The national NFL game of the week is undoubtedly Broncos at Colts, and with Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis, there should be no shortage of emotion.
It wasn’t previously expected that one of those emotions would be something that sounded a lot like anger, especially well before the game even began. But there was Denver Coach John Fox on Tuesday, telling SiriusXM Radio that Colts owner Jim Irsay had taken “a cheap shot” at Manning.
It’s understandable that Fox would feel that way, just as it’s understandable that Manning, who Fox said was “too classy” to publicly express any disappointment he himself might feel about Irsay’s comments, has stayed above the fray and let his coach fire back on his behalf.
In an interview with USA Today, Irsay made some inflammatory comments, the gist of which were that Manning was great at racking up ” ‘Star Wars’ numbers,” but consistently came up frustratingly short in terms of Super Bowl wins.
If you’re Peyton Manning, you can’t possibly be happy about getting dinged like that in a national publication, or, really, on any platform. Especially by a guy whose most noteworthy football accomplishment was having been born the son of the previous owner of the Colts — you know, the man who snuck them out of Baltimore in the middle of a snowy night.
Now, it’s probably worth mentioning that the Colts do plan on showering Manning with praise in a ceremony honoring the quarterback’s remarkable career in Indianapolis. But it will be fascinating to see whether Manning, in his old stomping grounds and at the helm of a fairly unstoppable offense so far, decides to pile up as many “Star Wars” statistics as he can. With perhaps a glance or two toward the Colts’ owner’s box.
Of course, a discussion of Manning’s career with the Colts takes us back to those days early in 2012, when the Colts had two major decisions to make. The first was whether to let Manning go, and, having done that, the second was which top-flight quarterback prospect to choose, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.
Almost all indications are that the Colts wanted Luck all along. Certainly, when the Redskins traded for the No. 2 overall pick in mid-March of 2012, it was widely presumed they were trading for Griffin, who would be available after the Colts took Luck. But Indianapolis did not formally come to a decision until about a week before the draft in late April. It’s entirely possible they were more torn about that choice than they later let on, or, at this point, would ever want to be known.
Either way, Griffin essentially finalized the Colts’ decision for them when he refused to work out for the team, while Luck did. Griffin thus appeared to be ceding his shot at the No. 1 spot to Luck, and overtly casting his lot with the Redskins. And the rest, as they say when they want to use a time-honored cliche, is history.
But what if the Colts had picked Griffin? It wouldn’t have been the first time a team had made strong pre-draft signals in one direction, only to go in another. Or even if they had long settled on Luck, it’s not inconceivable that an owner as mercurial as Irsay might have come across some piece of information, or an impassioned recommendation, that caused him to change his mind at the last minute.
The Redskins were going to go with whichever quarterback the Colts did not draft. What if Luck had fallen to them?
Certainly, Washington’s offense would have looked much different last season. Those read-option plays that befuddled defenses? Not so much. Luck is actually much more nimble than most people give him credit for (409 yards on 86 carries in 22 career starts), but he’s hardly the gazelle that Griffin is. (Or was? Is. Yeah, let’s go with is, we’ll all sleep better that way.)
Of course, Luck hasn’t suffered a major injury yet, either, and in general, is more sturdily built than Griffin. But even as a classic pocket passer, Luck hasn’t proven conclusively to better at delivering the ball. RGIII was much better last season, completing 65.6 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Luck’s completion percentage was 54.1, and he threw 18 interceptions to go with 23 touchdown passes. So far this year, the numbers favor Luck, but, of course, Griffin is still working his way back from injury.
Then there’s the personality factor. Luck has a fairly quiet demeanor, and has a ways to go if he wants to follow Manning’s path as a celebrity pitchman. Griffin, if anything, is overexposed, but he is easily the more publicly charismatic of the two.
So where do you think the Redskins would be now if they had Luck instead of Griffin? Would they be the defending NFC East champ? Would you be happier about the team’s future prospects?
Des Bieler is a page designer, artist and writer who contributes his NFL insights to Opening Kick on Fridays and the print edition’s game-day page on Sundays. Follow him on Twitter at @DezBeeWP.
Around the Web:
● Missed the Thursday night game? Well, you didn’t miss a whole lot, but nfl.com is happy to share eight observations, including a reminder that no who’s-better discussion of the 2012 QB draft class should leave out Russell Wilson.
● I have to admit, I only got about halfway through this New York Times article about an IPO linked to Arian Foster’s future earnings before my eyes glazed over, but maybe you’ll have more success.
● Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth marks the momentous Denver-Indy game by looking at the returns of some other legendary sports figures to the places where their longtime stomping grounds (warning: includes some non-NFL examples).
From The Post:
● The Redskins practice at 11:50 a.m. on Friday. On Sunday, our live blog starts up at 11 a.m., and Mike Jones will have a game day Q&A with a player and notes before the kickoff at FedEx against the Bears at 1 p.m.