Luck's Road Easier in Replacing Legendary QB

Aaron Rodgers faced the difficult task of replacing Brett Favre and Andrew Luck faced the difficult task of replacing another legendary quarterback, Peyton Manning. Mature and talented, Luck is off to a good start as he prepares to face the Packers on Sunday.

In 2008, Aaron Rodgers got thrust head-first into perhaps the hottest cauldron in NFL history when he replaced the pushed-out-the-door legend, Brett Favre.

In 2012, Andrew Luck replaced another legendary quarterback, Peyton Manning, as the Indianapolis Colts won the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes and made Luck the No. 1 pick in this year's draft.

Fortunately for Luck, a gracious Manning helped him avoid the chaos that swirled around Rodgers in 2008. Manning understood and supported the Colts' decision to select Luck and left Indianapolis on good terms. When his former team officially drafted his successor, Manning sent Luck a congratulatory text message.

So, rather than the picket signs and protests around Lambeau Field and the Clarke Hinkle practice field that greeted Rodgers for the start of training camp in 2008, Luck arrived in Indianapolis with nothing but well-wishes and optimism.

"He's a first-rate, very gracious individual," Luck told Packers beat reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. "I'm sure he could have said some things or done some things that would have made the transition much harder. But he obviously didn't and I'm grateful for that."

Back in 2008, Luck was a redshirt freshman quarterback at Stanford and a year away from being a college starter. Luck followed the NFL – his father, Oliver, played for the Houston Oilers – and watched from afar what Rodgers endured.

"As a football fan, I did follow it (but) just as a casual fan following more than an intense, diehard Packer fan would follow it," Luck said. "But, hopefully, someday I'll get a chance to sit down with Aaron and talk about the situation — some of the similarities and differences. Yeah, I guess I do sympathize with it."

While Luck's road has been easier minus the rolling boil of controversy that Rodgers endured, expectations are expectations. Called perhaps the best quarterback prospect in a generation, Luck has been seen as a can't-miss prospect. There is, of course, no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL, but Luck has the arm, the athletic ability, the intelligence and the DNA to walk into Indianapolis and replace Manning.

That's almost an outrageous statement. Manning ranks fourth in NFL history with 143 wins and third with 407 touchdown passes. He wasn't just the face of the franchise. He was the face of the NFL – and continues to be, in some ways.

Those are some big shoes to fill for a rookie. The 23-year-old thinks like someone much more mature. Never mind the outside expectations. Luck has his own expectations to meet.

"I think, one, I try to put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well," he said. "That's coming from myself and not coming from any extracurricular or anything outside of my teammates, coaches. I'm not viewing my position as, ‘OK, I better perform this week because Peyton did X, Y, Z' or ‘This guy did this this week.' I've never bought into that. I realize I'm in a great situation, regardless of who the quarterback was here before. It just so happens to be one of the best ever and probably a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think I'd go crazy if I tried to wake up every morning and compare myself to Peyton. I try not to let it affect me."

Of the five rookie quarterbacks who are starting, Luck ranks second in passer rating (75.4) but first in yards per game (282.0) and first in touchdowns (five, even with a bye week).

The biggest challenge, he said, is winning. The Colts are 1-2, their win coming 23-20 at Minnesota in Week 2.

Luck, interim coach Bruce Arians said, is holding up his end of the bargain in that regard. The challenge, Arians said, is to get the rest of the offensive unit to play at Luck's level.

"I go back to the first pass of the first preseason game," Arians said, "even the first OTAs that he did practice, and watching Dwight Freeney's face and Robert Mathis' face and say, ‘We're back.' As soon as they saw him out there with his command, the accuracy, ‘We're back. We got our guy back.'"


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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