In 2012, the Indianapolis Colts had one of the toughest decisions to make that would potentially change the look of the franchise forever. Do you keep future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning who was coming off neck surgery and whose timetable is limited, or do you draft a young stud in quarterback Andrew Luck coming out of Stanford? Well I’m sure you all know what happened next.
The Colts decided to part ways with Manning and draft Luck with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Now after the Colts made this move, how much pressure do you think Luck was under?
Luck would say how he didn’t feel any pressure to try and replace Peyton because honestly, no one can. Peyton is a first ballot Hall of Famer and is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. So even if Luck was to say that he didn’t feel any pressure, the words were written on the wall for him to come in and have success early.
Sure enough, he did.
His first season, Luck was able to lead the Colts to an 11-5 record and to the playoffs where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Luck threw 23 touchdown passes but did have 18 interceptions as well, a number he was able to cut in half his sophomore season to 9.
Also, let’s not forget what the biggest news was for the Colts his rookie season. Head coach Chuck Pagano had been diagnosed with cancer that season and the Colts went from being “Coltstrong” to “Chuckstrong.”
The pressure on Luck rose and he responded well with the help of interim coach Bruce Arians as they were able to manage the ship until their leader came back. Luck was able to elevate his game and never quit in games where they were down. His rookie season, Luck had the most fourth quarter comebacks in the NFL. For a rookie to lead the league in that category is an amazing feat to accomplish.
Once coach Pagano came back and was healthy, that following offseason Arians took the head coaching position in Arizona. Arians was Luck’s offensive coordinator for his rookie season, so what did the Colts do after Arians left? They went out and got his old offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton from Stanford to help Luck feel more comfortable in a balanced offense.
This move plus other moves show how owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson did a great job putting the pieces around Luck to succeed as well. His first two years, Luck has had the luxury of playing around players like wide receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, and even his former Stanford teammate and tight end Coby Fleener.
The talent Luck is surrounded with probably is a little better than what Peyton had.
Manning’s first couple of seasons he didn’t have the best talent around him except for Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James at running back and Marvin Harrison at receiver, but he did lead the Colts to a 13-3 record his second season where they lost in the divisional round in 1999. Sounds similar to Luck’s resume as he went 11-5 again in his second season where he also lost in the divisional round.
So to say that Luck had better talent around him, I wouldn’t argue that. But that could be just the Colts making sure Luck has a smooth and laid back transition in Indianapolis where expectations were high after Manning basically built Lucas Oil Stadium.
There is no comparison between the two quarterbacks. Manning has changed how the game is played at the line of scrimmage by reading the defense and making audibles all the time. There is one comparison I’d like to mention that they both have.
They both have had amazing playoff comebacks.
In 2006, Manning and his Colts were down as much as 18 points at halftime and were able to come back to win 38-34 over the New England Patriots. This past season, Luck and his Colts were down as many as 28 points to the Kansas City Chiefs and were able to come back to win 45-44. So both guys have tremendous playoff come backs in their history.
Enough looking back on the past though.
At the end of the day though, Luck has responded well to the pressure of trying to be the next great quarterback in Indianapolis.
As a Colts fan I will say this, Luck is bound to be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play. He has the size, the strength, and the smarts to be everything you look for in an all-time great. But I do not have him in my top five list of quarterbacks just yet. After this season though, I do believe he will be in the top five.
Other people feel differently though.
ESPN NFL Analyst Ron Jaworski recently did a list of the top quarterbacks in the NFL today and put Luck at number five. I personally have San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers at number five. I am not a huge fan of Rivers, but he has the stats to back it up. I do have Luck at six but I do expect him to take that next step to jump into my top five this season.
The amount of pressure that was on Luck entering his rookie season was high, but the 24-year-old quarterback has responded well and has been building his own legacy in Indianapolis. With Luck being the face of the franchise now and one of the leaders of this team, look for his legacy to be an unforgettable one for the Colts.