Wild 10 years shaped Colts’ 2010s All-Decade Team

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We love lists. We absolutely obsess over “All-time’’ lists.

This week, the NFL released its 2010s All-Decade Team, and the expected names jumped off the page. There were 55 in all, and selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 48-member selection committee, of which I’m a member.

The prominent list-within-the-list? There were only eight unanimous selections: quarterback Tom Brady, defensive end J.J. Watt, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, offensive tackle Joe Thomas, guard Marshal Yanda, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Von Miller and kicker Justin Tucker.

The only player with ties to the Indianapolis Colts was Frank Gore, one of four running backs on the team. Gore used the Colts as one of his steppingstones to Canton, leading them in rushing from 2015-17.

The lack of Colts’ flavor wasn’t a surprise – sustained success, individually and collectively, was lacking of the last 10 years – and pales in comparison to the 2000s All-Decade Team.

Four Colts were selected to the 2000s first team: running back Edgerrin James, wideout Marvin Harrison, defensive end Dwight Freeney and kicker Adam Vinatieri, whose selection clearly was buttressed by his time with the New England Patriots.

Second-team choices included quarterback Peyton Manning (behind Tom Brady) and coach Tony Dungy (behind Bill Belichick).

It’s worth noting first-team All-Decade recognition generally has been a precursor for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Harrison is a member of the Class of 2016 – he was joined by Dungy that year – and James is included in the Class of 2020. Vinatieri still is active while Freeney is eligible for the Class of 2023. Manning will be a headliner in the modern-era candidates for the Class of 2021.

That brings us back considering the Colts’ 2010s All-Decade Team.

And what a wild ride the decade proved to be.

Over the past 10 years, the franchise has had three general managers/presidents (Bill Polian, Ryan Grigson and Chris Ballard) and four head/interim coaches (Jim Caldwell, Chuck Pagano, Bruce Arians and Frank Reich).

There was the end of the Manning era and the beginning and end of the Andrew Luck era. We might have seen the last of Vinatieri in a Colts uniform.

The decade saw 18 players combine for 33 Pro Bowl appearances and witnessed the arrival of a pair of bona fide rising stars in guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard.

The bottom line: an 82-78 record, three AFC South titles, five playoff berths and one trip to the AFC Championship game.

One person’s view of the Colts’ 2010s All-Decade Team:

QUARTERBACK

First team: Andrew Luck

Second team: Peyton Manning

Comment: We’ll forever wonder where Luck’s career might have taken him and the franchise. In six seasons and while dealing with mounting physical issues, he directed the team to the playoffs four times. He was 57-37 as a starter, including the postseason, with 183 touchdowns and 96 interceptions.

Manning was around for just the start of the decade, but in 2010 earned his 11th Pro Bowl nod while throwing for a then-franchise record 4,700 yards and 33 TDs.

RUNNING BACK

First team: Frank Gore

Second team: Marlon Mack

Comment: Gore was one of Grigson’s more productive free-agent acquisitions. He ranks 3rd on the NFL’s career rushing list (15,347 yards), and piled up 2,953 yards in Indy.

We opted for Mack next, but nearly went with underappreciated Donald Brown. The latter led the Colts in rushing three times, one more than Mack.

WIDE RECEIVER

First team: T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne

Second team: Donte Moncrief, Pierre Garcon

Comment: Hilton is a four-time Pro Bowler who ranks fourth in team history in receptions and yards. Reggie is Reggie. He was eligible for Hall of Fame consideration this year and reached the Final 15.

TIGHT END

First team: Jack Doyle

Second team: Coby Fleener

Comment: Doyle’s EveryMan story is incredible. From waiver-wire claim in 2013 to Pro Bowler to a pair of contract extensions worth more than $40 million. In four seasons, Fleener had 183 catches, 2,154 yards and 17 TDs.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

First team: Anthony Castonzo, Braden Smith

Second team: Joe Reitz, Ryan Diem

Comment: Castonzo is a no-brainer, then it got dicey. We went with Smith even though he’s been on the job for just two seasons. Reitz’s value was in his versatility. Diem started 27 games in 2010-11 but was on the downside of a rock-solid 11-year career.

GUARD

First team: Quenton Nelson, Jack Mewhort

Second team: Joe Haeg, Hugh Thornton

Comment: Barring injury, Nelson is well on his way to earning a first-team spot on the 2020s All-Decade Team. He’s already a two-time first-team All Pro. Mewhort was a mainstay until his knees betrayed him.

CENTER

First team: Ryan Kelly

Second team: Jeff Saturday

Comment: Kellyfinally showed up on the national radar when he made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. Saturday? His 32 starts in 2010-11, his final two seasons in Indy, rank second in the decade to Kelly’s 51.

LINEBACKER

First team: Darius Leonard, Jerrell Freeman

Second team: D’Qwell Jackson, Erik Walden

Comment: It’s taken Leonard two seasons to establish himself as one of the league’s premier defensive playmakers: 12 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, seven interceptions. Freeman was the first signing by Grigson in 2012 and piled up 478 tackles, including 29 for loss, in four seasons.

DEFENSIVE END

First team: Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney

Second team: Jabaal Sheard, Cory Redding

Comment: Yes, 98 and 93. Of course. Mathis had 60 sacks in seven seasons, including a franchise-record 19.5 in ’13. Freeney’s career in Indy was winding down, but he still spun his way to 23.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles in 2010-12.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

First team: Fili Moala, Henry Anderson

Second team: Antonio Johnson, Ricky Jean-Francois

Comment: Without question the most difficult area to figure out. We thought about putting DeForest Buckner on the first team just to make a point.

CORNERBACK

First team: Vontae Davis, Jerraud Powers

Second team: Darius Butler, Kenny Moore II

Comment: When Davis was good, he was very good. Note his two Pro Bowl nods. Then everything went to hell. We’ve always had a soft spot for Powers.

SAFETY

First team: Antoine Bethea, Mike Adams

Second team: Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers

Comment: Maybe one day everyone will truly appreciate the body of work compiled by Bethea, the 207th overall pick in the 2006 draft. Adams? He was signed out of desperation a few days before veterans’ minicamp in June 2013 and went on to make two Pro Bowl appearances.

KICKER

First team: Adam Vinatieri

Comment: Forget 2019. Only Wayne, Manning and John Unitas have appeared in more games as a Colt than Vinny (205). He holds virtually every franchise kicking record and has a club-record 1,515 points.

PUNTER

First team: Pat McAfee

Comment: Don’t be fooled by the bluster, this guy was among the NFL’s very best when he suddenly retired after 2016.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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