Despite breaking away from the team’s tradition of refusing to add helpful players in Free Agency, have the Colts done as much as they reasonably could have to improve their team’s chances of success in 2011?
Notable pick-ups include the likes of Tommie Harris, Jamaal Anderson, Ernie Simms, and Kerry Collins.
Anthony Costanzo and Ben Ijalana (drafted in the first and second rounds respectively) have been added to help protect the team’s billion-dollar investment.
Though Manning’s awareness and ability to utilize a quick release resulted in him becoming the least sacked quarterback of 2010 (sacked only 16 times), the Colts offensive line was one of the worst the National Football League had to offer; often providing Manning under two seconds to stand upright in the pocket before his frightened remains were thrown to the turf.
While the Colts sported the number-one passing offense of 2010 (averaging 288.1 yards per-game), Pierre Garcon’s 784 receiving yards were good enough to rank second on a team that moved up and down the field a lot.
Injuries to Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, and Austin Collie forced the Colts to turn to late-round draft picks and undrafted practice squad players in an effort to remain competitive.
Jacob Tamme impressed me with efforts in relief of the injured Dallas Clark.
Blair White did not; and it’s the wide receiver position in particular that the Colts stood to benefit from not only in 2010, but in 2009 as well.
True to their tradition, the Colts refused to “fix what ain’t broken” and instead depended upon Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garcon to step up and take the place of former Colts’ great Marvin Harrison.
That’s never even come close to happening.
Though Manning seems to throw for 4,500+ yards in his sleep, his ability to distribute production has masked the Colts deprivation of consistent playmakers.
Reggie Wayne has been, but Dallas Clark has only surpassed the 850-yard mark once in his eight year career, and Pierre Garcon is yet to crack 800 yards receiving.
2011 appears to be another year (provided Manning can remain healthy) where the Colts passing offense promises to be productive, but less dangerous than they could be if the team had made greater efforts in the offseason to address a receiving corps that cumulatively, is not nearly as talented as their quarterback’s total production would seem to indicate.
Too many oft-injured parts and too much distribution of production to justify a reliable and consistent number-two option for Manning to turn to.
Terrell Owens could be that option.
Coming off perhaps the most impressive season a 36 year-old receiver has ever had in the history of the NFL, a recovering, hungry Terrell Owens has all the motivation needed to succeed on a team like Indianapolis.
With the exception of Steve Young during the very early years of his career, Owens has never had the opportunity to be paired with a quarterback of Manning’s caliber.
And it’s never really mattered.
With Jeff “wobbles are my specialty” Garcia throwing him the football, T.O. became a multiple-time First Team All-Pro selection.
With Donovan “I struggle to throw for over 3,300 yards” McNabb, Owens helped instantly transform McNabb’s level of production while becoming the most dangerous receiver in the NFL and being selected First Team All-Pro again.
With Tony “I’ve never started an NFL game in my life” Romo, Owens thrived to become the most productive receiver in the history of the Dallas Cowboys; being selected First Team All-Pro with a third different quarterback.
Sure his 55 receptions for 829 yards and five touchdowns on a Bills team that ranked 30th in passing were nothing to drop your jaw at; but it’s hard to stay motivated knowing that even if your touchdown production doubled, you’d still have no chance at competing for a championship (the only thing left for Owens to accomplish anyway).
Only the uninformed will scoff at his 72 receptions for 983 yards and nine touchdowns in Cincinnati last year.
It’s easier to ignore the fact that he only started 11 games and played injured throughout the final quarter of the season. It’s easier to focus on his dropped passes while ignoring the fact that Owens played part of 2010 with a broken hand.
Prior to injury against the Jets in week twelve, Owens was on pace to have a 2001-esque season.
That is, if you take a moment to do the math (as I did):
Owens (2001): 93 receptions for 1,412 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Owens (2010): 99 receptions for 1,435 yards and 13 touchdowns.
I guess he had a “pretty good year” with All-World quarterback Carson Palmer throwing him the ball within the scheme of the Bengals’ cerebral and calculated passing attack.
Try this one on for size: how productive would Owens have been with Peyton Manning throwing him the football in 2010?
Remember those extremely productive Jerry Rice-like years Marvin Harrison had from 1999-2002, when he often seemed like the only quality target Manning had to turn to?
Imagine if a younger Owens (with no broken hands) had the opportunity to play with Manning during an era where he would have been both Manning’s number-one and number-two target to throw to?
The production could have been unreal.
But this is 2011, and this is about the Colts making the team better for this season.
In 2010, the Colts receiving corps was built of glass and it seemed like whether your name was Wayne, Clark, Garcon, Collie, or Gonzalez, missing time due to injury was a prerequisite.
With Austin Collie heading into 2011 with concussion-related concerns (in the event that he were to sustain another), why not add some depth beyond Blair White to a receiving corps that collectively could really stand to improve?
Owens may not be ready for opening weekend; and that’s fine.
It usually takes the Colts a week or two to begin their tradition of adding to the team injury report anyway.
Owens has played for contracts well beneath his level of production in years past, so I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of reason to assume that he would jump at the chance to join a team that would actually give him an opportunity to accomplish the only left for him to accomplish.
Win a Super Bowl.
Had the Colts strolled into Super Bowl XLIV with Terrell Owens in the starting lineup, they might be saying “Peyton Manning, dat’s who” in New Orleans instead of “Who dat?”.
How many times will the Colts insist on beating themselves in the back of the head just because?
I’ve yet to see anyone substantiate an argument as to how the Colts would have been worse with Terrell Owens in 2009 or 2010; and I’m sure the same will be the case this year.
Low dollar one-year contracts provide little risk when the upside is obtaining the services of the second most productive receiver in NFL history.
Allow Owens to heal up through the first few games of the season and in the event that your number-two receiver is either injured (nah, that would never happen in Indianapolis) or on-pace to produce at a mediocre level, throw Owens (who was on pace to put up All-Pro caliber numbers with a terrible team last year) into the starting lineup to catch passes from the most productive quarterback in NFL history.
If something goes wrong, they could just cut him; a would-be idiotic move that I would dare the Colts organization to try to justify if it ever reached that point.
Oh yeah, I’m sure that a potential “Manning to Owens” passing combination would never promote further ticket sales, television ratings, and the sale of team merchandise.
The National Football League is not a business after all, so what value would additional team revenue and stimulated fan-interest bring to an organization allergic to profits?
If I were the Colts and I aspired to not be one-and-done again in the postseason, I’d seriously consider making a move to acquire a playmaker that could improve the team's chances of success.
That is unless of course, anything short of winning the Super Bowl has become completely acceptable in Indianapolis.
Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report.
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