Robert Turbin the Colts’ RB of the future?
INDIANAPOLIS – In the quiet of a despondent and nearly-deserted locker room, no more than an hour after their playoff hopes died once and for all, Robert Turbin seethed. He did that day in Oakland what few professional athletes do: He let it all out. He spoke his mind.
“I’m gonna tell you what, though,” Turbin said, staring at his locker, not so much responding to a particular question as emptying out the fury that had been bubbling inside him for some time. “I wanna be back here next year because I’m (expletive) coming back to help this team win a championship. Period. With a (expletive) vengeance.”
Turbin is a passionate man, a passionate and effective player, and this wasn’t good enough. This was the Indianapolis Colts slumping to 7-8 on the year, stamping a second straight season outside of the playoffs, forced to swallow a harsh reality that all that work they’d put in, from April through Christmas Eve, was for naught. They were underachievers, and they knew it.
This wasn’t what Turbin came here for.
“The goal wasn’t achieved,” Turbin said a few weeks later while he cleaned out his locker after the Colts finished the year 8-8. “That makes it hard to leave.”
Make no mistake: Turbin’s services will be in demand. He is a 27-year-old running back, a soon-to-be-free agent with low mileage coming off the best of his five-year career. Before 2016, Turbin had all of one rushing touchdown to his name. Now he has eight. No running back in football in 2016 had as many touchdowns (seven) in fewer attempts (47 rushes). That’s a score every 6.7 touches. That’s effective red-zone football.
Add a receiving touchdown, and Turbin found the end zone as many times (eight) as starter Frank Gore, most on the team. They were, along with backup tight end Jack Doyle and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, bright spots for the Colts throughout a dismal year. Turbin did more than just find the pylon, too. According to Pro Football Focus, he had a 97.1 pass blocking efficiency score – good enough for fifth among 55 qualifying running backs. Andrew Luck thanks him.
As Turbin weighs his future, he weighs unfinished business. He was Beast Mode’s backup in Seattle, a bit player on a Super Bowl champion. He made it clear throughout this season that he came to Indianapolis to do the same. It didn’t happen. In steadfast belief that the Colts have the pieces to make a playoff run, he wants to try again.
“I definitely feel a big urge to come back,” he said after Week 17.
But Turbin isn’t chasing another one-year deal, another six-month audition. He wants to win, wants to start, wants a long-term contract.
“The security,” Turbin noted.
If he returns to Indianapolis, he won’t be the Colts’ starter in 2017 – that job belongs to the ageless Gore, who last season became the first back in more than 30 years to eclipse 1,000 yards at age 33 or older. But Gore’s contract runs out after the 2017 season, and he’d turn 35 before the start of the following campaign. All running backs expire, even ones like Gore who have defied Father Time for so long.
With another strong season, Turbin could become the future in Indianapolis. Only once in his five seasons has he carried the ball more than 80 times. He believes, strongly, that there’s plenty of good football left in him.
“I don’t want to be labeled as a backup running back or a third-down back,” Turbin said in late December. “I want to be a starter in this league. I believe I can be a starter. It’s just about timing. I’ll continue to work hard like I always have and try to make the most of my opportunities.”
The running back room, for years and years and years, held the Colts back (see: Richardson, Trent). Last season was different. As a young offensive line took its lumps while also offering hints of progress, Gore and Turbin excelled. Third-stringer Jordan Todman – who received only nine carries this season and was never a factor — is another free agent come March. Don’t be surprised if the Colts part ways with Todman and look to the draft to add some young talent.
The issue, as with every decision the Colts will make this spring, comes down to dollars. The money needs to be spent on defense, where the Colts finished 30th in the league. After all, pass rushers aren’t cheap. Especially elite ones.
That Christmas Eve in Oakland, among several low points for the Colts in 2016, Turbin dished some honesty.
“Those games we had, (the ones) we were winning late? Detroit? Houston?” he said of the early-season wins the Colts let slip through their fingers. “Those come back to bite you in the (expletive).
“Time and again this year we didn’t do our part.”
Turbin did, and few Colts can say that. Where will he suit up in 2017?
He hopes to return to Indianapolis, to come back with a vengeance and help this team rectify the failures of 2016.
This article can be found on: https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nfl/colts/2017/02/07/could-robert-turbin-colts-rb-future/96533014/