Welcome back to the countdown of the Top 25 Indianapolis Colts of All Time (Not Named Peyton Manning). Last post we covered #s 25 to 11, with players such as Rohn Stark, Duane Bickett, Bob Sanders, and Jim Harbaugh all making appearances.
As a quick reminder, here are the criteria I used to make these rankings:
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)
Before we start off with my #10 Indianapolis Colt of All Time, I thought I should give a quick shout out to my “honorable mentions:” Players who were (or are) significant contributors and/or fan favorites that didn’t quite meet the necessary requirements to rate here. The honorable mentions are (years of Colts service in parentheses):
Hunter Smith, punter (1999 – 2008); Cornelius Bennett, linebacker (1987*, 1999-2000); Terrence Wilkins, wide receiver/kick returner (1999-2001, 2003, 2006); Marcus Pollard, tight end (1995 – 2004); Chad Bratzke (1999 – 2003); Dominic Rhodes (2001 – 2006, 2008, 2010); Rob Morris, linebacker (2000 – 2007); Tony Siragusa, defensive tackle (1990 – 1996); Ryan Diem, offensive tackle (2001 – 2011); Larry Tripplett, defensive tackle (2002 – 2005); Mike Peterson, linebacker (1999 – 2002); Kelvin Hayden, cornerback (2005 – 2010); Gary Brackett, linebacker (2003 – 2011); Jerraud Powers, cornerback (2009 – current); Will Wolford, offensive tackle (1993 – 1995); Cary Blanchard, kicker (1995 – 1997); and Brandon Stokley, wide receiver (2003 – 2006).
*Originally drafted by the Colts but went unsigned, played most if his outstanding career with the Buffalo Bills.
Now on with the rankings. It should really come as no surprise that this portion of the list is top-heavy with some of the more recent (relatively speaking) Indianapolis Colt teams, but I didn’t leave the older guys out in the cold either.
#10. Tarik Glenn, Offensive Tackle (1997 – 2006)
- Indy Career Highlights: 3x Pro-Bowl.
Most fans fondly remember Tarik “False Start” Glenn for his innate ability to jump offisdes at seemingly the most inopportune times. Despite that one flaw, Glenn was probably the second most important guy to an offensive line that kept Peyton Manning off his back better than any other line in the NFL (we’ll see the most important in a little bit). As stated in my previous post, it’s really hard to quantify how much a contribution a lineman makes, but when you protect the blindside of a Hall-of-Fame quarterback as well as Glenn did, there is no doubt he should be in the top 10 of the best Colts ever.
#9. Chris Hinton, Offensive Guard/Tackle (1984 – 1989)
- Indy Career Highlights: 5x Pro-Bowl, Colts Ring of Honor.
All Chris Hinton did was make the Pro-Bowl almost every year he was a Colt, with 1984 being the lone exception. Now on teams that went a combined 38-57 (.400) during his time with the team, that’s an accomplishment that really cannot be overstated. How, on those dreadful early teams, did he manage to be so productive? Well, that’s why he’s #9 on this list. If those early teams had been more successful, Hinton would no doubt be closer to the top.
#8. Eric Dickerson, Running Back (1987 – 1991)
- Indy Career Highlights: 3x Pro-Bowl, 2x All-Pro. Indy Stats: 5,194 rushing yards, 32 TDs, 138 receptions.
Most people recognize Dickerson due to his Hall of Fame Credentials. And the man was electric. Obviously in his 5 years in Indianapolis he put up great numbers, and earned the corresponding accolades. So why is he not ranked higher here? Because he only played 5 years, and his teams went a combined 34-45 (.430) during his time here. While all of that can’t be layed at his feet, there are other guys who played longer as a Colt, had more success here, better stats, and/or achieved more awards during their time. A great, Hall of Fame player to be sure, but only the 8th Greatest Colt on this list.
#7. Marshall Faulk, Running Back (1994 – 1998)
- Indy Career Highlights: 3x Pro-Bowl, Offensive Rookie of the Year. Indy stats: 5,320 rushing yards, 42 TDs, 297 receptions.
Speaking of Hall of Fame running backs… So, why, you might ask me, is Faulk ahead of Dickerson when they played the same number of years (5), Dickerson’s teams had a better overall win percentage (.430 vs. .400 for Faulk), and their regular season awards can pretty much be considered a wash? With it that close, it comes down to performance (AKA stats), and Faulk’s were better in his time as a Colt than Dickerson’s. Especially in the scoring category, which is probably the most important. That gives him a leg up on the #7 spot.
#6. Jeff Saturday, Center (1999 – 2011)
- Indy Career Highlights: 5x Pro-Bowl, 4x All-Pro, NFL 2000′s All-Decade Team.
