sistaff
Wednesday October 5th, 2011

Curtis Painter wasn't perfect, but threw for 281 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions Monday night. (Fernando Medina/US Presswire)

Before the season started, I had the privilege of being a call-in guest on an Indianapolis radio sports-talk show. The hosts asked me whether Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter should be the Colts' quarterback going forward.

I answered Collins, though added the caveat, "but at some point, the Colts have to figure out what their plan is for the future."

That mysterious point in time has come. Jim Caldwell said Wednesday that Kerry Collins, who suffered a concussion in Week 3, had yet to be cleared for practice or games. That's on the heels of Caldwell's statements following Monday night's Colts loss in Tampa Bay that he wasn't sure who would be his starting QB going forward.

Look, I get the reasons the Colts want to start Collins -- the first is financial, since they gave him $4 million for 2011; the second is that Indianapolis would like to at least give off the impression to its fans that the team is trying to win this season.

Before the season started, Collins' presence in the lineup helped with the latter effort.

Does it still?

In two-plus games, Collins had a QB rating of 65.9 with just 481 passing yards. Painter, in about six quarters, is already up to 341 yards through the air and has not thrown an interception yet -- he has fumbled it away twice, though both came because of some nightmarish blocking in front of him.

More importantly, Painter gave Indianapolis a chance to win against Pittsburgh, then again in Tampa Bay Monday night.

This is not a ringing endorsement of Painter, nor is it a prediction that he turns into a Pro Bowler down the line. The third-year QB was a shaky option, even as Indianapolis' backup, before 2011 and one or two decent games won't really change that.

Is there any reason for the Colts to send him back to the bench, though?

Part of why Indianapolis is in this QB predicament in the first place is the franchise's hesitancy to put the Peyton Manning Injury Plan into motion during the preseason. The Colts held out hope for as long as possible that Manning would return for the regular season, despite evidence to the contrary. So, instead of committing to Painter, adding Collins earlier or exploring the market further, they ended up duct-taping the QB depth chart together just days before Week 1.

Granted, quarterback play isn't the only contributing factor in an 0-4 start, but the Colts did not do themselves any favors.

Barring a miracle, Indianapolis is not going to make the playoffs this season. The goal, then, might be to tank hard enough to get that first pick and tab Andrew Luck as Manning's successor. But there's really no reason Indy shouldn't see what it has in Painter for the rest of the season -- whether Collins is healthy or not.

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