INDIANAPOLIS – Anthony Richardson walks into the NFL as one of the most inexperienced drafted quarterbacks of all time, let alone after being chosen in the first round.
Richardson turned 21 years old last week.
The age indicates he is in the infant stages of consuming alcohol legally, but his on-field resume asks even more of a question pertinent to the future of the Colts.
It’s 13 games of college experience that Richardson brings into the NFL.
And that puts him on a list of first-round drafted quarterbacks with a small amount of college experience, (without a ton of NFL fanfare).
The following QBs had less than 20 college starts, but still ended up being drafted in Round 1, like Richardson: Trey Lantz, Mac Jones, Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Mitchell Trubisky, Ryan Tannehill.
So that has the Colts in a major dilemma on how/when to give Richardson the keys to the franchise.
Do you sit him in Year One, like Patrick Mahomes did? Although Mahomes started 32 games in college.
Or do you toss him into the fire right away, a la Peyton Manning? And, for what it’s worth, Manning started 45 collegiate games.
Another aspect to playing Richardson is to put him into some major NFL environments, and exposure to what 4th quarter life is like at this level.
Yes, Richardson played in the premier conference of college football. But he also played on a .500 football team, and didn’t play in Florida’s bowl game. So, it’s hard to project how Richardson will react in games when more of those pressure-packed moments arise.
Those in the camp of wanting Richardson to sit, and grow through practice reps, might not have an accurate view of how practices operate during an NFL regular season.
In-season practices are Wednesday-Friday, with a lighter session on Friday. As a reserve QB though, Richardson wouldn’t be repping the ‘Colts offense’ in practice. He’d be serving a scout team role, trying to give Indy’s starting defense the look for that upcoming opponent. Starting QB Gardner Minshew would need to take close to all the starting reps in practice to prepare for that week’s game.
So you are missing out on practice chances for Richardson to run the Colts system for long moments in practice, unlike what he will be able to do in training camp.
Others wanting to pull back a bit on starting Richardson in Week 1 against the Jaguars have pushed for easing the rookie into game reps.
Could Richardson begin his NFL career in more of a change of pace role for Minshew, playing primarily in short-yardage or when some red-zone chances arise?
Is this catering too much to Richardson’s strengths? Would it restrict him from being exposed to the more uncomfortable settings of a total game?
In the immediacy of drafting Richardson, both Shane Steichen and Jim Irsay sounded like individuals more in-line of the ‘play early’ thought process.
“With anything, I think the development of players comes with more experience,” Steichen said. “13 starts, I think when you play more, that’s how you develop. With him playing and his experience as a player and getting more reps, practice reps, game reps, I think that’s how you develop.”
“You get better by playing,” Irsay added. “Practice and preseason games and watching in the quarterback room is great, but you get better by playing.
“It’s really important because, again, his development adds so much of a key to the franchise’s future. It’s the critical key. Everyone knows that him developing into an outstanding, great player in this league is going to determine where we go and how far we go and how long we go with excellence.’’
Irsay is spot on with that comment.
This season can’t be viewed in a light of “starting Minshew gives the Colts a better chance at winning 2 or 3 more games.” The first thought for this season has to be what needs to be done to begin the necessary development of Richardson.
Obviously, given the experience of the two quarterbacks, Minshew should be deemed more ‘ready’ to start Week 1. But if the reason Richardson isn’t ready is because of a lack of playing time, then the 21-year-old needs to be under center.
Even Minshew knows the benefit of starting as a rookie, as he got 12 starts in his first NFL season.
“The thing about quarterback, I think one of the only ways to get better is to play it,” the now 4-year NFL vet says. “So getting that experience is huge. Going out there, seeing looks, feeling the speed, that’s something you really can’t replicate in any other way. It’s huge just getting any type of experience, any type of game snaps is really, really important.”
Before wins and losses are debated for this 2023 Colts season, Richardson’s development is the most important aspect, as unusual as that might sound.
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