INDIANAPOLIS –Former players can make mundane or exceptional analysts when a career is over, and Rich Gannon belongs in the latter category over his various platforms that include Sirius Radio and CBS Sports.
Gannon's 17-year career (1987-2004) spanned four teams, and a gifted performer who hit 60 percent of his career passes while owning a plus-76 TD:interception ratio and who dashed for 2,449 yards and 21 scores sees a star who has budded quickly in Andrew Luck.
"This guy is special, he really is," said Gannon recently on radio. "He's so intelligent. He's very unselfish. He'll do whatever it takes to try to win a football game.
"He's big, strong, athletic. He's got all the things you like. He's the master of his domain."
While his assessment of Luck differs little from others, still it is impossible for one quarterback to bluff another. Speaking with Colts.com at the combine, Gannon opened up on Luck.
"I'm always concerned when you go from one coordinator to another, but it didn't seem like it impacted Andrew. We saw steady growth from him," said Gannon. "His pocket presence was good. He doesn't drop his eyes, he keeps them down the field.
"When you look at certain areas of his game like third-down passing, it's an area where he has a better understanding and feel for how critical that situational (moment) is."
Luck said recently it is those "situational" moments that he will give focus in 2014. He wants to improve on 40 percent third-down and 45 percent red-zone TD rates accomplished in two seasons that have produced 23 overall victories.
Gannon was a Year Four starter to Luck's Day One, and he sees moxie in Luck that equates to victory.
"What's been most impressive, even going back to his rookie year, is the poise he shows. When the team falls behind, it doesn't seem like it bothers him," said Gannon. "It's uncanny to bring his team from behind in so many games in his first two seasons. What happens, and John Madden used to say it, the team around you begins to expect it. Then the fans expect it. The greatest compliment of all is the opponent expects it.
"You could almost see during the Kansas City playoff game, the team went to the locker room with a lot of confidence. Yet, all the sudden, the momentum changed. It was, 'Oh, here we go again with Andrew Luck and the Colts.' To me, you can't create that environment out there unless you consistently go out there and do it. He has done that his first two seasons."
Indeed, Luck's 10 game-winning fourth-quarter and overtime drives (11 counting playoffs) from 2012-13 are the most by any player in a career's first two years since 1970.
When Luck pulled his first one in a second-ever career game, he became the first rookie with a September fourth-quarter winning drive since 1971.
Andrew Luck's 4th-Qtr/OT Game-Winning Drives (*game with multiple drives; #Playoffs)
Vinatieri 53 FG
Wayne 4 pass
Vinatieri 28 FG
Ballard 16 pass
Carter 1 run
Vinatieri 43 FG
Avery 14 pass
Brazill 42 pass
Vinateri 53 FG
Wayne 7 pass
Luck 19 run
Brown 3 run
Hilton 9 pass
Hilton 58 pass
Hilton 64 pass
Luck 5 fumble return
Gannon helped elevate teams around him through guile. He has seen Luck do it continuously in two seasons and expects to see it for years.
"I think his skills are (timeless)," said Gannon. "He has a unique skill set for a bigger guy. He's strong and physical and can sit in there (the pocket) and doesn't flinch with the pressure.
"At the same time, he has the ability to escape and maneuver. When you see a guy as big as he is and you see him scoop up the ball (against Kansas City) and run it in (it's impressive). He can move around, throw the ball out of the pocket, he's a multi-dimensional player.
"You think of RGIII (Robert Griffin), and Andrew is a much different player. He's much more patient. He's more of a pocket presence, but he can hurt you with his legs. I think that's a great thing, and I hope he continues to hone that specific skill and not lose that part of his game. That's a big plus at that position."