Colts bring in Scott Tolzien as latest insurance policy for Andrew Luck
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 14, 2016) –Like Matt Hasselbeck, Scott Tolzien isn’t here to appreciate the workmanship of Andrew Luck.
He’s here for when Luck is incapacitated. He’s here to be a stopgap measure, a backup quarterback who can keep the Indianapolis Colts competitive until Luck returns.
The cost of the latest insurance policy: reportedly a two-year, $3.5 million contract that includes a $500,000 signing bonus.
When considering the 53-man roster, everyone not closely related to Tolzien hopes the only time he pulls on a helmet on game day is to mop up either when a game is in hand, or out of hand.
Luck not only replaced Peyton Manning as the face of the Colts in 2012, he mirrored Manning’s durability. He started the first 57 games of his career, including the playoffs. In his first 13 seasons, Manning missed just one snap due to injury and started all 208 regular-season games. He took every snap in 178 games and 12,712 of 13,136 overall.
For much of Manning’s career, the Colts gambled on him remaining upright. They seldom invested much in a capable backup, although it most be noted capable backups had little interest in coming to Indy. They realized not only did Manning rarely come out of game, he dominated repetitions in practice.
Consider some of Manning’s inexpensive and seldom-used understudies: Kelly Holcomb, Steve Walsh, Mark Rypien, Brock Huard. Jim Sorgi was No. 2 for six seasons, and proved more than adequate on the rare occasions the Colts rested Manning. In 16 games, he compiled an 89.9 passer rating with six touchdowns and one interception.
Overall, that flawed blueprint – hoping nothing happened to Manning – worked until it didn’t. When Manning’s neck issues forced him to miss 2011, the triumvirate of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky were at the controls of a 2-14 wreck.
Of course that ultimately led to the arrival of Luck as the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, but let’s not kid ourselves. A viable Plan B at the most influential position is critical.
In 2013, general manager Ryan Grigson finally decided it prudent to prepare for a worst-case scenario. Enter Hasselbeck. He signed a two-year, $7.25 million deal during the ’13 offseason, then re-upped in March 2015 with a one-year, $3 million contract.
Hasselbeck appeared in seven games and attempted 56 passes in 2013-14, but reality slapped the Colts across the face last season.
Luck suffered injuries to his ribs and his right shoulder early, forcing him to miss two games. He then sustained a lacerated kidney against Denver, knocking him out of the final seven games.
That led to Hasselbeck starting eight games. When his 40-year-old body finally said Enough! Josh Freeman started the regular-season finale.
The Colts failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, but Hasselbeck kept them relevant, which is every backup’s responsibility.
Now, that rests on the right arm of Tolzien.
The Colts certainly got younger at the position. Hasselbeck, who recently retired to take an analyst’s position with ESPN, had been the NFL’s oldest non-kicker. Tolzien is 28.
We’ll see if the Colts got better as well as younger at the position.
Tolzien has spent the past three seasons with Green Bay, but his sample size with the Packers is small: six games, two starts in ’13 that resulted in a loss and a tie. In a 27-13 loss to the New York Giants, he completed 24-of-34 passes for 339 yards, but suffered three interceptions. He started the next week against Minnesota – a 26-26 tie – and passed for 98 yards before being replaced by Matt Flynn.
Tolzien initially signed with San Diego in 2011 as an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin. He also spent time with the San Francisco 49ers before landing with the Packers.
The Colts had interest in Drew Stanton, who re-signed with Arizona, and Luke McCown, who stayed in New Orleans, before going with Tolzien.
It appeared the Freeman would head into the offseason as Luck’s projected backup. At the recent NFL Scouting Combine, coach Chuck Pagano noted the fluid nature of the roster, but added “we’re probably going to have Josh around to sit there and compete.’’
That changed when the team released Freeman earlier this month, which led to Tolzien’s acquisition.
“We felt Scott fit us on a number of levels,’’ Grigson said in a team release. “He is a young, highly intelligent, tough and driven individual who we feel possesses a lot of potential.’’