We’re at a point right now in the sports world that is fairly dull (unless you’re a baseball nut), and during which almost no football news is coming out. I thought this would be a great time to look at the Colts and their past, and what better way than to rank the top Indianapolis players of all time? Obviously, Peyton Manning is the greatest Indianapolis Colt there is, and maybe ever will be, which is why he is not included here. He doesn’t need to be.
But what about the other guys? That’s why I’m doing this.
First things first, there is something I want to make clear about this. The players listed here are listed so based ONLY for the years for which they were an Indianapolis Colt. I do not take into consideration and achievements, stats, what have you, for any years that a player did NOT play in Indianapolis.
That includes players who played for the Colts both in Baltimore AND Indianapolis. Only the Indianapolis years are what matter here. That should explain why I have some guys that had better overall careers ranked ahead of others that maybe did not, and why some aren’t even on this list at all.
The most important aspect of any ranking list is the criteria. How do I rank them? What variables do I take into consideration? Now, admittedly, theIndianapolis years, until the last decade or so, had been pretty lean. The Colts don’t necessarily have the illustrious history of Green Bay, Pittsburgh, or Dallas. That’s not to say they have not had any great players in those early years, but, well, the win-loss records really speak for themselves. But I digress. Back to the variables.
To be eligible, a player must have at least played at least 3 years in an Indianapolis uniform, and must have at least 1 pro-bowl berth, all-pro team award, individual regular season award (MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.), Hall of Fame induction, team Ring of Honor berth, or any combination therein during their time in the Horseshoe. Once I compiled my list of candidates, I ranked them based on the following:
- Indianapolis Colt career stats
- Individual awards/accolades/achievements during their Indianapolis tenure
- The Colts’ overall success during their tenure
- Impact individual position can potentially have on a game
- My own personal knowledge (what little of it there may or may not be)
Now that you know the method to the madness, we start the rankings. Let the debating begin.
#25. Chris Gardocki, Punter (1995 – 1998)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x Pro-Bowl, 1x All-Pro. Indy stats: 277 punts, 44.7 average.
I know, a little strange to start out a list with a punter, but while he was here, Gardocki did put up some decent numbers for his position. Like I said, the Indianapolis Colts don’t exactly have the history some other teams do, but when you are as good at what you do as Gardocki was here, you deserve to be on this list.
#24. Rohn Stark, Punter (1984 – 1994)
- Indy Career Highlights: 4x Pro-Bowl. Indy stats: 848 punts, 43.5 average.
What, another punter?? Again, I know. See above about the Indianapolis history. Stark did make 4 pro-bowls during his time here though. Stark was also the last Baltimore Colt to retire from the NFL.
#23. Dean Biasucci, Kicker (1984 to 1994)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x pro-bowl, 2x All-Pro. Indy stats: 176/250 FGs, 70.4 FG %, 255/260 XPs.
You’re probably thinking the only decent players in Indy’s early years were special teamers. You’d be wrong, but these guys definitely belong on the list. Biasucci was a stable presence in an unstable era, and earned this ranking.
#22. Ray Buchanan, Defensive Back (1993 – 1996)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1 x All-Pro. Indy stats: 262 tackles, 16 INTs.
When most people think about Ray Buchanan, they usually think about him in a Falcons uniform. Few remember he got his start in Indianapolis, and earned an All-Pro selection in 1994, his second year in the league.
#21. Ken Dilger, Tight End (1995 – 2001)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x Pro-Bowl. Indy stats: 261 receptions, 3,181 yards, 18 TDs
Dilger was Dallas Clark before Dallas Clark was here. Arguably Peyton Manning’s second favorite target prior to Reggie Wayne’s arrival.
#20. Bill Brooks, Wide Receiver (1986 - 1992)
- Indy Career Highlights: Colts Ring of Honor. Indy stats: 411 receptions, 5,350 yards, 28 TDs.
