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Throwback Thursday: Big Difference Between First and Second

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This week's Throwback Thursday falls on Thanksgiving. Instead of looking at the Colts history of playing Thanksgiving games (that would be too easy) this Throwback focuses on something to be thankful for. Twice in the last 16 years the Colts have had the first overall pick, and twice they have had to pick between two QBs. They've picked right both times.

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First of all, I want to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! I hope all of you have a day filled with whatever you want it to be. Whether that be food, family, football, or shopping way too early for Christmas (or all of the above), have a great day.

But, of course, since it is Thursday, it’s time for another Throwback Thursday installment.

It definitely was tempting to write about the Indianapolis Colts past Thanksgiving games (two against the Detroit Lions and one against the Atlanta Falcons) in which the Colts have gone a combined 2-0-1.

Instead, I’ll focus on the match-up this weekend against the Washington Redskins. And the match-up that was supposed to happen, but got nixed by Jay Gruden on Tuesday night: Robert Griffin III vs. Andrew Luck.

Since the NFL-AFL merger, there have been five instances where quarterbacks have gone first and second overall. In 1971, the New England Patriots took Jim Plunkett first, and the New Orleans Saints selected Archie Manning second. In 1993, the Patriots took Drew Bledsoe first, and the Seattle Seahawks took Rick Mirer second. In 1998, the Colts took some guy named Peyton Manning first, and the San Diego Chargers selected Ryan Leaf second. The very next year, the new incarnation of the Cleveland Browns selected Tim Couch first overall, and the Philadelphia Eagles selected Donovan McNabb second. And of course, in 2012, the Colts took Luck, and the Redskins took Griffin.

In every instance, both of the teams would face each other with both QBs on the roster within three years of selecting the young quarterbacks.

In 1972, Plunkett’s Patriots narrowly defeated Archie Manning’s Saints 17-10 behind two Plunkett touchdown passes (Archie Manning threw one). In 1993, Mirer’s Seahawks squeezed past Bledsoe’s Patriots by the score of 17-14. Both Bledsoe and Mirer each tossed one score. In 1998, Peyton Manning tossed one touchdown and got his first ever victory by defeating Leaf’s Chargers 17-12. And in 2000, McNabb’s Eagles beat Couch’s Browns 35-24.

However, Couch did not play when the Browns faced the Eagles, marking the first (and until this Sunday, only) time where the top two picks didn’t each start on their original teams. Also, the Eagles are the only team to finish the season with a winning record out of that group.

In four of the five instances, the number one pick (or his team in the case of Couch) was at home, the only exception being the game between Plunkett and Archie Manning.

Additionally, the first overall picks have had wildly more success, as a whole. The first overall picks have compiled seven Super Bowl appearances, and four rings to show for it. The second overall picks have totaled one Super Bowl appearance with no championships. Again the Couch - McNabb selections being the outlier.

But let’s focus on the 1998 draft, and it’s similarities to the 2012 draft. Obviously in both the Colts had the top pick. In both drafts there was one QB (Manning and Luck) seen as the more "pro-ready" product, and one who potentially had a higher ceiling (Leaf and Griffin).

In both drafts, the Colts had the top pick, and the team selecting second (Chargers and Redskins) traded up into the second slot.

The Chargers sent Pro-Bowl returner Eric Metcalf, lineback Patrick Sapp, their 1998 first round pick (third overall), their 1998 second round pick (33rd overall), and their first round pick in 1999 (which ended up being the eighth pick) to the Arizona Cardinals to move up one spot to get Leaf.

The Redskins sent their 2012 first round pick (sixth overall), 2012 second round pick (39 overall), 2013 first round pick (22nd overall), and their 2014 first round pick (second overall) to the St. Louis Rams in order to move up to select Griffin.

The Colts were 0-4 entering the Week 5 game with the 2-2 Chargers. Despite being at home, the Colts were actually a one point underdog heading into the game.

Manning opened the game with a 19 yard touchdown pass to Marshall Faulk, and Colts made it an 8-0 lead after Ken Dilger ran in the two-point try.

After that, the teams traded field goals until Natrone Means punched in a one-yard score in the final frame to pull the Chargers within two. A failed onside gave Indy the ball back with a little under two minutes. However, three Faulk runs totaling three years led to another Mike Vanderjagt field goal.

Leaf was given the chance to lead the Chargers downfield for the game winning touchdown. Instead, the drive went four and out yielding negative 10 yards.

It was a rather unimpressive showing by the two rookie QBs. In defeat, Leaf threw for 160 yards and an interception, while Manning threw for 137 yards along with a score and a pick. Both QBs finished 12 of 23 passing.

It was the first, and only, time that Leaf and Manning would face off as starting NFL QBs. Leaf would sit out the entire 1999 season with an injury, and was released after his third year with the Chargers. Manning is still continuing his Hall of Fame career.

This Sunday marks the fifth time that two teams, which took a QB with the first and second overall pick (respectively) in the same draft will meet with those QBs on the roster. Of course, this will be the second time where only one will start. It will be the first time where one is not starting due to being benched, as opposed to an injury (Couch had a broken thumb in 2000).

As Luck’s star continues to rise in the NFL, Griffin’s continues to fall. It appears that Griffin’s tenure in Washington will last about as long as Leaf’s did in San Diego (although Griffin performed much better than Leaf early in his career). We can only dream that Luck’s tenure will continue to mirror, if not exceed, that of Manning’s (in terms of longevity and success) with the Colts.

With all of that said, this Thanksgiving I’ll be thankful for all of the usual things: a great job, fantastic family and friends, and so on. The Colts fan in me will be thankful that the Colts took Manning over Leaf, and Luck over Griffin.