INDIANAPOLIS — The 2010s was an exciting decade for Indianapolis Colts fans.
It started off on a high note with a trip to Super Bowl XLIV — which unfortunately didn't exactly go the Colts' way — but it also featured five total playoff appearances for the Colts, and many solid players.
Recently, Pro Football Focus released its list of the 101 best players of the 2010s decade, and four of those players with ties to the Colts made the cut: quarterback Peyton Manning (No. 18 overall), defensive end Justin Houston (No. 46), wide receiver Andre Johnson (No. 49) and quarterback Philip Rivers (No. 64).
Two of the four players are currently with the Colts, but the group undoubtedly made an impact on the NFL in their time with the Horseshoe as well as with their other franchises.
Here's what PFF had to say about the decades of each player, with some Colts-related notes to follow:
18. QB PEYTON MANNING
Obviously, Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history, but he was drafted in 1998, so the past decade captures only the last part of his career. Still, that was good enough to propel him into the top 20 of this list. Manning's late-career revival in Denver was a remarkable thing to watch. Fresh off a neck injury that threatened to end his career, Manning retaught himself how to play the game within his new physical limitations and then put up back to back seasons with a PFF grade above 90.0, including the greatest statistical season of his career with 55 touchdown passes and almost 5,500 yards. Manning eventually grabbed a second Super Bowl ring, but his play in the years before that was what propelled him up this list.
How fitting that "The Sheriff" comes in at No. 18 on PFF's list. Of course, Manning's impact in the 2010s was primarily as a member of the Denver Broncos — as he played with the Colts in 2010, sat out 2011 with a neck injury and moved on to the Broncos in 2012 — but he still obviously had his vintage Peyton Manning impact on those 2010 Colts.
In 16 games, Manning completed 450-of-679 passes (66.3 percent) for 4,700 yards, with 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a passer rating of 91.9.
In the Colts' lone playoff game that season, Manning went 18-of-26 (69.2 percent) for 225 yards and a touchdown.
Manning led the NFL in pass completions and attempts in 2010, was second in the NFL in passing yards — just 10 yards shy of current Colts quarterback Philip Rivers — tied for second in passing touchdowns, and third in completion percentage.
46. EDGE JUSTIN HOUSTON
Injuries somewhat derailed Houston's career, and that had an impact on the player he could have become. Still, at his peak, he was a legitimate rival for the best pass-rushers in the NFL and was more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Von Miller in the AFC West. Over a three-year span in the middle of the decade, Houston topped 90.0 in overall PFF grade every season, and he came within a sack of breaking the all-time single-season record in 2014. Houston wasn't the same player after injuries started to take their toll, but last season a reduced role in Indianapolis saw him have his most productive pass-rushing season in years (60 pressures) and his best overall PFF grade (87.2) since 2015.
What a resurgent season Houston has in his first year in Indy in 2019 Before arriving in Indianapolis, he was terrorizing the AFC West for the Kansas City Chiefs, nearly reaching the NFL single-season record for sacks with 22.0 in 2014.
Injuries nagged him a bit in the coming seasons as he totaled just 30.0 sacks in the following four seasons. Those are certainly no numbers to sniff at, but they were below his standards.
In a cost-cutting move in the 2019 offseason, the Chiefs parted ways with their stud pass rusher — to the benefit of the Colts and general manager Chris Ballard, who signed Houston a few weeks later.
He made an impact right away, getting his first sack with the Colts against Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. He then strung together six games in a row between Weeks 5-10 with at least one sack, totaling 7.0 in that time.
By season's end, Houston finished with his best performance since that incredible 2014 season, and was one of 18 NFL defenders to reach double-digit sacks on the season. He finished with 44 tackles (13 for loss), 11.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, 18 quarterback hits and one safety.
49. WR ANDRE JOHNSON
Andre Johnson was drafted in 2003 and retired after the 2016 season when he was three-quarters of the way through his tour of the AFC South. The decade doesn't capture much of his best play, but so dominant was he at his best that the five years we have of that propels him into the top 50 on this list. Johnson caught 94.1% of catchable targets sent his way over the decade and was one of the most dominant and best-graded receivers in football before the likes of Julio Jones and Antonio Brown arrived on the scene. With an ever-more pass-heavy league, the wide receiver pantheon of greatness is getting crowded, but Andre Johnson deserves his spot there when all is said and done."
After continuing his dominance of the 2010s with a pair of 100-catch seasons and three 1,000-yard performances, Johnson was eventually let go by the AFC South-rival Houston Texans after the 2014 season. Johnson then moved north to Indianapolis to join old University of Miami teammate Frank Gore.
The 2015 season wasn't Johnson's most productive — which was likely aided by quarterback Andrew Luck missing nine games — but he was a solid option to mix into the receiving corps with T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Johnson caught 41-of-77 targets for 503 yards (12.3 avg.) and four touchdowns in his lone season in Indianapolis.
He would play one more season in the NFL before hanging 'em up.
64. QB PHILIP RIVERS
Rounding out the bottom half of the second-tier of quarterbacks, Rivers has had a few ups and downs throughout his career, but he had six top-10 finishes during the decade. Even when it doesn't look pretty, Rivers has the anticipation and feel to mitigate a decrease in arm strength, and he remains productive at all levels of the field. Even more impressively, Rivers played behind one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines for the better part of the decade, yet he still stood in there and made big-time throws at a high level. The big criticism for Rivers is the lack of postseason success, but he's one of the most underrated regular-season quarterbacks in NFL history and clearly one of the top eight signal-callers during the 2010s."
Rivers' effect with the Colts is yet to be known since he just signed with the team two months ago and we've yet to reach training camp, but all signs point to a solid year for the 17-year veteran.
Considering his experience playing for Colts head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni while the three were with the Chargers, Rivers is already very familiar with the Colts' system, and he gets a stable of passing weapons in Hilton, Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell, Michael Pittman Jr., Jack Doyle and Trey Burton, and Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines in the backfield, and one of the league's top offensive lines to protect him.
Rivers has carved out an incredibly productive career in parts of the last two decades, and he now sits one more productive season away from being among even more elite company than he already is. With 2,091 passing yards and 24 passing touchdowns, he'll surpass legendary quarterback Dan Marino for fifth place in NFL history in both categories.