The 2011 Colts, as everyone knows, had a disastrous year, due almost entirely to the Peyton Manning injury. The fall was so precipitous they went from perennial Super Bowl contender to worst team in the league, and Manning was actually talked about in some circles as an MVP candidate because of how valuable his absence proved him to be. This situation may have seemed unprecedented, but in fact the very same Colts team had a surprisingly similar prequel to this way back in the '70s, proving there really is nothing new under the sun.
This post actually isn't about the Jets, but it's offseason and little news is available so I thought I might get away with it. This post is about the best QB some of you have probably never heard of, and in my book in the running for the GOAT. If that piques your interest, take the Jump.
In 1973, with the 2nd overall pick in the Draft, the Colts selected LSU QB Bert Jones. Jones was a 6'3" gunslinger with a bazooka for an arm. People talk about Favre and Jeff George and Cutler, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone with a stronger arm than Bert Jones. He could throw it 90 yards in the air and look like he still had some in reserve. The man was amazing. Now in those days teams still brought QBs along slowly, so Jones didn't get his chance to start full time until 1975, but when he did, it was magic.
From 1975-1977 Jones was the best QB I have ever seen, bar none. The Colts instantly went from 2-12 to 10-4 and an AFC East crown. They went on to win the same AFC East crown in '76 and '77. During that brief stretch, Jones nearly single-handedly made the Colts offense nearly unstoppable. The Colts became an annual Super Bowl contender, and this with a mediocre defense that did not feature a single Pro Bowler. On offense, Jones made Pro Bowlers out of such luminaries as Roger Carr at WR and Lydell Mitchell at RB. In Jones' best year, 1976, he was First Team All Pro. Carr averaged an ungodly 25.9 (!) yards per catch that year, went over 1000 yards on the year with 11 TDs and made the Pro Bowl. Carr got hurt the next year, played a total of 10 years in the league, but never again went over 924 yards or 6 TDs. Mitchell rushed for over 1100 yards in each of 1975, '76 and '77 and made the Pro Bowl each year. In 1975 he also had 11 TDs. In a nine year career he never before or after those 3 years exceeded 963 yards or 5 TDs.
Jones got hurt in 1978, came back in 1980 and 1981 to reclaim his starting position, but was never again the same player. He had lost his rocket arm. The Colts, after 3 years of glory, collapsed. After winning 3 straight AFC East titles and going no worse than 10-4 in those 3 years, after Jones was hurt they slid down to complete ineptitude, going 5-11, 5-11, 7-9 (in Jones comeback year), 2-14 and finally 0-8-1 in the strike year.
Jones made Carr into a Pro Bowler. Carr never surpassed 624 yards without Jones throwing him the ball. Jones made Mitchell into a Pro Bowler -- his only 3 pro Bowl years were with Jones at the helm. Jones, pretty much by himself, turned a perennial bottom dwelling Colts team into a perennial Super Bowl contender and the most exciting offense in football, and when he got hurt, the Colts returned to their sub-mediocre ways for most of the next 20 years, right up until they got Peyton Manning. In short, Bert Jones WAS Peyton Manning before Peyton Manning, right down to the disastrous consequences of his injury.
For 3 incredible years, Bert Jones, the best QB some of you have probably never heard of, was the best QB I had ever seen, and quite possibly STILL the best I have ever seen. These Colts had multiple Pro Bowlers on Defense and guys like Reggie Wayne who thrived without Manning. Those Colts had no pro Bowlers on Defense and guys on Offense who were no better than mediocre before and after Jones but were elevated to Pro Bowlers with him.
Bert Jones, the Peyton Manning prequel.
This trip down memory lane has been provided to you by the old timer Smackdad. Thanks for putting up with it.
There's only one question remaining -- when are we going to get our Bert Jones?