One Indianapolis Colts quarterback to another, Luck should take advantage of Manning’s retirement to glean some helpful advice in another conversation.
Luck has earned the respect of his teammates in four NFL seasons based on his team-first attitude, competitiveness and positive perspective. It’s time, though, for the 26-year-old franchise passer to become more of a leader.
It’s in this area that Manning’s input would be most helpful.
When Manning was becoming a Colts legend, there was never any question who set the standards for behavior with the team. That’s what Luck must do to take the next step in his maturation.
Luck is a nice guy to a fault. But sometimes, as Manning showed, playing nice isn't needed.
A couple of Luck’s teammates, who admire him and were offering constructive criticism, have advised their leader needs to assert himself more. For example, after a road loss, Manning wouldn’t sit still for hearing any laughter on that plane trip home. I’ve been told that’s happened with the current Colts. And Manning would have gone ballistic in the same situation.
Luck’s linemen have said their quarterback is never negative when they compete together. Again, a leader sometimes says something that must be said, even if it bruises an ego now and then.
Many of Manning’s teammates didn’t like him. That’s not a secret. But to a man, they had to respect their leader. When he said something, it carried weight, like it or not.
While many take the time to discuss how Luck can improve himself by knowing when to say when on a play so he doesn’t get hurt again and learning how to slide, the psychology of that locker room can be just as important.
Manning knew that. Luck needs to show he’s learned that as well.
While it’s stating the obvious to remind Luck’s career arc didn’t continue to progress last season, when he was hurt and sidelined for nine games, the Colts and fans have every reason to be convinced he can bounce back and continue to be the cornerstone of the organization.
But with lucrative millions coming in a contract extension, more will be expected from him. It goes with the job.
That’s not to say Luck should be a jerk about everything. His personality is as affable as they come and he places a higher expectation on himself than anyone. But that’s just it. He has to have expectations for those around him to take the next step.
If a guy is failing to make a block, it’s time to speak up and say something. This is the NFL. Kind words typically don’t fix a problem. And the Colts have had their share of problems when it comes to pass protection.
It’s also time to speak up more when certain plays aren’t working or his gut instinct suggests trying something else. Manning might have been the greatest quarterback ever in managing the game on the field. It’s not that we should expect Luck to be Manning overnight, but it’s an invaluable asset, knowing what is needed in key situations, what should work and what most likely will fail.
Hopefully Luck will take a trip and visit with Manning again. He can benefit from No. 18’s encyclopedia of knowledge.
It’s time to concentrate more on what the team needs to improve. And that can’t be just focusing on improving oneself physically. That’s becoming a true leader in every sense of the word.
The Colts need that now, perhaps more than at any time since Manning was their quarterback.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.