Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell Discusses the Team's Quarterback Position
INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning is still getting better.
Jim Caldwell, in his second season as the Colts' head coach, said there's little question that's true, and that it's very possible considering Manning's desire, attention to detail and ability, it could continue to be the case for some time.
That desire of Manning's has been discussed often.
But Caldwell said that doesn't mean it's not notable.
And he said that continued to be true this off-season, Manning's 13th as a professional.
"His state of readiness, in terms of what he requires of himself, is remarkable," Caldwell said recently in an interview for this story on the Colts' quarterbacks, part of a position-by-position series scheduled to run on Colts.com this month.
"He leaves no room for status quo. He's always trying to find a way to get better."
So far in his NFL career, Manning has done just that.
Manning, the No. 1 overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft, has made 10 Pro Bowls in 12 seasons, was named AP NFL MVP in 2003-04 and 2008-09, and twice – in 2006 and last season – has quarterbacked Indianapolis to the Super Bowl.
He was the MVP of Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season, and has won more regular-season games – 131 – than all but three quarterbacks in NFL history.
Manning, who never has missed an NFL start, has completed 4,232 of 6,531 passes for 50,128 yards and 366 touchdowns with 181 interceptions. But even with statistics approaching the NFL's all-time best players at his position, Caldwell said what's most notable about Manning – and what enables him to continue playing at a high level – isn't his past, but his approach to the present and future.
"Every single phase, he will look at them and he will critique them," Caldwell said. "He will take the problems he has found that he feels he can alleviate. Then, he attacks them with ferocity."
That, Caldwell said, is why at age 34, improvement continues to be the norm for Manning. He last season not only led the Colts to the Super Bowl and to victories in their first 14 regular-season games, he also completed 393 of 571 passes for 4,500 yards – the second-highest yardage total of his career – and 33 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
He had 300 or more yards passing in nine of the 14 games in which he played the entire game, and late in the season, he became the first player to be named NFL MVP four times.
Caldwell said what separates Manning is not just the willingness to spend off-seasons examining himself and trying to find ways to improve, but being willing to be honest with himself and truly improve in areas that he believes need work.
"He has a very critical eye," Caldwell said. "He certainly looks at himself, and he's probably his biggest critic. But the amazing thing is, he finds a way to get better. He has had an unbelievable career thus far, but every year, he improves upon it."
The Colts for the first time since 2004 will enter the regular season without Jim Sorgi as the backup quarterback. Sorgi, the Colts' backup since 2004, became a free agent following last season and signed with the New York Giants as the backup to Peyton Manning's brother, Eli.
Caldwell said recently the backup entering training camp is Curtis Painter.
Painter, a sixth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft from Purdue University, played sparingly in the first 14 games of the season, playing extensively in the final two games when he completed 8 of 28 passes for 83 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions.
"At this point, Curtis Painter is certainly backing up Peyton," Caldwell said. "He's certainly a guy we think has ability. He's making good progress, and with the young guys behind him, we'll see what happens."
The Colts late in the off-season acquired Tom Brandstater off waivers from the Broncos. Brandstater, a 2009 sixth-round draft choice by Denver, did not appear in a game for the Broncos last season. He started three seasons at Fresno State, completing 584 of 989 passes for 6,857 yards and 47 touchdowns with 32 interceptions.
"We have not had a great opunity to look at him other than seeing him on film in previous years, but we're certainly happy to have him," Caldwell said late in the team's recent organized team activities period, shortly after acquiring Brandstater. "He is a guy that has strength and size and is smart, so we threw him into some drill work and watched him from a mechanics standpoint. He looks like he has some potential. We're excited to take a real good look at him in the fall.
"He'll be in that playbook. (As a) matter of fact, when he first arrived, I stuck my head in one of the quarterback meeting rooms and he was in there with Painter and actually going over all the details, trying to learn as much as he could. That's the great thing about our guys, they share information, they work with one another and try to bring the new guys up to speed.
"That's certainly what will be going on with him in the next few weeks."
The Colts also have first-year veteran Drew Willy and rookie free-agent signee Tim Hiller on the roster.
"Hiller and Willy are two young guys who certainly have ability as well, so it's a great situation to have," Caldwell said. "Particularly through training camp and preseason, they (reserve quarterbacks) get a lot of playing time. It's an important time for us to get them ready and an important time for them to get their skills sharpened and honed in, to see how effective they can be.
"It's important to develop someone – more than one, actually. In this league, the development of your other quarterbacks behind Peyton is a priority."