INDIANAPOLIS – The football, along with the immediate fate of the Indianapolis Colts, is in the hands of Gardner Minshew II.
Shane Steichen confirmed Monday that rookie Anthony Richardson “will miss some time’’ after suffering a grade 3 sprain to the AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder in Sunday’s 23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Everything apparently is on the table for Richardson, who reportedly was seeking a second opinion from shoulder specialist Dr. Keith Meister. Options include surgery and/or being placed on the injured reserve list, which would require Richardson to miss four games.
“We’re still evaluating all that stuff,’’ Steichen said.
What’s not in doubt: Minshew is back under center for the foreseeable future, beginning with Sunday’s road test against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Each team sits atop the AFC South with 3-2 records.
After Sunday’s game, Steichen was asked if Minshew is the best backup in the NFL. The two were together in Philadelphia the past two seasons and were reunited during the offseason when the Colts named Steichen head coach and signed Minshew to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.
“Yeah, to me he is,’’ Steichen said. “Obviously I’m biased . . . but the way he’s playing when he comes in, he makes plays for sure. I think he’s an elite processor of the game. . . . he’s really good, he’s accurate, he knows where to go with the football at the right time and the right place and he’s been awesome for us.’’
The previous two times the Colts found their quarterback of the future in the NFL draft, each opened his career with reliability/durability. Peyton Manning, No. 1 overall in 1998, started 208 straight regular-season games. Andrew Luck, No. 1 overall in 2012, started 51 consecutive games.
Richardson started two. And didn’t finish either. He’s failed to finish three of his four starts and missed the week 3 game at Baltimore with a concussion.
Richardson suffered a bruised left knee in the opener against the Jaguars, sustained a concussion in the first quarter in week 2 at Houston and then a bruised right shoulder in the second quarter against the Titans.
“It’s tough to see any of the guys go down with an injury,’’ Defensive Lineman Dayo Odeyingbo said Monday. “It’s obviously a physical game we play and everybody wants to be out on that field. When you have a player that that’s dynamic and that talented, obviously everybody wants to be able to see him play, whether it’s fans or players. It’s tough to see him be hurt, but at the end of the day we have a great quarterback in Gardner and everybody on this team believes in him. He’s shown up every time he’s needed to, come in the game and won games.’’
A quick recap:
*After Richardson suffered the concussion while crossing the goal line on a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter at Houston, Minshew stepped in and immediately directed the Colts to consecutive second-quarter TD drives that gave them a 28-10 halftime lead. He led a third-quarter field goal drive which pushed the cushion to 31-10.
For the game, Minshew was 19-of-23 for 171 yards and a 4-yard TD pass to Kylen Granson.
*With Richardson out with a concussion for the week 3 trip to Baltimore, Minshew made his 25th career start and did enough in the 22-19 overtime win: 27-of-44, 227 yards and a 17-yard TD to Zack Moss. He got the offense in position for five Matt Gay field goals, including an NFL four 50-plus yarders.
*Against the Titans, Minshew completed 11-of-14 passes for 155 yards. After the Colts settled into a 10-6 halftime lead, he led three straight scoring drives that covered 75, 58 and 84 yards: Moss’ 3-yard run and 35- and 28-yard field goals by Gay.
Minshew’s late possession in the fourth quarter was critical. It consisted of 14 plays, picked up 84 yards, drained 7 minutes, 3 seconds off the clock and gave the Colts a 23-16 lead with one minute remaining.
*In his four appearances, Minshew has completed 57-of-83 passes (68.7%) for 553 yards and two TDs. His completion percentage ranks No. 10 in the league.
*After five games, the Richardson/Minshew snaps are nearly identical. Richardson has been on the field for 173 (50.4%) and Minshew for 170 (49.6%).
Until Richardson returns, Steichen must alter his offensive approach to some degree. The two QBs possess contrasting skillsets.
Richardson obviously lacks Minshew’s experience and accuracy while Minshew lacks Richardson’s arm strength and ability to threaten a defense with his legs.
The transition begins with Wednesday’s practice.
“Getting that first-team reps in practice this week with those guys and continuing to gel, that’ll be huge,’’ Steichen said. “Any time you get those reps with those guys in practice, your preparation level is even higher. With anything, the more you play, the more you grow. Me being around Gardner for three years now, knowing what he’s capable of doing, will be good for us.’’
And let’s not forget Sunday’s subplot.
The Jaguars selected Minshew in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. He started 20 games his first two seasons – a 7-13 record as a starter – before being traded to the Eagles in August 2021 after the Jaguars drafted Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in the April draft.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.