OK, it's time to stop this, right now. From Pete DiPrimio:
Everybody expects Luck to be the next Peyton Manning. But consider this -- as a rookie Manning threw an NFL-record 28 interceptions, completed just 56.7 percent of his passes and led the Colts to a 3-13 record. And that was with a more talented team that included Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison.
I don't mean to single out Pete DiPrimio because, in fairness to him, many people share the belief that a rookie Peyton Manning in 1998 played on a better team than a rookie Andrew Luck will play with in 2012.
However, these people are, quite simply, wrong.
How do I know? Quick, without doing a Google search, name me one player from the 1998 Colts defensive unit. Just one. Doesn't matter if he was good or not (because chances are, the guy wasn't). Just one guy.
I'll stand here in the corner and yell at people on Twitter while you search your brain for just one player on the '98 Colts defense.
There. I think I've made my point.
The 1998 defense featured the "immortal" talents of Andre Royal, Ellis Johnson, Rolando Blackman, Elijah Alexander, Mike Barber, Tim Hauck, and Rico Clark. An ancient (in terms of football years) Jeff Herrod and Tony McCoy were still there as was a young Bertrand Berry (before he became a good pass rusher with the Cardinals).
And, yes. I did have to do a Google search to fill in a few of those names. The only guys I remembered from that '98 defensive squad off the top of my head were Royal, Johnson, and Blackman.
There was no one on that defense even close to the talent level of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Heck, Pat Angerer would have been a star on that team. Even the secondary was worse than the current crop of corners we have now. Jeff Burris probably couldn't even play safety in today's NFL. Back then, he was the club's No. 1 corner!
The team's defensive coordinator at the time was Rusty Tillman, a man known for his work as a special teams coach. He lasted just one season in Indianapolis, the '98 season.
I grumble about how poorly the Colts defend all the time, but when you compare the talent on the 2012 Colts defensive unit to the 1998 crew, the 2012 guys are like the '85 Bears! The 1998 Colts surrendered nearly 28 ppg. I don't think it's a stretch to say that part of the reason Peyton threw 28 picks as a rookie was because his defense was giving up 28 points per game!
Again, that's just the defensive side of the ball. On offense, the 2012 Colts might still be better than their '98 counterparts.
Yes, the '98 Colts had Marshall Faulk and a still young Marvin Harrison and Tarik Glenn. Adam Meadows was also on the team. Faulk is a Hall of Famer, and Harrison should be one as well. Glenn is probably the most underrated left tackle of his generation. Tight ends Ken Dilger and Marcus Pollard were also on the team, though Pollard was a rookie.
After them, the Colts had players like Lamont Warren, Bradford Banta, and Torrance Small. Hardly what we would call "solid depth."
Now, I don't think Donald Brown is going to be another Marshall Faulk, nor do I think a 32-year-old Reggie Wayne is on par with a 25-year-old Marvin Harrison, but left tackle Anthony Castonzo is progressing at about the same pace as Tarik Glenn did when he was a second year player, which was 1998. In fact, Castonzo might even be further along. Glenn's first full season as a LT was '98. He played guard in '97, his rookie year.
In terms of weapons, Andrew Luck might not have Marvin Harrison, but rookies Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and T.Y. Hilton have serious talent. Austin Collie is also someone you cannot dismiss. There was no one on that '98 roster (outside Harrison) who had the talent and production Collie has shown.
And, again, there's Reggie Wayne. He's experienced. He's a leader. He's still a good player.
So, while the '98 Colts had two stars-in-the-making for a rookie Peyton Manning to work with, the 2012 Colts have better overall talent (top to bottom) on both sides of the ball. I'm not saying the talent in this current team is going to put Indy in the playoffs or anything. It might, but I don't think so (not right now, anyway). However, when you look at the Colts today and compare them with what they had to work with in 1998, saying that Peyton Manning played on a more talented team back then simply isn't accurate, at least not to me.
I remember watching that '98 squad. Oh lord, they were bad. I don't see this roster being as inept and lacking in talent.