INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Kelly is the brains of the Indianapolis Colts offensive line.
As the center, it’s incumbent upon him to know what the heck is going on, oft-times in the middle of a maelstrom. He’s got to be quick on his feet, and have most, if not all of the answers.
So no one should be surprised Kelly is able to quickly rattle off the growing list of starting quarterbacks he’s snapped to since assuming leadership of the o-line as the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft.
“They’re all different,’’ he said after Nick Foles became his ninth starting QB. “If you ask me, every single one of them has a quirk or something different to them.
“Personalities different, different interests, but that’s what makes the NFL so unique and our locker room so unique.’’
Again, there was no tripping up Kelly when it came to recalling his starting QBs: Foles, Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger, Carson Wentz, Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Scott Tolzien and Andrew Luck.
The grand plan was for Kelly and Luck to replicate the stabilizing C/QB tandem interim head coach Jeff Saturday and Peyton Manning brought to the Colts from 2000-2010.
After starting two games at guard in 1999, his first season with Indy, Saturday slid over to center the next year and never moved. He and Manning set an NFL record by collaborating on 170 regular-season starts.
During his 13 seasons with the Colts, Saturday dealt with just four starting QBs in his 188 starts, and three of them – Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky – came in ’11 when Manning missed the season with his neck issues.
And Kelly has dealt with nine in his 95 starts. He’s also snapped to Jacob Eason as a backup.
“It’s really different,’’ Kelly said Wednesday. “Look at a camera guy working with the same reporter for 15 years . . . there are different quirks and ways they communicate. It’s the non-verbal stuff. It’s the way you see things, the way you anticipate the snap count, the way you feel things throughout the game, (the way) you feel pressure and different rotations.
“You can tell if you’re working with a guy for long enough he’s going to get to that or I’ll see it first. It takes time and the cadences take time. It’s the communication. It’s on the field and the off the field. There are so many different parts that people don’t see.’’
The constant change takes a toll. The Colts have had a different primary starting quarterback in seven consecutive seasons. Luck was the last to start in back-to-back seasons (2015-16).
The one constant: Kelly.
“It’s tough when it’s different year-to-year,’’ he said. “Certainly when you go different week-to-week, it’s even tougher.’’
Saturday benched Ryan following the Colts’ historic 54-19 collapse at Minnesota Dec. 17. Foles had bounced from No. 2 to No. 3 and back to No. 2 on the depth chart, and his first practice snaps with the starting unit came Dec. 21, six days before making his first start as a Colt.
“It’s crazy to think I hadn’t even taken a snap with the guy until last week,’’ Kelly said. “I thought he did a great job. Under tough circumstances like that, to come in his first game in Week 15 is not an easy task to go through.’’
The Colts have lost five straight, eight of nine and take a 4-10-1 record into Sunday’s road test against the New York Giants.
No one should question how Kelly is approaching the final two games of a disappointing season.
“I think every single guy knows the situation that we’re in,’’ he said. “You have two games left and you’re not guaranteed anything in this league. This team has two games together left. After that, it will never look the same.
“We’ll go out there and give it our best. If you’re a professional and you want to stay in this league, you go out there and no matter the circumstances, you play hard. If you’re out of the playoff situation, you go out there and don’t give effort and you don’t try hard, everybody else in the league sees that.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.