Quarterback Andrew Luck is entering his third season with the Indianapolis Colts. He’s never missed the playoffs. There is such a level of trust with him (especially in the fourth quarter) that fans never fully feel like the game is lost, regardless of the circumstance. Everything with Luck is ahead of schedule in terms of legacy and pursuit of championships, but there’s still one thing missing.
Peyton Manning was drafted by the Colts in 1998; Tom Brady was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2000, Manning’s third season. What’s happened between them since has been the stuff of legend for more than a decade. Fans could tell themselves that the rivalry was between the Colts and Patriots, but that would be misleading. Just today Robert Mathis tweeted about the “old” Colts/Patriots rivalry (accurately) as a thing of the past:
Have you guys noticed the new rivalry between Pacers n Heat resemble the old Colts Pats or current 49er Seahawk beef?
— ROBERT MATHIS The1st (@RobertMathis98) March 27, 2014
As satisfying as it would have been for the Colts to defeat the Patriots in last season’s playoffs, the vast majority of the football community craved another Manning/Brady playoff game (and maybe some Colts fans, though they’d be loath to admit it, felt the same way).
The AFC has good quarterbacks, but none one them complement Luck the way Brady complements Manning. Mentions of Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton or Ryan Tannehill don’t exactly make my blood boil. Luck’s not the type to get yelly and finger-pointy like Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers (I’m still furious they were split up), but there has to be someone out there for him to rail against — a force of darkness against Luck’s blinding light.
With the NFL Draft fast approaching (May 8), I wonder if history could repeat itself. All of the top contenders for the next generation of quarterback rivalries seem to be way over there in the NFC, far away from repeated match-ups with Luck. And every team in the Colts’ AFC South division (Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars) is searching for their iconic leading man. As much as I’d love to have all three continue on their current course for the sake of that playoff spot, if Luck is going to achieve Manning/Brady levels of greatness, he’d benefit from having someone push him, maybe two or three times a year.
Perhaps having Johnny Manziel on the Texans is the answer. The Texans have been threatening to play the role of Colts’ rival for years, even when Manning was still on the team (and I still take great satisfaction in the fact that, despite the 2-14 season, the Texans still have never won in Indianapolis). Luck needs a rival that makes every matchup feel like an event. I look forward to the day that player, whoever is he, makes himself known.