Replacing a legend isn't easy.
Peyton Manning was the Colts' quarterback for 13 incredible years, racking up 54,828 yards passing and 399 touchdowns and setting pretty much every franchise passing record. He led the Colts to eight division titles, two AFC titles, and a Super Bowl title. Manning 12 Pro Bowl selections, 11 4,000+ yard passing seasons, and a record 4 MVP awards. More than that, he was (and is) loved by Indianapolis is a special way. Replacing Manning wouldn't be easy at all.
Yet that's exactly what Andrew Luck was drafted to do. And so far, just two years in, he has done so well - leading the Colts to a division title, two playoff appearances, and passing for over 8,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. The pressure of replacing a legend like Peyton would get to a lot of quarterbacks, but not Andrew Luck. And on Wednesday, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano praised his quarterback for not letting the pressure get to him.
"I don't think from day one he was overwhelmed with that, or even thought of that. I think everybody else did, we all talked about it. Everybody in this room wrote about it, but I think it went right over his head because he was so focused on the job and the task at hand, and has continued to do that where he doesn't get distracted by anything. I think we all understand the enormity of what went down in 2012. I don't know if you want to call it ‘plate tectonics,' but things shifted. It was huge, the landscape of a lot of things changed. But I think the guy has such great focus that he never paid any attention to it and understood that he had a job to do, and his focus was just being the best quarterback he could be, and being that guy early, sooner than later."
Pagano was also asked about Luck's improvement this year and the work he put in during the offseason:
"Well I'm not privy to that because I can't talk to him and I'm not supposed to know any of that. You guys obviously know more than I know (laughs). He's the first guy here, last guy to leave. Every time you walk by the quarterback room, film room, he's usually in there studying tape. The guy's just relentless. He's relentless. He's relentless on the field, he's relentless in the classroom, he's relentless in walkthroughs. Every part of his job, in the training room, in the weight room, warmups, you guys are out there for all that stuff. He's got a routine and he's a pro's pro, and he was a pro's pro early. Those are the things that we try to tell the young guys coming in, ‘Hey, look, you've got a guy like this, like number 12, and 87 and 90, and Vinny (Adam Vinatieri) and these pros. Just get in their hip pocket and do exactly what they do.'"
And, of course, given the nature of the upcoming game, Pagano was asked what similarities Andrew Luck shares with Peyton Manning:
"I think football IQ is there, their passion for the game is there. Athletically, I think Andrew is a real athletic guy, he can extend plays. At this time, I don't know where the other guy is. You've got all those traits. They're great competitors, great, great competitors. They hate to lose. They hate losing more than they love winning, that's what drives both those guys."
Luck also talked about the replacing a legend:
"To be honest since day one here, it hasn't been an issue. I never came in thinking, ‘Oh, I have to replace a legend, one of the greatest of all-time.' My dad played football growing up. He's in the sports business. You realize professional sports people come and they go. Someone's going to replace me eventually. Hopefully later rather than sooner. I never really worried about it. Guys in the locker room didn't make it feel like I had to be someone. They let me be myself, let me do things as I did. It wasn't difficult at all."
This Sunday, the Colts will face the Broncos, and that means that Andrew Luck will face Peyton Manning (for the second time). The win last year in Indy helped Luck "replace" Manning in the eyes of many fans, but he's entering this year with the same mindset he's had all along - just be Andrew Luck. "I'm a pretty boring guy," Luck joked to a Denver reporter Wednesday. But while he might be a "boring guy," he's a heck of a quarterback. He doesn't have to be the next Peyton Manning, he just has to be Andrew Luck. And that's plenty great enough.