Gardner Minshew‘s time at the controls in Indianapolis looks set to run through season’s end. After consulting with multiple doctors, Anthony Richardson will be shut down for the campaign’s remainder.
Richardson will undergo season-ending surgery to repair his AC joint injury, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports. The No. 4 overall pick went on IR last week, and while a return was in play, an update to the situation indicated the Florida alum was facing a longer return timetable than initially forecast. The Colts will proceed with considerable caution here. Jim Irsay confirmed Richardson’s season is done.
“We collected several medical opinions and we felt this was the best course of action for his long-term health,” Irsay said. “We anticipate a full recovery and there is no doubt Anthony has a promising future.”
Although Richardson showed early promise, he suffered injuries in three of his four games with the Colts. A concussion in Week 2 and the Week 4 shoulder injury came after Richardson runs. While the Colts drafted Richardson in large part because of his rare athletic skillset, those talents led to this early shutdown. The team also did not want a repeat of the Andrew Luck situation, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes.
Luck sustained a partially torn labrum during the 2015 season but finished out the year and opted not to undergo surgery in 2016. This led to Luck playing hurt throughout the ’16 slate and practicing on a limited basis for most of that year. Once the former Indianapolis franchise QB opted for surgery in 2017, complications from the procedure led to a full-season absence. Luck returned for the 2018 campaign, earning Comeback Player of the Year acclaim, but stunned the football world by retiring just before the 2019 season. The former No. 1 overall pick cited the mental toll the extensive rehab took on him as a central reason for his NFL exit. This left the Colts adrift at QB for years; Richardson is in place to stop the carousel.
The merry-go-round will spin again for a while, with Minshew now the starter. Luck’s 2017 shutdown led to Scott Tolzien opening the year as the starter, but Jacoby Brissett replaced him quickly. Thrown into another emergency circumstance, Brissett was back in place as Indy’s starter in 2019. The Colts then churned through Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan from 2020-22, with Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles also stepping in during a disastrous 2022 season. Richardson was the seventh Colts Week 1 starting quarterback since 2017. Only Washington (2017-23), Cleveland (2013-19) and San Diego (1987-93) match that throughout NFL history. Minshew is not part of that list, but he will almost definitely end up taking the bulk of the Colts’ snaps in 2023, putting him in position to cash in on up to $2MM in playing-time incentives.
As expected from a one-year college starter who did not show plus accuracy in college, Richardson offered an up-and-down early sample. He completed only 59.5% of his throws and averaged 6.9 yards per attempt. But the 6-foot-4, 244-pound talent flashed immediately as a dual threat, amassing 136 rushing yards in fewer than three full games. The Colts have the 21-year-old QB under contract through 2026, with a fifth-year option existing in the rookie deal to push it through 2027. Through that lens, Indy’s careful plan — one ESPN.com’s Stephen Holder notes involved Richardson’s camp — makes sense. Though, it certainly hurts the 2023 Colts edition.
Irsay had indicated the Colts would have chosen Richardson first overall, with the team running an effective smokescreen operation — one that involved steady Will Levis-to-Indiana rumors — before the draft. Richardson will now have several months to recover, leaving Minshew back in a starting role. The Colts informed Minshew when he signed a one-year, $3.5MM deal that he would be backing up whomever the team drafted in the first round, the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson notes. The ex-Jaguars sixth-round pick began his career as Foles’ backup but usurped him. The Jags moved on after drafting Trevor Lawrence in 2021, but Minshew has now been in Shane Steichen‘s offense for three seasons.
The ex-Eagles backup struggled in his second Colts start, throwing three INTs in a one-sided loss in Jacksonville. But Minshew, 27, has made 26 starts over his five-year career. While he does not threaten defenses the way Richardson does, the experienced passer’s accuracy chops will be more dependable compared to the rookie’s current capabilities. This will double as an opportunity for Minshew to re-establish himself as a bridge-level starter or earn a more lucrative QB2 deal for the 2024 season and beyond.