Andrew Luck: The Man in the Middle … of John Elway and Peyton Manning

Written By: Adrian Jarding | @AEJarding12
Member of Ball State Sports Link


Sunday’s 35-33 come-from-behind victory in Nashville was much needed for the Indianapolis Colts. History agrees.

Let’s start off with a statistic, because I am the statistics junkie of the world.

Did you know the Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts have the most regular season MVPs in the NFL? All of them quarterbacks. Johnny Unitas has three (1959, 1964, 1967), Earl Morrall has one (1968), Bert Jones has one (1976) and Peyton Manning has four with the Colts (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009).

The next closest team is the Green Bay Packers with eight, but only six of those have been quarterbacks — Bart Starr, Brett Favre (3) and Aaron Rodgers (2).

Did you also know the Colts have the most No. 1 overall picks in the NFL with seven? Five of those picks have been used on quarterbacks. George Shaw in 1955, John Elway in 1983, Jeff George in 1990, Peyton Manning in 1998 and Andrew Luck in 2012 were the choices.

Three Hall of Fame quarterbacks have been associated with the Colts. It’s no wonder why Andrew Luck has such high expectations to succeed.

Coming out of college he was hailed as the greatest prospect since John Elway. He also had to replace arguably the greatest quarterback in team history, and according to the NFL’s all-time Top 100 list , the eighth greatest player ever — Peyton Manning (Elway was 23rd).

All of this, while considering the fact Luck stepped into a team with a rich quarterback history, would be incredibly hard for anyone to live-up to. Even for someone as talented as Luck.

Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on September 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andrew Luckt hrows a pass during the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on September 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

He has the body of a linebacker, the knowledge of a veteran, the arm of a gunslinger and a knack unteachable — and  — undefinable.

In three years, he’s won 34 regular season games, three playoff games, and has advanced one game closer to the Super Bowl each year. That’s not too shabby for someone who took over a 2-14 team.

So why has Luck been compared to two Hall of Fame quarterbacks so much? Well, the similarities are eerie.

In 1983, John Elway declared his eligibility for the NFL Draft. He was touted as the most talented prospect the NFL had ever seen. He was everything quarterbacks aspired to be. He could throw rockets down the field, he could move the chains and he had ice-vains in the fourth quarter.

Elway was also a highly-touted baseball prospect and was drafted in the first round by the New York Yankees. At the time, the NFL was at a real weak point in its history. There had been a players-strike the previous year which shortened the season by six weeks, the United States Football League was stealing players and the Baltimore Colts had the first overall pick.

For those of you who may not know, the Colts at this point in history are comparable to the Detroit Lions of the 2000s. Gone were the days of Johnny Unitas and the glory of the great Baltimore teams. John Elway had no interest in playing for the Colts, so they traded him to the Broncos and the rest is history –five conference championships, two Super Bowl victories and a Hall of Fame jacket. Because of the Elway trade, the Colts continued to struggled in 1983 and eventually moved to Indianapolis.

Fast forward to 1998 and not much had changed for the Colts. They were still losing and didn’t have a franchise quarterback. Jeff George didn’t pan out, and the only season that the Colts had pride in was in 1995, when they almost beat the Steelers in the AFC Championship under Jim Harbaugh. In fact, he was enshrined in the Colts Ring of Honor just for that season.

In 1998, the Colts once again held the first overall pick and were looking for a quarterback. They had to select between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. They went with Manning and the rest is history — two conference championships, one Super Bowl victory and a future spot waiting in Canton.

Manning’s legacy was much more than his play on the field.  He kept the Colts in Indy and made them a competitive team for his 12 years there. His success allowed the Colts to build Lucas Oil Stadium, while Manning added his name on a new children’s hospital.

Now, lets fast forward again. This time to present day.  Luck is currently trying to build his own reputation in the shadows of Elway and Manning. I mentioned before the similarities between the two, and I will now follow-up on that. Ready?

Andrew Luck and John Elway SimilaritiesScreen Shot 2015-09-24 at 10.48.51 AM

  • Both went to Stanford and stayed through their senior year.
  • Both touted as two of the best prospects in NFL history.
  • Both were selected #1 overall by the Colts.
  • In their first year, they both made the playoffs and both lost in the Wild Card.
  • In their second year, they both made the playoffs and both lost in the Divisional Round.
  • Both won 33 regular season games in their first three years.
  • Both won their first division title in their second year.

Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning Similaritiespeyton-manning-andrew-luck_pg_600

  • Both had fathers who played in the NFL and were actually teammates on the Oilers from 1982-1983 (Archie Manning and Oliver Luck)
  • Both were competing to be the first overall pick over a perceived flashier player (for Manning it was Ryan Leaf, for Luck it was Robert Griffin III).
  • Both were selected #1 overall by the Colts.
  • Both took over Colts teams that won 3 games-or-less the previous season (3-13 in 1997 and 2-14 in 2011).
  • Both broke the NFL record at the time for most passing yards by a rookie in a season.
  • Both won their first division title in their second year.
  • In their second year, they both made the playoffs and both lost in the Divisional Round.

*Just as a fun sidenote, Chuck Pagano’s brother, John Pagano, was an assistant defensive coach for the Colts in Manning’s first 4 years in Indy (1998-2001).

So where do these comparisons diverge as we look into their fourth years?

Elway led the Broncos to an 11-5 record in 1986 and lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants. Elway, 11 seasons later,  would eventually win a Super Bowl and repeat the feat again in 1998.

In 2001, Peyton Manning started off 2-0 (against the Jets and Bills by the way) before losing 44-13 against the Patriots in Week 3 and eventually finished 6-10. Jim Mora was fired after that season (“Playoffs!?“), and in came Tony Dungy who led them to a Super Bowl title in 2006.

Luck currently stands at 1-2, but leads the league in turnovers. Heading into the season, the Colts were tagged by many to appear in the Super Bowl and lose to the Green Bay Packers, which would follow John Elway’s path.

Others looked at the depth chart and thought these hopes were blimps on a radar, so those critics tagged the Colts to tank the season, which would follow Manning’s path. It would further compound if Chuck Pagano was fired after this season, as he is currently in the last year of his contract and the 0-2 start prior to Sunday’s comeback win at Tennessee only added fuel to the critics’ flames.

Luck found Superman’s cape again Sunday in Nashville.  He threw two touchdown passes 46 seconds apart to help the Colts erase a 27-14 deficit after they gave up 27 straight points to Tennessee. The heroics gave the Colts a 35-33 come-from-behind victory .  It was also the 12th time Luck led the Colts on a winning drive in the fourth quarter or in overtime in his NFL career.

Remember, It took Elway 14 years to win a Super Bowl.  It took Manning eight years.


1 thought on “Andrew Luck: The Man in the Middle … of John Elway and Peyton Manning

  1. This article was written by our grandson Adrian Jardian who is a freshman at Ball State. We were thrilled with his writing, not only the statistics but the maturity of the writing. Watch for him
    in the future, we certainly will!

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