Throughout the 2012 season, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will get compared to two people: Denver's Peyton Manning and Washington's Robert Griffin III. Doesn't matter if you think it unfair to compare a rookie with a fourteen year veteran who has won four league MVPs. They will be compared, and many of the people doing the comparing will be Colts fans.
Going into training camp (which opens in just three weeks!), the Manning and Luck story lines will get more publicity than Luck v. RG3. This will change once preseason starts, especially if Luck or Griffin struggle.
NFL Network recently 'debated' whether Luck's rookie year or Peyton's durability as the new Broncos quarterback was the bigger storyline heading into camp. Yeah, it's July, and unless you're into Saints players filing lawsuits against Roger Goodell, nothing is going on. Thus, you fill the time debating which storyline is going to be the most interesting.
Overall, Stampede Blue has avoided talking about Peyton this offseason because, quite frankly, we need to move on as a fanbase. When 13% of season ticket holders essentially abandoned the team after Manning was released, it reinforced the notion that Indianapolis wasn't a Colts town, or even an NFL town. It was a Peyton Manning town. This bothered me (and still does). To move on with the Colts fans who didn't jump ship, we thought it important to get onboard with this 'new era' roster that is, when it's all said and done, pretty impressive considering the circumstances.
Regarding the training camp stories, I personally think Manning in Denver (and how well he looks in camp) is the bigger story for the simple reason that Manning's presence in Denver should make them Super Bowl contenders this season. Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck is a rookie on a completely revamped roster. He's expected to stumble.
Peyton, not so much.
I'll preference this next bit of insanity by coming clean and admitting that what I really want this year is for both the Colts and Broncos to make the playoffs, and for the Colts to beat Peyton's new team. Nothing would make me happier, save maybe the Colts beating the Patriots. I want this because, if it were to happen, it would allow many people to turn the page. Peyton is gone, and his Colts accomplishments are memories now. What better way to reinforce that than to beat him and his new team in a playoff game?
Of course, it is extremely unlikely that both teams will make the post-season. If they do, the bigger story would be Andrew Luck, unless the Broncos are undefeated heading into the post-season, or something along those lines.
As camp creeps forward, the thing everyone will want to know is the state of Peyton's health. We keep hearing his arm is 85% there. That's great (and extremely impressive given where Manning was months ago), but an 85% Peyton Manning is still a question mark. Plus, there is the added What will happen when Peyton takes a blindside hit? question. It doesn't matter to media and fans how many doctors sign off on Peyton playing. Until people see him take a hit and get up, the question will linger.
Really, the only way Manning and the Broncos will silence any doubters is if they come out and just blow the competition away. No small feat. Denver starts their season at home on Sunday Night Football against Pittsburgh. They then go on the road to face Atlanta. Then, back home for match-ups with Houston and Oakland. If Manning goes out there and looks like an MVP, that will be the story of 2012. If he flops, or if the Broncos struggle, that too will be a big story.
So, truthfully, it all comes down to Peyton Manning.
With Luck, if you recall the clown car of QBs the Colts trotted out there last year (I excuse Dan Orlovsky from that group because he played decently), the bar is set low for Luck. The only time Luck is going to become a story is if he really looks lost out there, or the Colts start another season 0-4.
Again, for me personally, I'll be a very happy blogger if both Denver and Indianapolis make the post-season. It would be a happy ending to what was an odd, awkward divorce between Peyton and the Colts. A fair tale ending would involve the Colts beating the Broncos in those playoffs, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
All I want to see is a confident, dynamic Andrew Luck and a healthy Peyton Manning when July turns a page into August. If those two things happen, that would be more than enough story lines to tide me over until January.