After Peyton Manning's tearful, classy departure press conference in Indianapolis on Wednesday, all eyes now turn to his presumed successor as the Colts quarterback: Andrew Luck. What is your expectation for Luck in 2012 and how quickly will he and the Colts need to have success to validate owner Jim Irsay's decision to move on from Manning?
Although rebuild will take time, Colts could be better than expected in 2012It would be unfair to think Andrew Luck will be able to turn around the Colts as quickly as Matt Ryan turned around the Falcons his rookie season. The Colts are undergoing a widespread transition and there will be many holes in the lineup next season. That said, it might not be a train wreck.
If new coach Chuck Pagano puts in a conservative system that doesn't put too much responsibility on Luck and pieces together a defense that keeps things close, the Colts might be a .500-type team. I don't think expectations for Luck are so high that he's expected to take them to the playoffs right away.
Any improvement on the 2011 season -- much like the gains Cam Newton helped Carolina make -- will justify the move. Some folks might not ever be happy, but most Colts fans are smart enough to know this will take time.
Luck's supporting cast won't be as good as Manning's was in '98There is no timetable on when Andrew Luck needs to validate his presumed selection by the Colts. As to how he will play next year and in the future, a lot of his success will be tied to the team around him. Luck is one of the best quarterbacks I have ever seen at the college level since I began scouting players with the Redskins in 1977. That said, the talent around him will dictate how well he plays.
When Manning came to the Colts, they already had some pretty good pieces in place: Marshall Faulk, Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn and Ken Dilger, to name a few. Luck will not inherit that level of talent.
Colts should be contending for title within three seasonsI expect Andrew Luck to be a very successful NFL quarterback. And while every move he makes will invoke comparisons to Peyton Manning, the manner in which No. 18 exited will only help ease the youngster's transition.
The question now is: Will the Colts be able to build a team around Luck that will be good enough to compete for a title within three seasons? To me, that's when the patience clock runs out. Colts fans are used to routinely making the playoffs, seeing the team play in two Super Bowls with Manning at the controls.
Luck's rookie year should be slightly better than Bradford's in 2010I don't think there needs to be any validation. The Colts can cement their quarterback position for the foreseeable future by taking Luck. There's no second-guessing here. As long as he shows a grasp for the pro game in 2012, fans should be happy. The Colts won't win a lot, but I think a 6-10 mark is feasible.
This team needed someone to take the torch from Manning, because without a mega-star QB the Colts would become the Jacksonville Jaguars -- a franchise that can't land big-time free agents and falls off the NFL map both competitively and in relevancy.
But if you want to breathe easier at night, here's what you want to see out of Luck this season: 3,000 yards passing and 20 TD's -- something slightly better than the year Sam Bradford had as a rookie. The key is what else Indianapolis does in the 2012 NFL Draft and free agency. I want to see them go heavy on skill positions to give Luck as much help as possible. They did it that way with Peyton and it worked out great for 13 seasons. Keep doing it.
Can't expect much from rebuilding Colts in 2012Due to the performances by 21st-century rookies like Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, expectations for Luck will be higher than those placed on Peyton back in '98 -- when a team starting a first-year QB was relatively rare. It's unrealistic, though, to expect Luck to turn around the Horseshoe immediately, especially when guys like Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday might not be in the huddle with him. (Austin Collie and Blair White as the top two receivers? Eek. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians may regret that he didn't stick with his "retirement" announcement.)
Defensive-minded head coach Chuck Pagano is no doubt pleased to still have Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis around, but that doesn't change the fact the 2012 Colts will be the football version of ER in its final season or two: a few recognizable faces left over from glory days, struggling in vain to make things work with the new cast of youngsters.