INDIANAPOLIS —Scott Tolzien hasn't carved himself a nice NFL career by instituting a "woe is me" attitude when things don't go his way.
And after getting, really, the first opportunity in his seven-year NFL career to be the No. 1 quarterback throughout his team's entire offseason workout program, minicamp, training camp and the preseason, Tolzien headed into Week 1 of the 2017 regular season ready to lead the Indianapolis Colts' offense against the Los Angeles Rams.
But after completing just nine of his first 18 passes for 128 yards, being sacked four times and throwing two pick-sixes in the first three quarters of that game, the Colts opted to go with Tolzien's recently-acquired backup, Jacoby Brissett, for the remainder of that game.
A few days later, Brissett was officially inserted into the starting lineup for the Colts' Week 2 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, and the depth chart at quarterback would stay that way for the remainder of the season.
After all that work, Tolzien was right back to where he started with the Colts when he signed as a free agent in 2016: backup quarterback. So what did he do? He kept his head down, he kept working, he supported his teammates and was an invaluable resource throughout the season for Brissett.
"It's part of our job," Tolzien said. "It's what we signed up for."
Now, with the team's original starting quarterback, Andrew Luck, hoping to be back under center for the start of the 2018 season after an extensive recovery and rehab from last January's shoulder surgery, and with Brissett still under team control for the next couple seasons as the assumed backup, Tolzien heads into the 2018 offseason set to become an unrestricted free agent once again.
In his two seasons in Indianapolis, Tolzien played in a total of four games with two starts, completing 32-of-55 passes (58.2 percent) for 344 yards with one touchdown to four interceptions. But his aforementioned attitude and preparation are what set him apart as he played a critical role for the Colts' offense the last couple seasons, whether or not he was actually on the field — because, as the saying goes, a backup quarterback is always one play away from being counted on to lead the team.
"That's what we're here for," Tolzien said. "We all want to play, and I think every week you try to prepare as a starter because, you know, stuff happens. It really shouldn't change a whole lot in how you prepare it, because every week should be the same; whether you're starting, backing up or third string, you should prepare the same way, always."
That's a lesson Tolzien said he learned from the veterans during his first few years in the league with the San Francisco 49ers (2011-12) and the Green Bay Backers (2013-15). And now, he has passed that approach on to the likes of Luck, Brissett and Phillip Walker, who spent the entire 2017 season on the Colts' practice squad and was recently signed to a Reserve/Future contract, keeping him on the offseason roster.
The key, Tolzien said, is to remain consistent, even if things don't go your way.
"I know my approach hasn't wavered," he said. "Since I was a rookie in 2011, your approach is always to prepare like a starter. That's what older guys had told me, and that's what I share with the younger guys. So you just want to be steady in that regard and not change a whole lot throughout the weeks just so that you always feel prepared; that your recipe and your routine each week's the same."2018 Colts Free Agent Watch:* *
- Wide receiver Kamar Aiken
- Inside linebacker Jon Bostic
- Safety Darius Butler
- Cornerback Pierre Desir
- Running back Frank Gore
- Cornerback Rashaan Melvin
- Guard Jack Mewhort
- Running back Christine Michael
- Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo
- Wide receiver Donte Moncrief
- Center Mike Person
- Quarterback Scott Tolzien
- Kicker Adam Vinatieri
- Tight end Brandon Williams
16 Tolzien, Scott QB 6-2 215lbs 30yrs 7yrs Wisconsin