Andrew Luck, obviously, represents the biggest difference between the Peyton Era and the present. And while he has yet to set himself apart as a passer (and who could?), he’s already surpassed his predecessor in one respect. He taught Colts fans a lesson about the game: the quarterback’s allowed to run. Manning rushed for 18 yards on 18 carries in that final season as a Colt, and for 722 yards across his Colt career. Luck, in 169 fewer games, has already rushed for 8 more yards as a Colt than Peyton ever did (730).
Phil Sears-USA TODAY SportsPhil Sears
Same old, same old: great expectations
Even in the first year A.P., when Manning's absence in Indy seemed temporary, Luck already faced great expectations. In 2010, Matt Miller said Luck’s mental makeup was “on par” with Peyton. Sporting News touted him as the best prospect they’d scouted in a decade. And they weren’t alone. He didn’t enter that draft. As fate would have it, he waited one year and entered the realm of Manning. The comparisons haven’t stopped. Charlie Casserly said this month that, in this stage of his career, Luck’s already better. The Washington Post positioned him as the QB most likely to unseat Manning for the all-time touchdown title. No pressure, Andrew. You’ve heard it before.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Ch-ch-ch-changes: Peyton’s perception
Revisionist historians will say we’ve known it all along: that Peyton was, is, and will always be the best. But in 2010, before the year 1 A.P., doubters besieged Manning with doomsday predictions. Ron Jaworski saw signs that Peyton had passed his prime. The Colts’ own play-by-play man was calling for the team to start shopping for replacements. The season stood as proof, people said, that Tom Brady was better. Four years later, that script flipped. The neck healed. Now, you don’t have to look far to find people willing to say Manning’s playing the best football of his career –that he still has time to shine.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
Same old, same old: Indy QBs pass it on
People never doubted this: in his time in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning’s charity work was the stuff of legend. In a city that still adores him, a children’s hospital still bears his name. His foundation has contributed upwards of $10 million to at-risk youth, many of them in the heartland of Indiana. Quietly, Andrew Luck continues that legacy. Still a couple years shy from a big-bucks contract, Luck has already partnered with the Riley Hospital for Children and “followed in the footsteps” of his predecessor. As always, on and off the field, Indianapolis is in good hands.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock
Ch-ch-ch-changes: Spreading the love
Peyton had a penchant for making his tight ends look good. Just ask Jacob Tamme, who followed him to Denver. But Andrew Luck has taken sharing the rock to a whole new level. While Peyton’s tight ends got their fair share (24.2 percent of his TDs, 25 percent of his passes), Luck truly spreads the love. Colts tight ends in the year 4 A.P. have scored 47 percent of Luck’s touchdown tosses. They’ve caught 35.8 percent of his passes. And it goes for running backs, too. Running backs in 2014 already have 56 more receiving yards and 6 more TD catches than their 2010 counterparts.
USA TODAY SportsThomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Same old, same old: Off the scrap heap
Much ado has been made about Andrew Luck’s supporting cast –that, beyond the stars, the Colts have assembled a roster of former Canadian stars, misfit toys, and underrated, undrafted talent. That’s true enough, but this is nothing new in Indy. The 2014 squad has three current starters who went undrafted (Mike Adams, Jonotthan Harrison, Josh McNary). The full 53-man roster features 23 such players. Stop me if this sounds familiar. With Manning commanding a big cap hit in 2010, that team fielded a roster with four undrafted starters (including Jeff Saturday) and 27 total undrafted players.
There has been one sizeable change since 2010; Lucas Oil Stadium just doesn’t feel as roomy as it used to. Though Manning (6-5, 230 lbs.) and Luck (6-3, 235 lbs) strike similar profiles, the new men wearing the blue horseshoe are stretching the limits of the team’s fabric inventory. While Manning’s teammates averaged a solid 6-0.8, 234 lb. frame, the 2014 squad sits at 6-2, 247. The 2014 Colts boast 15 men that weigh more than 300 pounds; 18 men stand taller than 6-5. In 2010, eight such men fit each respective category. Big difference. Literally.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock
Same old, same old: Two youth movements
A lot of people perceive the post-Peyton Era as an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new approach. That simply isn’t true. The Colts were just as young four years ago. In 2010, the average Colt was 26 years old; this year, that number dipped to 25.9. In 2010, the typical Colt starter was 27.25; this year, that number sits at 27.5.
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY SportsThomas Campbell
Ch-ch-ch-changes: No more itch to pitch
Peyton Manning could sell you a barbwire loofah if you gave him a 30-second spot on Lifetime. As a Colt, Manning racked up endorsement deals like touchdowns, scoring $15 million annually from an athletic diet of Oreos, Papa John’s Pizza, and DirecTV. Luck isn’t as quick to cozy up to the limelight. He’ll endorse some lower-profile products like Bodyarmor, and appear in the occasional Panini spot, but you won’t see him chanting for anyone to ‘Cut. That. Meat.’ any time soon. But that’s okay. Colts fans don’t need a pitchman; they’re already sold on this QB.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Same old, same old: They take hits, and they make hits
Luck might not like to appear in dozens of ads, but he has continued the legacy of Colts QBs appearing in “music” videos. Manning’s most recent came as a Bronco, when he and brother Eli broke out their rap game. But don’t sleep on Andrew. Colts fans can rest assured knowing they still have a quarterback that can play a part on a track like “Cheeseburger and a Coconut.”
Screenshot via YouTube
Ch-ch-ch-changes: It starts at the top
Perhaps the biggest shift in perception after the days of Peyton came off the field. Before deciding to cut ties with his franchise quarterback and go after Luck, Irsay earned a glowing profile from USA Today –a profile within which he openly talked about his sobriety and earned commendation for overcoming addiction. Obviously, things changed with his recent arrest, punishment, and fallout from a DWI. The “respected NFL owner” from 2010 must fight to regain that reputation.
USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Same old, same old: Legacies decided in late-winter
Ultimately, though, fans care about on-field reputation. And just as Manning encountered in his time as a Colt, Luck’s legacy will be defined by his work in the playoffs. Even his impossible comeback against Kansas City felt null and void once he threw 4 interceptions against the Patriots in a loss. And now, as in 2010, preseason expectations included Super Bowl aspirations. That’s the measuring stick. Manning could tell Luck that in Indy, only one stat will matter once the honeymoon ends: how many rings? No matter what changes, that will always remain the same.