams who would love to trot Clark out with their first team lineup.
Plus, when Clark went down, Jacob Tamme stepped up with 67 catches in eight games, leading NFL tight ends in receptions during that span. Not bad for a backup.
When Peyton isn't splitting the seams to Clark, he is usually looking to Reggie Wayne.
Playing behind the great Marvin Harrison (another Colt who made the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team), Wayne worked to master his craft. And since Harrison's retirement in 2008, Wayne has blossomed into one of league's best receivers year-in and year-out.
- 5-time Pro Bowl selection (2006-2010)
- 3-time All-Pro selection (2007, 2009, 2010)
- Super Bowl champion
- 775 receptions for 10,640 yards and 68 receiving touchdowns
Catching passes thrown by Peyton Manning has certainly inflated his Hall of Fame-worthy stats. Nevertheless, Wayne has more than proven he is an elite WR.
Opposing quarterbacks already hated playing the Colts because of Dwight Freeney alone. Imagine their horror when Robert Mathis burst on to the scene?
Since his ascension as an elite defensive end, the pair of Mathis and Freeney has been absolutely devastating.
Freeney might be the more acclaimed star, but his partner in crime isn't doing too poorly either thanks to:
- 3 Pro Bowl selections (2008-2010)
- A Super Bowl championship
- 74 sacks and 36 forced fumbles
Not bad for a guy who plays second fiddle.
Gary Brackett might be unheralded and might not gain the attention he deserves, but there is little doubt that the Colts' middle linebacker is one of the elite at his position.
Need more proof? Just ask Colts owner Jim Irsay, who made resigning Brackett a priority, rewarding the nine-year pro with a five-year, $33 million dollar deal.
In the six seasons since assuming the starting role, Brackett has recorded 637 tackles (or a little over 106 per year). Not bad for a guy who went undrafted and was considered too small and slow for the NFL.
Two NFL All-Decade honors, eight All-Pros and 17 Pro Bowl selections (only counting the guys previously mentioned) seems like a fairly talented bunch.
That doesn't even cover Peyton's awards and honors (a list as long as most NFL teams combined).
But such accolades only cover the established veterans.
What about recognizing the Colts' receiving corps, which is one of the deepest in the league with Austin Collie (who, until he was hurt, was one of the statistical best receivers in the league) and Pierre Garcon? Or even the oft-injured but talented Anthony Gonzalez?
How about Joe Addai? He's easily a top 15 back in his own right.
On the defensive side of the ball, what about the secondary with young rising stars Jacob Lacey and Jerraud Powers? Throw Kelvin Hayden and Pro-Bowler Antoine Bethea, and the Colts have one of the best young secondaries in football.
Sure, the Colts rely heavily on Manning. But don't all teams rely on their stars? Doesn't the Miami Heat rely on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade? And the Lakers with Kobe? Are the Penguins a competitive team without Sidney Crosby? Do the San Francisco Giants win without Tim Lincecum? Barcelona without Lionel Messi? What about the Packers? Could they have even made the playoffs with Matt Flynn leading the charge?
Saying the Colts aren't a good team without Peyton Manning is like saying a bicycle isn't as good with only one wheel. Duuh. Even still, it misses the point, because the Colts do have talent.
Maybe the Colts aren't the deepest team, but how many teams could overcome the rash of injuries the Colts did and remain competitive? Nobody said riding a unicycle was easy, but it's definitely not impossible.
Mr. Kiper, I value your opinion. On this issue however, you are wrong. I would take a Peytonless Colts over a healthy Carolina, Denver, Buffalo, Cincinnati or Arizona any day.