When it was going down, the dream scenario for Colts fans went something like this.
- Crushed to see Peyton Manning go but wish him the best in Denver. Hopefully he won’t embarrass himself. Be great but unlikely to see him regain MVP form and have a shot at another Super Bowl.
- Delighted, if not star-crossed, to replace him with Andrew Luck, the best college quarterback since Manning. Would be awesome but probably impossible to see him lead the rebuilding Colts to a winning season.
Well, if you fall into the category of fan who wishes Manning well and wants the best for the Colts, could current NFL events be any more surreal?
Manning, at 36, regained MVP form and is aligned for the Super Bowl.
Luck, the No. 1 draft pick, led the Colts to a winning season and into the playoffs.
What are the odds? Powerball-like. Incalculable.
Let’s start with Peyton.
Only the most curmudgeonly among us wanted him to fail after 14 magical seasons in Indy — the final of which was a wash because of a neck injury that looked career-ending.
Obviously, it wasn’t.
Reclaiming his status as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, he might very well be its MVP for a fifth time. Statistically, he’s again brilliant. Better yet for the Broncos (13-3), they tied Atlanta for the league’s best record and are the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Heading into the playoffs, Peyton has thrown for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. He’s completed 68.6 percent of his throws, and his passer rating of 105.8 is second only to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (108.0).
Talk about storybook career resurrections. It’s precisely what his admirers wanted to see but probably didn’t expect to.
Ideally, Peyton would have retired a Colt. It’s what everyone in Indy wanted. Peyton, too. But the Colts resolved to rebuild around a new quarterback, and Peyton didn’t want to retire.
He made that crystal clear, with Jim Irsay by his side, during a tearful farewell March 7, 2012, after being released.
Nine months later, it’s easy to understand why Peyton didn’t want to quit. He’s still great. End of debate.
As for Luck, he’s got the same quality written all across his 6-foot-4, 234-pound frame. He has, after all, accomplished way more, surrounded by far less, than Peyton did during his 1998 rookie season.
Think about this for a second: The Colts are in the playoffs. They are in the playoffs. The magnitude of that achievement can’t be overstated.
Luck, whose passer rating (76.5) doesn’t dazzle, has dazzled in just about every other appreciable way. He’s taken every snap of every game. He’s thrown for a rookie record 4,374 yards. He’s tossed 23 touchdowns and rushed for five. He’s made critical plays at critical times and orchestrated multiple fourth-quarter/overtime game-winning drives.
But the real proof of Luck’s value is the Colts’ record. They finished the regular season 11-5 and actually had a shot at the AFC South championship with three games to play.
Rebuilding teams with rookie quarterbacks just don’t create shock waves like that, unless they’re Lucky.
Then again, 36-year-old quarterbacks who sit out a year following multiple neck surgeries don’t bounce back as MVP frontrunners, either, unless they’re Peyton.
For Colts fans, it’s the best of both worlds. Peyton is soaring; Luck is flourishing, and everybody’s happy — subject to change, depending on who’s playing in the AFC Championship Game.
Peyton has a home field-advantage path, and the Colts have Luck on their side.