Snuggle in kids, Uncle Jake is gonna tell you a bedtime story. It’s neither a fairy tale, nor a pending nightmare, and it has some bizarre characters throughout. We won’t yet know if it has a happy ending, but you can take comfort in the fact that kids all over the country have heard a similar tale. Your cousins in Chicago know it by heart. Your pen pals in Miami know the story far better than their fathers. Your camp friends from Minnesota? This is their ground hog day!
Yes, kids. You, too are now living in NFL QB purgatory.
The story begins in 1984. Your beloved Colts arrived on the Mayflower and landed on the rock called Fall Creek Elementary School.
I’m serious, kids. The school had just closed and the Colts had escaped the tyranny of no taxation for a new stadium in their old land. They did not have time to search for an adequate home. So, a vacant school it was.
But, Hey! Focus, kids! We’re doing a story here!
The Colts are a football team, you see, and they arrived in their new home with a trio of quarterbacks to unleash from their stable. Mike Pagel was the former 4th round pick who’d played at the school, Arizona State, once coached by Head Coach Frank Kush. Pagel was joined by the safest bet to start, former Ohio State prodigy Art Schlichter, as well as local hero Mark Herrmann, who won a basketball title at Carmel High and 3 Bowl game MVPs at Purdue.
How’d they acquire Herrmann, you ask? Well- for recent draftee John Elway, but we don’t talk about that. We want sweet dreams, after all!
Here was the thing, youngsters- None of these Quarterbacks were able to seize the starting job with any consistency- so, guess what? The Colts were appropriately named, because every fall they took us on the same ride of the ol’ football carousel.
Pagel and Schlichter tossed around the job- with Hermann getting some games here and there- those first two years, with some interloper names Matt Kofler getting a 1985 start, as well.
The rotation cost Kush his job, and new boss Rod Dowhower was blessed in 1986 with a promising rookie from Illinois named Jack Trudeau, who was to be groomed by journeyman Gary Hogeboom . However, over the next 2 seasons Trudeau started 19 games to Hogeboom’s 11, with another local hero, Blair Kiel of nearby Columbus, making one as well.
None of it was enough to save Dowhower’s job, who was replaced on a permanent basis by Ron Meyer. A strike plagued season gave the Colts a 1987 divisional title. You see, kids, some of those Hogeboom starts came against “replacement players” no one had heard of, so he looked like Johnny Unitas!
But, you’re just kids. I don’t expect you to understand strikes and picket lines and scabs. Not until baseball season, at least. But- back to our story!
Ron Meyer had the luxury of a hot shot rookie named Chris Chandler, but Trudeau and Hogeboom kept hanging around. Meyer coached Jim Irsay at SMU, where they ran a wish bone offense, so one day they decided to reunite the band! Yep! Meyer and Irsay corralled a former SMU running stallion named Eric Dickerson, then courted a former college wish bone quarterback to run that system for the Colts.
I’m not lying, kids! Pulled Ricky Turner off a concrete truck in Washington State then had him trying to cement a running game by making pitches to Dickerson. It worked for a game or two, but eventually they handed the reigns back to Chandler. That pesky Trudeau was still making his claim as a starter, along with some guy named Tom Ramsey who got 1989’s Matt Kofler award.
“Hey’ I’m Tom Ramsey, and, I, too, was a Colts starting QB!”
The fortunes seemingly changed when the Colts got the first selection in the 1990 NFL Draft- their first #1 overall opportunity since they took that Elway guy. They were poised to select another hometown hero, Warren Central’s Jeff George. In their infinite wisdom, they opted to trade their best lineman, their best receiver and a future #1 for the man with a million dollar arm. No one said NFL Purgatory had an intelligence requirement!
Saddled by a combination of multiple Coordinators, head coaching changes, and Bob Irsay auctioning play calls from the owner’s suite, George never got his footing. Trudeau picked up the occasional slack, and – Hey!- Mark Herrmann was back just in time to be cut the day after winning his only start in 1992.
George was traded to Atlanta- the team who originally gave the Colts the 1990 #1 pick, and who would later go to the Super Bowl with- gasp! Chris Chandler!
I know you’re getting drowsy kids, and these are a lot of names- but we’re almost done! Well- for a few decades at least!
In 1994, they played “Weekend at Bernie’s” with a former Packer named Don Majikowski, then kicked the tires on Browning Nagle. The Colts handed things over to former Bear Jim Harbaugh, and ‘Captain Comeback’ looked like the franchise finally had an answer!
Only ten years after the Mayflowers!
As Harbaugh started to slide, Lindy Infante, who mysteriously took over for the fired Ted Marchibroda, went to ‘sure thing ‘ Paul Justin after the assumed heir apparent, Craig Erickson, flamed out. Eventually, underdog Kelly Holcomb got a shot.
Finally- in 1998, the Colts drafted a guy named Peyton Manning.
You know what happened there! But the carousel of NFL Purgatory is incestuous, you see. Its riders hop around and the bedtime stories start to overlap.
Like the Houston Oilers. Their carousel once had a guy named Oliver Luck, who babysat for the kids of his fellow QB, Archie Manning. That Peyton guy? He was one of Archie’s kids and was eventually replaced in the Colts carousel by Oliver’s son, Andrew. Andrew played at Stanford, for Jim Harbaugh, and when he replaced Peyton Manning, Manning found a new boss- John Elway, who’d played at Stanford as well.
At any rate, Luck got dizzy on the carousel, and, for the 6th straight season since, the Colts will have a brand new quarterback starting in week one. Unless that Hermann guy comes back, I guess.
You see, kids? This is nothing new in the NFL. It’s actually the norm. You’ve just been too young and spoiled in this town to understand. No one knows how long you stay in purgatory, or how fast the carousel spins. You just hope the next rider doesn’t throw up like the last guy, who came & Wentz before the music started.
Sleep tight, kids and be sure to say your prayers. Or else tomorrow I’ll tell you the Browns’ story.
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