Although Peyton Manning sat out all of last season, Luck is essentially stepping into Manning’s shadow, and oh, what a large shadow Manning has cast.
Manning is one of the top two quarterbacks of his generation. He led the Colts to their first Super Bowl title in 26 years, and he would fall within any knowledgeable football fan’s list of the top-10 quarterbacks of all-time.
Manning was half quarterback and half offensive coordinator while out on the field.
Although there was a head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach all in place, there was little secret as to who was the one calling the shots for the Colts’ offense when Manning was under center.
Andrew Luck has the potential to be a very good if not excellent NFL quarterback, but the likelihood of him being the next Peyton Manning is slim to none.
How many quarterbacks have played in the NFL since the league’s inception?
And out of all of those quarterbacks, Manning would probably fall within the top 10 of all-time.
The statistical odds against Luck also entering that elite class are incredibly low to say the least.
That being said, there is no reason why Luck cannot have an excellent career and his blueprint for success in the NFL should be to mimic Peyton’s brother, Eli.
When the New York Giants traded for Eli on draft day in 2004, Giants fans simply saw the name Manning and immediately thought they were getting Peyton, part two.
As we all know, that was not the case.
Eli has not been and will likely never be quite as good as Peyton, and boy did he hear about it for the first few years of his career.
Aside from the constant jeering from the New York fans, the local media went to town on Eli.
“Eli The Terrible” was the type of headline that was commonplace on the back pages of the New York Post and NY Daily News during the early years of Eli’s career.
But from day one, Eli simply ignored it all.
He ignored all of the comparisons to Peyton. He ignored the jeering from his hometown crowd. He tuned out the media and the hurtful headlines in the local papers. It was all water off a duck's back, and Manning stayed the course throughout it all.
He worked hard to improve the level of talent he was given and to master the offensive system he was in charge of leading.
Eight years and two Super Bowl titles later, Manning is the new prince of New York, though Derek Jeter might have something to say about that.
“Eli The Terrible” headlines were replaced by ones reading “Elite."
Luck will need to approach his career in a similar manner.
He is not going to be Peyton.
He is going to hear it from the crowd from time to time, particularly during the course of his first few seasons as the Colts go through a rebuilding process.
He is going to get destroyed by the local media when he doesn’t play well.
He will probably inadvertently let a few comments slip that will draw the type of headlines Peyton somehow managed to avoid throughout his storied career.
Luck will likely have to endure all of this over the next few years.
That being said, the guy has an inescapable level of talent. He is one of the most highly touted quarterbacks to enter the draft since Peyton himself and as long as he keeps his head down and sticks to his ultimate goals, he will have an excellent chance at succeeding, just as Eli has done in New York and Aaron Rodgers has done in Green Bay.
But the moment he starts letting the fans and media get inside his head for not being Peyton will be the moment that all of his potential will go to waste.
Luck will not be the next Peyton Manning, but he still has the ability to lead the Colts back to the Super Bowl so long as the rest of the pieces are put into place.
Luck’s biggest challenge will not be throwing the football or running an NFL offense—it will be dealing with everything that is going to come along with being the No. 1 pick in the draft and operating in the shadow of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
His ability to handle all of that will determine whether he becomes the next Eli Manning or the next Ryan Leaf.