Colts owner Jim Irsay advocates for early usage of QB Anthony Richardson: 'He has to play to get better'

Indianapolis took a big chance drafting quarterback Anthony Richardson with the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft, and Colts owner Jim Irsay feels the rookie will need to see the field sooner rather than later for it to pay dividends.

"As you guys know, Peyton (Manning's rookie) year we were 3-13, the first year," Irsay said on The Pat McAfee Show on Monday. "That's a guy who played a lot of college games and was really prepared as much as he could be for the league. So, for Anthony Richardson, it's going to be tough. We know that. But he has to play to get better. I mean, there's no question. Gardner (Minshew) could come out and play better early on, him just being a veteran, but we have to get Anthony on the field. And that's (head coach) Shane (Steichen's) call when he decides to do it."

While Irsay didn't make any declarations or demands about Richardson being a Week 1 starter, instead leaving the ultimate timeline to his new head coach, he made his stance on his rookie potentially being forged through the fire clear.

Richardson, who has yet to sign his rookie contract, has 4.4 speed and a cannon arm, but his lack of experience -- he served as Florida's full-time starter for just one season -- made his draft slot difficult to predict until the Colts made him their own.

He enters the NFL with 215 completions in 393 attempts during his collegiate career, which amounted to 3,105 yards, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Richardson also had 1,116 rushing yards and 12 scores on the ground.

Manning, comparatively, was a four-year starter at Tennessee with 380 or more pass attempts in each of his final three seasons. He struggled in his first year at the helm as Irsay mentioned, throwing a league-leading 28 interceptions, but the Hall of Famer and his Colts became a dominant force with double-digit wins in 11 of his next 12 seasons.

That will be the future Irsay again hopes to be a part of behind his third first-round QB in his time as owner.

With Irsay's blessing to play Richardson early, it appears the Florida product has a leg up on his competition heading into training camp.

The veteran Minshew has 6,632 passing yards, 44 touchdowns and 15 interceptions and has shown flashes of staying power in 24 career starts. He would likely be the Colts' best shot at competing in the early portion of 2023, but it's possible Indianapolis takes the long-view approach in the aftermath of a 4-12-1 season.

There will be growing pains whenever Richardson enters the lineup, especially considering the offensive line allowed 60 sacks last season (second-most in the league).

But his legs provide him the best chance of any Colts QB to make something out of nothing should the O-line prove porous again, and he will have great safety nets to help the learning curve in All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor and possession wide receiver Michael Pittman.

Plus, the sooner Richardson takes the field, the sooner he can start shooting for his lofty ceiling in earnest.

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