The preseason is halfway over now for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, and their two quarterbacks have looked solid early on as they prepare for the games that matter to begin.
Those two quarterbacks are, of course, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. As unfair as it may seem, Luck will always be linked to Manning — perhaps the greatest signal caller in the history of the game — simply because he was the predecessor. He was the man the team moved on from Peyton with, releasing the legend after missing a full year with neck injuries and drafting the Stanford product No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft all in the same offseason.
Luck’s now played two seasons, so I believe there’s enough information to start comparing these two more closely. Obviously, it’s only fair to look at the first two years of their respective careers, so, for starters, how do their stats match up in those two separate time frames?
Manning’s first season was definitely filled with ups and downs, but certainly more downs. In his rookie season in 1998, he threw for 3,739 yards on a 56.7 completion percentage with 26 touchdowns, 28 interceptions and a 71.2 passer rating. On top of that, his team only went 3-13.
His second year, however, he completely flipped the script — most impressively in regards to the Colts’ record, as they pulled a ridiculous turnaround to 13-3 and won the (at the time) AFC East. That year, he threw for 4,135 yards on a 62.1 completion percentage with 26 touchdowns, only 15 interceptions and a terrific 90.7 passer rating.
Luck’s rookie year undoubtedly went better. In it, he threw for 4,374 yards while completing 54.1 percent of his passes and tossed 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions for a 76.5 passer rating. The Colts, after going 2-14 the year before without Manning or Luck, went 11-5 and finished second in the AFC South before losing in the wild-card round to the Baltimore Ravens.
In the former Cardinal’s sophomore campaign, Luck threw for 3,822 yards, completing 60.2 percent of his passes while throwing 23 touchdowns and only nine interceptions for a pretty rating of 87.0. The Colts again went 11-5, winning the division on their way to an amazing wild-card victory over the Kansas City Chiefs before falling to the New England Patriots in the divisional round.
Also, while today the voting is, for the most part, a popularity contest selected by the fans, it’s still relatively important to note that Luck made the Pro Bowl both seasons, while Manning didn’t make it either of his first two years.
So, to put it all together and make it easier to see, here are the numbers for both QBs in a more concise form:
Manning: 52 TDs, 41 INTs, 7,874 yards, a 16-16 record and zero Pro Bowls.
Luck: 46 TDs, 27 INTs, 8,196 yards, a 22-10 record and two Pro Bowls.
Rather shockingly, Luck has been much more consistent in his first two years than Manning was and appears to be more pro-ready than No. 18 was as well early on in his career. Sadly for him, though, this success is only going to lead to more comparisons and expectations from the media and fanbase. This then begs the obvious question, can Luck ever live up to what Manning has accomplished and is still adding on to?
There’s no doubt the talent, intelligence, charisma and leadership is all there for the 24-year-old. It’s amazing how the Colts have gone from, in my opinion, the best QB ever, to one who has the potential to be that good one day down the road. It’s like the Green Bay Packers going from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. It’s just not fair.
Will that ever happen, though? That remains to be seen. All we can do right now is sit, wait and remember that every time we watch Luck take the field, we’re potentially watching greatness unfold right before our eyes. Something Colts fans might reminisce about today, as they recall watching the ’98 and ’99 seasons with a young Manning just learning how to dominate NFL defenses.