I remember when this city was a basketball town. Before the Colts moved here it was all about Reggie Miller and the Pacers. It was all about the Indiana Hoosiers of college basketball. Fast forward now to the Jim Harbaugh era and the birth of the nickname "cardiac kids" for a franchise that had been mediocre at best for the majority of the time it was in Indy. Although that 1995 team lacked the flash and dash of teams filled with "superstar players," it was a team built with strong defense, a punishing running game, and a veteran QB who could make all the clutch throws when needed. In other words, the 95' squad had balance. That team was a Quinton Coryatt INT away against the Steelers from going to the SB. Had they gone, I believe that Colts team would have beaten the Cowboys and won it all as they proved by beating them the very next season in Dallas' own stadium. Now travel through time ahead again to 1998 as we go from the Harbaugh era to Manning.
Peyton Manning took this franchise to heights it had never reached before, and in essence turned the city of Indianapolis into a Football town. The Colts had arrived. After 3 unsuccessful years of trying to get past the Patriots, Manning led the Colts to their 1st SB appearance in 2006 since the franchises' move to Indy and on ahead to defeat the Bears. While many look at the accomplishments of what Peyton did during his career as a Colt, I look at what he could have accomplished had the front office he had then taken the approach that the current brass is taking now with Luck.
For all of Manning's brilliance, the reason he doesn't have more rings than he currently does now is due to the fact that he's been a one man show throughout the majority of his career in Indy. The Polian regime was content with that approach as long as the Colts kept winning and making the playoffs. Manning led one of the NFL's most prolific passing attacks in the game, and helped the Colts finish in the top 10 in nearly every passing offensive category during his entire career with the blue and white. That approach worked great for the regular season, but when the playoffs came it was a different story. The Colts owned the AFC South for nearly 10 years straight under Manning, but could do nothing with that edge come playoff time for the better part of those years. They were knocked out of the playoffs 2 times by the Patriots, twice by San Diego, once by the Steelers, twice by the Jets, and once to both the Titans and Dolphins, and most of the teams on that list were heavy underdogs to the Colts with the lone exception being the Patriots. They lost all of those games as well as a SB to the Saints for the same reason: No balance on offense, and a "bend but don't break defense" that couldn't get off the field when the game was on the line.
In a league where QBs are constantly either praised too much for team success or equally thrown under the bus for a teams' failures, the most obvious reasons behind the rise and fall of franchises are also the ones that are quickly over looked. Most analysts and sports fans alike judge a QB on how many rings he has, but if you use common sense it's not hard to see how flawed that approach is when evaluating talent. As odd as this may sound, Trent Dilfer has the same amount of rings that Manning does. Does that mean Dilfer is a shoe in for the HOF? Not even close. Keeping that same formula in mind, Ben Roethlesburger, and Tom Brady each have more rings than Manning. Would you say they are better QBs than Manning because of it? For people like myself who would say no, the question I'm often asked is "Well if you say Manning is better why does Brady and Big Ben have more playoff success than Manning does?" Easy answer. They both play for teams that are better balanced than the ones Manning has played for. Quite frankly, Brady and Roethlesburger don't have to be "Superman" every week for their teams to be successful. They both played with teams that had a solid running game and stout defenses. In fact, the reason why you haven't seen the Pats have as much success now as they had in the early 2000s is because they have strayed away from that formula (Along with Spygate). The Pats resemble the 2005 Colts now in being an offensive aerial juggernaut with a bend but don't break defense.
So what does this all mean in relation to Andrew Luck and the 2013 Colts? As I mentioned earlier, Andrew Luck has the chance to accomplish more the Manning did here by doing less. How so? Well if you have been paying attention to the direction in which Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano have been going as far as building this new current version of the Colts, you'll see that Luck won't have to play on a level that's considered "other worldly" the way Manning did week in and week out in order for the team to be competitive. The pieces that are being placed around him now will be good enough to alleviate the need for Luck to carry them. In fact, they can carry him when he has an off day. That's the importance of having a balanced team. When it's all said and done, Andrew Luck just may surpass Manning's greatness, and it will be because of the team he has around him as equally as the play required of himself as the reasons why.