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What Passes for a Defense of Curtis Painter

I’m not a fan of Curtis Painter.

Last year, I argued that Jim Sorgi was the better player.  Everyone else was up in arms about how good Painter looked in the preseason against 3rd/4th string players. I saw the upside, but wasn’t impressed. I certainly have been as critical as anyone of his work in the past.

However, I’ve also been arguing for a couple of weeks now that he had locked up the backup job.  There are two primary reasons why:

1.  What the Colts have been saying.

2.  The way he’s been playing.

First, let’s talk about what the Colts have been saying. It’s been in vogue to post one out of context quote about what the team looks for in preseason.  However, almost every other public statement the team has made has been in support and defense of Curtis Painter.  That means, that whether or not you think he’s better than Brandstater, no one can be surprised that he won the job.  The mere fact that he played the entire first half and into the third quarter on Thursday night should have been a flashing neon sign that he was a mortal lock for the job.  Our long standing joke is that whoever is playing in the fourth quarter of the preseason game is getting cut.  The team announced loud and clear that Painter had the job.  Any other decision would have been something of an upset.  It’s not that the previous Polian quote is ‘meaningless’. Rather it’s a case that that one quote was never meant to be held up as some kind of binding trump card to override all other factors.

Now let me talk about why Painter won the job.  First, and most importantly, he improved a lot over last year.  Last preseason, he was almost incapable of leading any kind of sustained drive.  He led several scoring drives this preseason.  That speaks strongly that his arrow is still pointing up.  He has a nice arm and throws a great deep ball. He still stares down WRs too much, but that’s not unusual for a young guy.  He is still developing and could be come an asset.

He also played against a much higher level of competition than Brandstater did.  Painter was also victimized repeated by drops by his wideouts, particuarly the now cut Taj Smith.  The Bengals played a lot of starters and Painter did a quite respectable job.  Most of the statistical advantage Brandstater gained on him came on his impressive stint against practice squad material at the end of that game.  One his TD passes was actually an off the back foot throw to James at the goal line that was not pretty.  It worked out, but wasn’t some kind of laser or great read.  Against a real defense, it’s going back the other way for six.

What’s unclear is why the Colts would keep Painter for any reason other than that they think more of him. It was suggested that it was based on “pride”.  Frankly, that doesn’t make sense.  What face would they save?  I can only come up with three poor answers to that:

1.  Polian wanted to justify the pick of Painter last year.  That simply doesn’t fly.  He spent a sixth round pick on Painter.  Where’s the harm in cutting Painter?  Most 6th round picks don’t last through their second camp do they?  If Brandstater was better, Polian would have kept him and not batted an eye over cutting a former low round draft pick.

2.  Polian wanted to justify cutting Sorgi.  That makes no sense either. Sorgi is already on IR.  That decision was a solid one in hindsight.  There’s nothing to criticize.

3.  Polian wanted to justify keeping Painter last year.  No one questioned it last year.  Last year, Painter was the most popular guy in town right up until he fumbled the ball against the Jets.

None of those make any sense at all.  The Colts had nothing invested in Painter that they couldn’t walk away from in a heartbeat.  He made the team because he was the best of the options that they had.

That does not mean I’m sold on Painter as the back up.  I think Matt Leinart would be a better option than Painter.  There are scores of reasons that won’t happen.  Principally because the Colts won’t pay Leinart to come in and ride the pine. Secondly, Leinart should be looking to sign with a team where he might have a fighting chance to get on the field.  Indy wouldn’t be that team.

Ultimately, it’s a moot point.  Veterans don’t want to come to Indy where they know they’ll never play.  All we can do is shrug and hold onto Peyton Manning for dear life.

Keep checking @18to88 for roster updates.  I’ll come back with a full recap tomorrow.