What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
With his tousled blond locks and his piercing blue eyes that matched the blue in the throwback Colts baseball cap he was wearing, Curtis Painter cut quite a GQ-type figure. The problem came when he traded the cap for the helmet.
Now, you may ask why would anybody give a damn about the second-string quarterback on a team that has Peyton Manning? Because Manning is 34 years old, and the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line looks weak…and that was before Jeff Saturday got hurt.The importance of the back-up quarterback grows with the same tick of the clock that makes Manning a step slower and a smidge more fragile.
Sunday’s game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers showcased two team on opposite sides of the quarterback fence. The 49ers seem to have almost no drop-off between first and second string; both Alex Smith and David Carr are arguably failed #1 draft picks who just as arguably have the same skill level. Meanwhile, there may not be a bigger gulf between 1 and 2 than in Indianapolis. Manning is another #1 draft pick who has spent the last dozen seasons re-defining greatness, whereas Curtis Painter was a sixth-rounder who can’t even seem to define Painter.
Let’s just cut to the chase here. Curtis Painter is not an NFL quarterback. He was barely a Big Ten quarterback. But to be fair to Painter, he was never intended to be the second-stringer in 2009; long-time back-up Jim Sorgi went down with an injured throwing shoulder, and next thing you know, the affable blond kid from Vincennes, IN, found himself in a game trying to protect a 14-0 record and a 15-10 lead against the playoff-bound New York Jets. The Colts’ faithful know what followed. A sack, a fumble, an interception, and the end of a perfect season. Painter got to spend the off-season reliving it via the endless replays that documented coach Jim Caldwell’s wildly unpopular decision to pull the starters. The boos cascaded throughout Lucas Oil Stadium, and Painter spent the summer waiting for a chance to redeem himself; or failing true redemption at least offering that he is capable of more than he showed in that seemingly impossible situation last December.
But there were only more boos.
In the first two series, the Colts’ first stringers rolled up a ten-point lead. But then Painter entered the game, and things went downhill quickly for the Colts. By quickly, I mean they looked like Wile E. Coyote falling off a 10,000 foot cliff. Painter’s three interceptions and a fumble lead to 20 unanswered points second-quarter points for the 49ers.
After the third pick was when the boo-birds came out. The scene at Lucas Oil Stadium was reminiscent of week sixteen of last season. The boos were out in force that afternoon after watching a lead built by Manning and the starters dissolve in Painter’s hands.
Painter has spent his whole football career in Indiana; he played college ball at Purdue, where he was merely a mediocre quarterback at a mediocre program. But also to be fair, Painter has worked hard during the last full season and this off-season to learn the system. The Colts need him to become a more capable back-up, because the day that Painter may find himself again thrust into a real-game situation may be right around the corner.