The Colts faithful are entering uncharted territory of fandom in Indianapolis.
How do they cope with life after Peyton Manning?
Their living legend will no longer wear the horseshoe on his helmet.
Do you know who will in less than two months?
Stanford icon Andrew Luck.
Before he's hit with a cascade of cliches about the difficulties that come with "replacing a legend," let's revert back to reality for a moment.
Yes, everything you've heard is true. Luck is the most polished, NFL-ready quarterback since Manning—some would argue since John Elway.
He's got the size, arm strength, intelligence and just about any other tool you deem necessary for a signal-caller to be successful in the NFL.
He's the epitome of the quarterback with which you'd love to start a franchise.
However, that's essentially what the Colts are doing next season. They're starting over. Typically, at the ground floor of any rebuilding process, there is struggle, hardship and a need for unwavering patience.
We can't allow Cam Newton's illustrious rookie season to drastically alter our expectations for a quarterback taken No. 1 overall.
Not the norm. Not fair.
Due to the similarities between them and the fact that Luck is replacing the irreplaceable No. 18, it will be easy to assume that he'll be able to, at the very least, accomplish what Manning did in his early years with the Colts.
However, it's important to remember that Manning did throw 28 interceptions as Indy went a disappointing 3-13, despite his rookie record of 3,739 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in 1998.
It's also important to remember that they posted the same record in 1997.
The situation Luck walks into in 2012 could be significantly worse than what Manning had to deal with in his rookie year.
The 22-year-old Manning had do-it-all runner Marshall Faulk and a promising wideout in Marvin Harrison at his disposal.
For Luck, his last name might not be on his side. There's a chance Reggie Wayne leaves the Colts (could follow Peyton) and Pierre Garcon already turned down a hefty five-year, $35 million deal a few weeks ago.
Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will continue to wreak havoc with their violent spin moves, but we saw a completely victimized Indianapolis defense in 2011.
Luck's play in college has already sent expectations through the roof. He's capable of being the next great Colts gun-slinger. However, that doesn't mean we should expect him to be the next Peyton Manning.
He's a once-in-a-decade (or so) prospect, revered by nearly all scouts and draft analysts, and we've recently witnessed rookie quarterbacks play well in their opening acts as professionals. That being said, it's unreasonable and potentially quite harmful for Colts fans to place added pressure on the shoulders of Andrew Luck.
Just like Peyton, he'll experience growing pains. The Colts will initially lose more than they win. It's all part of the NFL quarterback cycle.
In those times, he doesn't need irrational hate or unruly criticism.
Becoming the new face of the Colts will be hard enough for Luck after Peyton Manning etched his competitive spirit into the soul of Indianapolis.
With or without Luck, this was a three-to-four year organization reconstruction. If anything, he speeds up the process.
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