It really surprised me when I finalized these rankings that I didn’t have Saturday higher. He’s the man most responsible for the solid offensive line play the Colts (and Manning in particular) enjoyed for over a decade. He is by far the team’s most decorated offensive lineman in the Indianapolis era. But he’s not higher because his overall impact on the game isn’t necessarily as high as the guys who I put ahead of him in the Top 5. That’s not to diminish his accomplishments at all, there are just some guys who probably played even bigger roles in the team’s 10+ years of success.
#5. Robert Mathis, Defensive End (2003 – current)
- Indy Career Highlights: 4x Pro-Bowl. Indy Stats: 83.5 sacks, 305 tackles, 39 forced fumbles.
Finally showing the defense some love in the Top 10. And few defensive players in Indianapolis have had as big of an impact as Big Sack Mat (yes, I just made that up). While his sack numbers are impressive, Mathis’ biggest influence has to be his ability to knock the ball out of the opposing quarterback’s hands. It will be very interesting to see how the defensive changes this year will affect that ability, but Mathis has the will, speed, and talent to overcome any obstacles those changes might bring.
#4. Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver (2001 – current)
- Indy Career Highlights: 5x Pro-Bowl, 4x All-Pro, NFL receiving yards leader (2007). Indy Stats: 862 receptions, 11,708 receiving yards, 73 TDs.
Maybe a little shocking to see Reggie this low on the list, but there are reasons which we will get to later. He developed into Manning’s go-to-guy beginning with the 2007 season. He’s caught more than 100 passes in 3 seasons, and over 1,000 yards every year from 2004-2010, and almost did it last year with the likes of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky chucking the rock to him. He’s also a border-line Hall of Fame candidate. He re-signed with the Colts with a 3-year deal this past off-season, and figures to finish out his playing days as a life-time Colt.
#3. Edgerrin James, Running Back (1999 – 2005)
- Indy Career Highlights: 4x Pro-Bowl, 4x All-Pro, Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2x NFL Rushing Champ (1999, 2000). Indy stats: 9,226 rushing yards, 64 TDs, 356 receptions.
The Battering Ram portion of the “Triplets” era of Colts football, James took off running (no pun intended) from the get go, rushing for 1,500+ rushing yards in each of his first two seasons, and hit at least 1,200 yards in five of his seven seasons in Indianapolis. Had it not been for an ACL tear during 2001 (a season which he was well on his way to another 1,700 yard season), his stay as a Colt may have ended quite differently than being allowed to leave for Arizona in free-agency in 2006. Despite that, he’s still the best running back in team history, and should eventually make the Hall of Fame. On a side note, as a nod to his great contributions here, the Colts gave him a Super Bowl ring in 2007 after their victory in Super Bowl XLI.
#2. Dwight Freeney, Defensive End (2002 – current)
-Indy Career Highlights: 7x Pro-Bowl, 4x All-Pro, NFL sacks leader (2004), NFL 2000′s All-Decade Team. Indy Stats: 102.5 sacks, 256 tackles, 44 forced fumbles.
Dwight Freeney is unquestionably the single greatest defensive presence that the Indianapolis Colts have ever had. Constantly facing double teams, he beats the opposing offensive lineman with a variety of moves, including his patented spin move. Considered small-ish for his position during the draft, he’s proved his doubters wrong, and has been wreaking havoc on quarterbacks ever since. Freeney is the team record holder in career sacks. He’s also the highest ranking current Colt on this list. Which leaves just one more player…
#1. Marvin Harrison, Wide Receiver (1996 – 2008)
- Indy Career Highlights: 8x Pro-Bowl, 8x All-Pro, NFL receiving yards leader (2002), NFL single season receptions record (143, 2002), NFL 2000′s All-Decade Team, Colts Ring of Honor. Indy Stats: 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, 128 TDs.
Was there ever really any doubt who would top this list? Harrison is not only the greatest wide receiver the Colts have ever seen, he’s on the short list of best wide receivers in NFL history. The numbers and awards speak for themselves. People like to point out that his stats might be inflated due to Peyton Manning’s presence, but for most of his career, he was the only real threat at receiver until Reggie Wayne’s emergence in 2004. That meant he was constantly double-teamed. And he still caught 143 passes in one season. Harrison will be in the Hall of Fame, and should be a first ballot, if the Hall voters can ever shed their bias against great receivers.
Well, that’s all she wrote for the Top 25 Indianapolis Colts of All Time. I hope you enjoyed reading, and please feel free to drop a line on Twitter or make a comment.
*Player Stats are from www.pro-football-reference.com
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