Scouts, amateurs and armchair quarterbacks alike have all had one season to get a feel for the Indianapolis Colts‘ new starting quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck had an extraordinary rookie season. He set records, and is going to be the firm face of the franchise for the next 10 to 15 years.
But every time I watch him, I can’t help but think how much he’s like Peyton Manning. Their similar characteristics and backgrounds are like looking at two of the same colors, but just a slightly different shade.
Manning played college football at Tennessee. Luck played at Stanford. Both of them took over the starting jobs their freshmen year of college. In their second seasons of college, both only lost one game. After Manning’s third season in college, he elected to come back. Luck did the same. Both of them were projected top picks and both finished their degrees in three years, but they stayed in college anyway.
In their respective final years of play, they were First-Team All Americans, Maxwell Award winners, Johnny Unitas Award winners, runner-ups to the Heisman award, and First-Team players for their respective conferences. Ironically, Luck was actually the Manning Award winner. An award given by the Mannings to their choice of the top college quarterback.
Coming out of college, Manning and Luck were projected to be top quarterbacks — almost. Manning was being constantly compared to another quarterback prospect named Ryan Leaf. Luck was being constantly compared to another quarterback prospect named Robert Griffin III. When the draft rolled around, Manning was picked first and Leaf second. Luck was also picked first and Griffin was picked second. The Colts selected Manning and Luck in their respective drafts.
The season before Manning was picked, the Colts won three games and their general manager was kicked out. The season before Luck was picked, the Colts won two games and the general manager was also fired.
Once Luck started playing games as a rookie, it was obvious the likenesses of the two players were still there, but the results were vastly different. As a rookie, Manning’s team won three games. Luck’s team won 10 and made the playoffs. Luck also ran for five touchdowns and threw 18 interceptions. Manning ran for none and threw 28. So despite all these similarities and even after experts said Manning’s rookie season would never be topped, Luck did just that.
The Andrew Luck story is still being written with the Colts, but it’s impossible to ignore that both players are so close in background and performance it’s almost scary. However, it looks as though Luck is actually better. He is more mobile and just more physically built.
We also can’t forget the Colts organization themselves. They made away like a bandit through all of this. When they drafted Manning in 1998, they got a once-in-a-decade type player. Manning is possibly the best quarterback of all time.
When the Colts drafted Luck, the exact same thing happened. Even better, they got Luck just after Manning left. The Colts never even had to suffer without a franchise quarterback for any period of time. Will the Colts get another once-in-a-lifetime quarterback 15 years from now when Luck steps down? Stranger things have happened.