Colts Weren’t Willing to See Anthony Richardson Become a Superstar Somewhere Else
The NFL Scouting Combine was Anthony Richardson’s coming out party. The former Florida Gators quarterback dazzled everyone in Indianapolis when he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash and recorded a record-setting 40’5″ vertical leap. In addition, Richardson posted the best measurables among all quarterbacks at the combine.
Richardson came into the combine with the quarterback with the most to gain (or lose) in Indianapolis. A physical freak with questions about his NFL readiness and completeness has presented pundits with a tough case to evaluate. So, it was fitting that he put on a show in Indianapolis, where his salivating shed of tools will be tested this season after being selected fourth overall by the Indianapolis Colts at the NFL Draft in Kansas City.
We don’t know if Richardson’s tools will translate to the next level. However, Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard said last week that it will be in Indianapolis if they do. The Colts, who have been searching for their next great quarterback since Andrew Luck’s abrupt and premature retirement, weren’t willing to let Anthony Richardson become a superstar somewhere else.
“I didn’t want to look up and watch him be a superstar somewhere else,” Ballard said. “If he’s gonna be a superstar, he’s gonna be a superstar for the Colts.”
Ballard said something similar to Peter King in last week’s Football Morning in America column: “I would rather take the risk, the risk that he might fail, than pass on him and see him become a star somewhere else.”
Also interesting from that FMIA column is that Peter King said that Chris Ballard has known “for about a month” that the Colts would take Anthony Richardson at No. 4 if he was available on April 27. The Colts were resolute in their work on Richardson and committed to the future, regardless of the risk. I respect the hell out of that and want to see it work out for them for that reason alone.
As a Bears fan who has spent the last two years watching every Justin Fields snap with near nauseating nervousness — because this franchise has been starved for elite quarterback play far longer than a team like the Colts, who have been graced with the presence of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in my lifetime — this quote from Chris Ballard stuck out to me:
“I’ve told our guys here: Anthony might have some games where he’s 9 of 22 for 105 yards. But in the game, he’ll run 10 times for 115 yards. It just might look different for a while.”
Context matters, and we’ve beat that drum ad nauseam here for a while now. Justin Fields, who came out of Ohio State as a prospect with a freakishly athletic profile and a cannon for an arm, has put up plenty of those box scores in his first two seasons in Chicago. Anyone who has watched those performances closely shares the same opinion, in one capacity or another: the development has been clear, and the ceiling for Fields is high. This might be the type of path that Anthony Richardson takes in the NFL. So, I’ll caution Colts fans now; be patient!
The big question is, when do the Colts begin the learning process for Richardson?
The Bears made a half-hearted attempt to have Justin Fields learn behind veteran QB Andy Dalton in 2021. Of course, that might have resulted from a GM and head coach trying to save their jobs. Either way, it wasn’t the start that Bears fans wanted. Justin Fields’ first NFL start was not successful as the Cleveland Browns welcomed him with nine sacks.
The debate regarding whether or not to play a rookie quarterback has raged on for some time. There are examples to support the argument on both sides of the coin. Zach Wilson started for the Jets in Week 1 of his rookie season. He completed just 55 percent of his passes, threw more interceptions than touchdowns, and is now the understudy of Aaron Rodgers in New York.
Objectively, that has been a failed experiment in the Big Apple.
On the other side, you have Patrick Mahomes as the No. 1 modern-day “wait on it” case study. Mahomes played in one game as a rookie in 2017. Then, in 2018, Mahomes took over as the starter in Kansas City. He threw for 50 touchdowns and led the Chiefs to an overtime loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC title game. The rest is history (in the making).
As for Richardson, there’s no timeline. Yet, anyway.
“We gotta get him in here and see where he is,” Chris Ballard said. “We don’t know. He turns 21 this month. He’s so young still. Let us figure out what he can handle before making any decisions. But there’s not many people who can do what he does. When [Colts chief personnel executive] Morocco Brown watched him, he came back and told me: ‘I’m watching this kid in practice, and I’m drooling.'”
Drooling is an excellent way to describe how most of us feel when watching Richardson. The ceiling is sky-high, and the thought of what Richardson is capable of if he can put it all together is compelling. Chris Ballard hedged his future as the Colts’ GM on it. If it pays off, he’ll be set for life. If it doesn’t, he’ll be out of a job. Richardson’s potential is so great, Ballard wasn’t only willing to take that swing, he wasn’t ready to watch someone else do it.
Colts’ head coach Shane Steichen says that Richardson has “come in every day attacking this thing like a pro (via JJ Stankevitz)
“He’s come in every day attacking this thing like a pro,” Steichen said over the weekend. “He’s got a great presence,” Steichen said … he’s got a great bounce in his step, he’s always smiling, got great energy, enthusiastic. I think when you have that, I think players around him will feed off him.”
Time will tell if Richardson can meet his lofty expectations, but he’s the QB of the future in Indianapolis for the time being. For Colts fans, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about that.