Brooks is the only player on this list to not at least earn 1 Pro-Bowl berth, but he probably did more with less than any Colt in the Indianapolis era. Look at some of the quarterbacks he had throwing to him: Mike Pagel, Art Schlichter, Jack Trudeau, Chris Chandler, Jeff George. ‘Nuff said.
#19. Cato June, Linebacker (2003 – 2006)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x Pro-Bowl, 1x All-Pro. Indy stats: 254 tackles, 10 INTs.
June was a key component of the Colts Super Bowl season, and the team went 50-14 (.781) during his time with the team.
#18. Joseph Addai, Running Back (2006 – 2011)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x Pro-Bowl. Indy Stats: 4,453 yards, 39 TDs, 191 receptions.
Addai started off hot his rookie year, running for over 1,000 yards despite not starting any game during the regular season, and even ran in 4 TDs in one game against the Eagles. Injuries and an aging offensive line, though, hindered his development, and the Colts cut ties with him earlier this year.
#17. Duane Bickett, Linebacker (1985 to 1993)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x Pro-Bowl. Indy Stats: 1,052 tackles, 53 sacks, 9 INTs.
Bickett played on some really bad teams (they went a collective 55-88), but managed to average over 130 tackles each year in Indianapolis.
#16. Mike Vanderjagt, Kicker (1998 – 2005)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x Pro-Bowl, 1x All-Pro. Indy Stats: 217/248 FGs, 87.5 FG%, 344/346 XPs.
Vandy is probably remembered more for either blowing big kicks in huge games or being called an “idiot kicker” by Peyton Manning. But really, the Colts really have never had a better kicker, and he went 37-for-37 on FG tries in 2003.
#15. Antoine Bethea, Safety (2006 - current)
- Indy Career Highlights: 2x Pro-Bowl. Indy Stats: 414 tackles, 12 INTs.
The first current Colt to make the list, Bethea was an unexpected surprise coming out of Howard in the 6th round of the draft, and is an integral part of the defense.
#14. Bob Sanders, Safety (2004 – 2010)
- Indy Career Highlights: 2x Pro-Bowl, 2x All-Pro, 2007 Defensive Player of the Year. Indy stats: 219 tackles, 6 INTs.
If I had to guess what one player would cause the most argument on this list, I would have picked Sanders. While he was on the field, he had an enormous impact on the game (one of my key criteria). The argument can be made (fairly) that he was only on the field about 30% of his entire career, but man, when he was there, he was a force. If he had been able to stay healthy, he would have ranked higher, there’s no doubt in my mind.
#13. Dallas Clark, Tight End (2003 – 2011)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x Pro-Bowl, 1 x All-Pro. Indy Stats: 427 receptions, 4,887 yards, 46 TDs.
Clark only made one pro-bowl/all-pro team, but anyone who watched him play every week knows he should have been to more than that. Clark was a go-to-guy at the tight end position that had the speed of a receiver. As dangerousa red-zone threat as the Colts have ever had.
#12. Ray Donaldson, Center (1984 – 1992)
- Indy Career Highlights: 4x Pro-Bowl.
The first lineman to make the list, Donaldson made 4 pro-bowls despite being on teams that went a collective 55-88, the same as Duane Bickett. It’s hard to quantify the contributions offensive lineman make, but this is an easy call.
#11. Jim Harbaugh, Quarterback (1994 – 1997)
- Indy Career Highlights: 1x Pro-Bowl, Colts Ring of Honor. Indy stats: 8,705 passing yards, 49 TDs, 86.6 QB rating.
“Captain Comeback” had, by today’s standards, a rather pedestrian career in Indianapolis. But the only pre-Peyton quarterback to make this list made big play after big play, getting the Colts to within 1 Aaron Bailey-dropped pass away from reaching Super Bowl XXX.
That’s it for this post. Stay tuned for #s 1-10. As always, feel free to comment/criticize.
*Player Stats are from www.pro-football-reference.com
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