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The Modern Mount Rushmore Of Manning And Co.

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Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison was one of the premier passing duos in the NFL. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.
Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison was one of the premier passing duos in the NFL. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

Back on June 17, Pro Football Talk made a Mount Rushmore to represent the entire Indianapolis Colts history. The site chose Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison as the four biggest names in team annals. Whether those are the four correct names or not is certainly up for debate, but instead, let’s make two separate Mt. Rushmores to represent two incredibly significant and different eras of the team – one for the Baltimore years and one for the Indianapolis era.

Tuesday, I published the Baltimore version. Today, I give you the Colts Mt. Rushmore, Indianapolis edition (1984-present).

George Washington – Marvin Harrison

He wasn’t part of the original ’84 Indianapolis team, but Marvin Harrison was a Colt before the other three members of this list were. On top of that, he was the best Indianapolis-era Colt besides the Abraham Lincoln winner. Harrison teamed with Peyton Manning to create the most productive quarterback-wide receiver tandem in NFL history. Harrison is the franchise leader in all-time receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns and owns the top two single-season performances in each of those categories as well. His 143 receptions in 2002 is still an NFL record. If it wasn’t for the voters’ constant snubbing of wide receivers, Harrison would be a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Abraham Lincoln – Peyton Manning

Without a doubt, Peyton Manning is the greatest Indianapolis Colt ever. He became the first ever four-time AP MVP winner, he led a struggling franchise to 11 playoff appearances in 12 seasons, including eight 12-wingseasons, he won the Colts their first Super Bowl in 36 years, his ability to read defenses is unparalleled and he’s got all of the team’s passing records. Without Manning, the Colts would’ve continued to be a laughing stock throughout the 2000’s.

Thomas Jefferson – Edgerrin James

Edgerrin James isn’t underrated by any means, but it still feels like he doesn’t get near the credit he deserves. The Colts of the Manning-era are sometimes thought of as all pass and nothing else, but that certainly wasn’t the case when James was around. He led the NFL in rushing yards his first two years and was on his way to doing so again before tearing his ACL six games into his third season. After the injury, James’ last four years in Indianapolis (’02-‘05) produced rushing totals of 989, 1,259, 1,548 and 1,506, respectively. Had opposing defenses not been forced to respect the running game of James, it would have been more difficult for Manning to work his magic through the air. James played for the Colts from 1999 to 2005. The only year Indianapolis didn’t make the playoffs in that span was 2001, when James tore his ACL. That’s not a coincidence.

Teddy Roosevelt – Dwight Freeney

Dwight Freeney breaks the mold of this group as the only defensive player. It’s fitting, as Freeney has meant more to the Colts defense than any other player since 1984. His ability to get after opposing quarterbacks perfectly complemented his offense, which always put the other team in must-pass situations. Freeney is the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks with 107.5 and forced fumbles with 43. His pass-rushing counterpart, Robert Mathis, closely trails Freeney in both categories. But Freeney is 57.5 sacks and 31 forced fumbles ahead of the respective third-place finishers in each category. Freeney unfortunately left the Colts this past offseason. His production will undoubtedly be missed.

Honorable mentions

Reggie Wayne – His best wasn’t quite as good as Harrison’s best, but Wayne has been more steadily consistent. He only needs two more productive seasons to pass Harrison in career receptions and receiving yards.

Marshall Faulk/Eric Dickerson – Both were incredibly productive as Colts, but both were more productive and better known as Rams. Combined, they only spent nine and a half seasons in Indianapolis.

Ray Donaldson – One of the few bright spots from the Colts of the ‘80s. His four Pro Bowls with the team put him into the conversation for best Colts center ever, along with...

Jeff Saturday – With Manning, Saturday created maybe the best center-quarterback duo in NFL history. He made five Pro Bowls and two All-NFL 1st teams in Indianapolis.

Tony Dungy – Coached the team to its first Super Bowl victory in 36 years, but the players deserve more credit than the coach.