Andrew Luck is not Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers — yet.
But after Sunday’s shellacking at the hands of the New England Patriots, Luck still has plenty of room left to grow and develop. While his numbers have brought comparisons to all the aforementioned quarterbacks, he is still nowhere near the same caliber of player that each of those developed NFL stars is today. But five years from now, he will be.
Luck has had his fair share of rookie mistakes in his freshman season with the Colts, but so has every rookie quarterback in the NFL. Following Sunday’s game, Luck has thrown for 12 touchdowns and ran for five more. Those are great statistics for a first-year starting quarterback, especially for a team coming off a miserable season.
The down side however, are the turnover numbers. Luck threw three picks on Sunday, and fumbled once to drive his turnover total to 17 (12 INT, five fumbles) through 11 games. With the good comes the bad, and that can be said about any player in any professional sports league. It’s the ability to minimize the bad that turns a good player into a great one.
One such example of that statement is the former Colts star and current Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning. The former first-round draft pick is well on his way to Canton, but he began his career as a struggling starter in Indianapolis. In his rookie season in 1998, Manning threw 28 TD’s and 26 interceptions, and also lost one fumble. The Colts were 3-13 that season. Indy is 6-4 and very much in the wild card hunt this year.
In both 1998 and 2012, the Colts played the New England Patriots. At that time, Drew Bledsoe was leading the charge in Foxboro, and the two sides were duking it out in the AFC East. In the Colts’ first of two matchups with New England in 1998 — Manning’s second NFL start — the Colts traveled to Foxboro in Week 2 to take on an 0-1 Patriots squad. Manning was 21-38 for 188 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. The Pats won that game 29-6.
Coming off a bye heading into Week 9, the Colts hosted New England in their second matchup, and came up short once again, falling to the Pats by a much closer margin, 21-16. Manning aired it out more in his second meeting against the Patriots, throwing 52 passes. He completed 30 of them for 272 yards, two TD’s and two INT’s. The Colts struggled in his rookie season, going 3-13.
If you look at Manning’s numbers against the Patriots in his rookie season, they aren’t all that impressive. In Luck’s first matchup with New England on Sunday, he threw for 338 yards, two touchdowns and four turnovers. The 2012 version of the Patriots had much more offensive firepower than the 1998 version, and the defenses are similar. In that season, New England ranked 14th in total defense and 25th against the pass. In 2012, the Pats are 25th in the league in total defense, and 29th against the pass.
All of the statistics provide insight into a numerical comparison between Luck and Manning, and their rookie seasons seem to correlate in multiple facets of their game. One such asset is their ability to read a defense and make changes at the line. Manning is often regarded as having one of the best football minds of any player, and Luck is developing those same tendencies over the course of this season.
Outside of the yards and touchdowns, Luck possesses a swagger about him that attracts fans across the country to his style of play. He’s a gamer — wanting to make the best out of every pass he throws. The more and more it’s looked at, Luck and Manning continue to share a similar career path.
Manning didn’t get his first career win until Week 5 of his rookie season. Luck won his second career start, and led the Colts on a last minute drive to set up a game-winning Adam Vinatieri field goal.
Luck is a very talented young quarterback stepping into the shoes of one the best to ever play the game. It’s an almost unheard of situation where a franchise can have two incredible signal-callers for over two decades. Call it a coincidence or whatever you wish, but it looks like Luck has everything to do with it.