Old-Fashioned Approach Works Just Fine For Scott Tolzien

Intro: The Colts were quick to nab Scott Tolzien when he became a free agent in March. Now they see him developing into the organization’s next quality backup quarterback.


Team-issued tablets are no match for Scott Tolzien.

No, this quarterback prefers his playbook the old-fashioned way: as a heavy-duty, three-ring binder.

Old fashioned might be a good description for Tolzien, too. He's been described as a workhorse both on the field and in the film room, and coaches rave about his arm talent.

That probably explains why the Indianapolis Colts were so quick to nab the free agent as soon as he hit the market in March, giving them another competent backup option to starter Andrew Luck.

"Every new offense has its challenges when you're learning it from the beginning," Tolzien said recently of mastering the Colts' system, his bulky binder tucked under his arm. "So the way to combat that is just to be diligent on it every day. You don't want to get too far behind because they're throwing a lot at us, but it's our job to learn it."

At 28, Tolzien, a Wisconsin product, already has five-plus years of NFL experience in some pretty potent offensive schemes. After going undrafted, he was signed by the San Diego Chargers in 2011 before joining the San Francisco 49ers later that year.

Two years later, it was on to Green Bay to play for the Packers, where he learned under Aaron Rodgers and had the opportunity to play in six total games from 2013-15, completing 56-of-91 of his passes (61.5 percent) for 721 yards with one touchdown to five interceptions.

Tolzien also ran the ball eight times for 52 yards and a touchdown, showing the ability to be elusive when the opportunity strikes.

What impresses new Colts quarterback coach Brian Schottenheimer the most, however, is Tolzien's right arm. He showed it off on a couple occasions during last week's OTA practice session open to the media, displaying nice precision on passes to wide receiver Brian Tyms and rookie Chester Rogers for a would-be touchdown.

"Very, very, very good arm talent," Schottenheimer said. "(He) can really throw a football."

Much like his other career stops, however, both Tolzien and his coaches realize his role in Indianapolis is to continue to grow as a player on the sidelines, but be ready to play if and when he's needed.

It's a role a few quarterbacks — Jim Sorgi, Curtis Painter and, most recently, Matt Hasselbeck — have thrived in since Peyton Manning's arrival in 1998, and Luck's No. 1-overall selection in 2012.

A behind the scenes look at Tolzien's 2016 photo shoot in the #ColtsPhotoGarage

"I'm certainly glad and proud to be here," Tolzien said when asked about joining another quarterback-rich organization. "But, much like every season, you're just trying to improve yourself, and, in turn, that's what's going to make you a good teammate, is knowing your stuff and being able to help out the other guys."

Those "other guys" are currently Luck, Stephen Morris and undrafted rookie Josh Woodrum. When it comes to Luck, Tolzien said he had been acquainted with the Stanford product when they would throw together in California, and said it's already apparent that, with Luck, "he's always on his details — every little detail matters."

But could that make him difficult to work with? Not a chance.

"I probably speak for most guys, if not everyone on this team, that we appreciate that there's no ego with Andrew," Tolzien said. "He's just a guy that works his tail off and he hasn't forgotten his roots — and he won't. I think he seems to me like he treats every season like a rookie, just trying to get one mile an hour faster, and guys love that about him. There's no flash. He's just a very down-to-earth, hard-working guy."

So while being the backup quarterback might not be the flashiest of jobs, Tolzien clearly understands his role in Indy.

And, if an emergency arises, he hopes to be able to carry the torch of those before him.

"That's the job description of a backup quarterback is being one play away and having to be ready," Tolzien said. "So how do you approach that? You've just got to prepare like a starter and every backup in the league would say that. That's what you've got to do because you want to be prepared when your opportunity comes, but in the same way you want to be able to help the other quarterbacks.

"So the more you know, the better teammate you are."

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