After a pretty spectacular NFL preseason debut, complete with a touchdown pass to Donald Brown on the very first play, Andrew Luck’s regular season debut in Chicago paled in comparison with 3 interceptions resulting in a 41-21 loss. Several hours later, some of us masochists decided to watch Peyton Manning’s return to the NFL after a 20-month hiatus. Manning led the Broncos to a 31-19 win over the Steelers, his first touchdown pass also #400 of his career. It was simply amazing, watching Peyton make his pre-snap reads and fire off the ball, successfully avoiding the Steelers’ blitzes. Manning was back in his true form which, for some fans, was a bittersweet reminder of the Colts’ glorious last decade. Even more painful was seeing #2 overall draft pick Robert Griffin III, have a stellar outing against the Saints and pull out a win in his debut. Repeat after me, “It is not fair to make comparisons. It is only Week 1.” Who are we fooling? The comparisons are only beginning and it’s impossible not to have expectations from Luck after a phenomenal preseason that yielded 3 touchdowns in the first 4 possessions of Week 1. But alas, that is the nature of preseason. Andrew Luck can’t win them all and as long as he is improving each game, that is all that matters, right?
Watching Luck and the new-era Colts remind me of sitting in a hard chair at a local Houston sports restaurant during each of Peyton Manning’s games during his rookie season. The seat was not the only painful part of the experience. Each game was loaded with passes, completions, touchdowns (of the record-breaking sort) but also lots of mistakes and 28 frustrating interceptions (also record-breaking as it was a new league high.) The roller coaster did yield a learning curve that was fast and steep. Each week Peyton corrected his pre-snap reads and learned, sometimes the hard way, where and how to put the ball where only his receivers could get to it. Unfortunately, a difference of mere inches can be the difference between a touchdown and an interception. Luck’s game on Sunday was no different. If it makes fans feel any better, looking back at Peyton in his NFL debut against Miami, he threw for 302 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. Luck threw for 309 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions against the Bears on Sunday. Deja vu? I certainly think so.
One can only hope that a decade from now, Andrew Luck has the all the tools and experience to be a Super Bowl champion like Peyton Manning. He is on the same path, so for now let’s sit back and enjoy the ride.