The Panthers are officially sh*t out of Luck.
While the Playoffs are the news of the hour, Andrew Luck's plucky decision to return to Stanford for his Junior year should cause us to take a step back and reflect on another fine young quarterback who put his college experience, his degree (Peyton had actually already completed his coursework over the summer) and another year's worth of invaluable experience ahead of jumping early and taking the money.
It important to lead off with Luck's decision because a little more than a decade before, Peyton was faced with the very same decision. He too chose to stay for his senior season and enjoy college...The rest is history. Peyton Manning stays, the Colts get the number one pick the following year and draft the Tennessee quarterback over the more explosive and strong armed Ryan Leaf. 13 years later - as it often does - the decision and its ripple effects came full circle (again) with Peyton Manning and the Colts hosting a playoff game against the team that would have picked Peyton had he come out a year earlier - The New York Jets.
Before we continue, a quick side note/diatribe. When will GM's ever realize that having a strong arm is not the most important quality when selecting a quarterback. How many, Ryan Leaf's, Akili Smith's, Kyle Boller's, Jamarcus Russell's and Brady Quinn's to name a few, have to crash and burn before GM's - like Polian did - realize that smarts, work ethic, accuracy and leadership are far more important.
It is crazy to think how one decision changed the course of two franchises for more than a decade. Had Peyton left Tennessee early, the Colts - like the Jets ended up doing until recently - would have floundered in mediocrity. Or worse.
Since Peyton Manning entered the league, the Jets have gone 111-97 (a .533 winning percentage) making the playoffs 6 times with a 5-6 playoff record (which does include a 41-0 blowout win over the Colts back in 2002). In these past 13 years the Jets have also cycled through 5 coaches with the amusing Herm Edwards serving the longest and the brazen (ahem, loud mouthed) Rex Ryan being the current and most recent man to roam the sidelines.
Meanwhile, the Colts have served as the model of consistency and professionalism for the past 13 years.
With Peyton Manning at the helm, the Colts won the most regular season games over the span of a decade in league history and played in 2 super bowls, winning one.
The biggest difference between the Colts and the Jets was of course Quarterback. While the Jets have used 9 starting QB's (actually fairly low by league standards) including the great Quincy Carter and Brooks Bollinger, no other player other than Peyton Manning started a game for the Colts.
Ultimately, looking back, no single decision shaped the outcome of a franchise or of the NFL more in the past decade and beyond than Peyton's.
Had Peyton taken the money, the Colts would have taken years to right the ship and in the mean time the sports fans and the NFL would have lost out on the decade's (and one of the best ever) greatest rivalry. Plus Peyton Manning would have looked terrible in green.