Hall of Famer Warren Moon agrees with the Indianapolis Colts’ call on quarterback Anthony Richardson — Andscape
Shortly after the Indianapolis Colts’ preseason opener, head coach Shane Steichen broke the news: Rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson will be the team’s starter this season.
“Honestly, I was shocked,” Richardson told reporters the other day.
Hall of Famer Warren Moon wasn’t.
The only Black quarterback enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Moon has followed Richardson’s performance closely since Richardson was a rising pro prospect at the University of Florida last season. After the Colts selected Richardson with the fourth overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, Moon’s interest in the young passer’s game only increased.
In Moon’s analysis, the Colts made the right call. The Colts believe Richardson will be the foundation of their future, Moon said, so they might as well start working toward it by putting him on the field immediately.
“Well, what they’re saying is, ‘We didn’t draft him No. 4 for nothing,’ ” Moon told Andscape during a phone interview Tuesday. “They’ve seen enough to be confident that this is what they need to do. They’ve made the decision, they’ve been decisive, and I agree with it.”
Steichen announced the Colts’ decision after Richardson’s preseason debut against the Buffalo Bills. And make no mistake, Indianapolis’ naming of Richardson as its starter this season is an organizational decision.
Never forget that in the NFL, the quarterback position is paramount. When a franchise selects one in the first round of the draft, let alone among the top five picks, the development of such a player becomes its top priority.
Already, the Colts are all-in on Richardson, who in one quarter against Buffalo completed 7-of-12 passes for 67 yards with an interception. Granted, from a statistical standpoint, Richardson didn’t have an auspicious debut.
It was, however, his first game action. Also, the Colts were pleased with Richardson’s decision-making while he directed two more drives after committing the turnover. Richardson, it appeared, wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment.
Moon sure liked what he saw. And much more went into the Colts’ decision, Moon said, than what occurred in one quarter of the preseason game against the Bills.
“Well, he’s a hell of a physical talent, and they’ve seen him a lot already,” said Moon, a nine-time Pro Bowler and the NFL’s 1990 Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year.
“They’ve seen him now in OTAs [organized team activities]. They’ve seen him now in training camp. When you get to this point, and you see the positives, you say to yourself to just let him go out there and make the mistakes so he can start the process of learning.
“You know the mistakes are gonna come. That’s the way it is for all young quarterbacks. You know that that’s part of the process; no way around that with anyone. But he’s also gonna make some big plays on the other side of it. He’s gonna make some in both [the passing and running games]. So let’s just put him out there and get the whole thing started.”
Since the NFL Scouting Combine in March, Richardson has wowed Colts officials.
The former Florida standout was clocked at 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That time marked the fourth fastest by a quarterback since 2000.
To truly grasp Richardson’s athleticism, however, context is required: He’s 6-foot-4, 244 pounds. Being a quarterback, especially one of that size, what Richardson accomplished in covering so much ground so quickly was unprecedented during the combine evaluation process.
Richardson also has a powerful passing arm, and people within the Florida Gators’ program have raved about his smarts and his ability to command the huddle. The major criticism of Richardson in college was that he’s not accurate enough. Last season, the only one in which Richardson started for the Gators, he completed 53.8% of his passes.
Based on Richardson’s accuracy issues at Florida, the widespread belief among talent-evaluators and NFL coaches, in post-draft interviews with Andscape, was that Richardson would benefit most from serving as a backup during his rookie year with Indianapolis. The thought was that by sitting behind a veteran, Richardson could become immersed in the Colts’ playbook and study game tape without the pressure of having to carry the team.
Until Steichen revealed the Colts’ decision, Richardson had been competing with veteran Gardner Minshew. Well, no more.
“The key now is to do the right things with him, and they [the Colts] know that,” Moon said. “When you make a decision like this, you then have to make sure you’ve put him in the best position possible in the offense.
“Part of that is you make sure you don’t overwhelm him in the offense. He’ll have so many things coming at him with the speed of it [the NFL game] and how good everyone is [on defense]. You know one big thing that would help him? If they [reward] the running back.”
A highly productive running game, it’s often said in the NFL, is a rookie passer’s best friend. During the 2021-22 season, Colts All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor led the league with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns.
Problem is, Taylor, who’s entering the final season under his rookie contract, has been at loggerheads with the organization over his lack of an extension and has requested a trade. Obviously, Taylor’s situation will have major impact on the Colts’ offense and, as a result, Richardson’s development within it.
Regardless, for the Colts and Richardson, it’s full speed ahead.
“Once you do this, once you make the decision to go with him, there’s no turning back now,” Moon said. “It’s not like you can bench him if he’s not playing well, and then go back to him, because you’ll probably destroy his confidence. But if you handle it right, he could be in there for a really long time.”
In making the decision to start Richardson, the Colts are taking a risk. But if they’re correct, it could pay off for them big-time.