INDIANAPOLIS — In 2004, Peyton Manning signed a seven-year, $99.2 million mega contract that put a great deal of weight on his shoulders to go out and get a championship for the Indianapolis Colts.
He delivered on that pressure just two seasons later.
This offseason, the Colts signed quarterback Andrew Luck to the largest contract in NFL history: six years, $140 million, with $47 million in fully-guaranteed money.
How Luck will respond to the added weight of signing such a deal is yet to be seen, but one Colts legend — who had a front-row seat, literally, to most of Manning's career in Indy — sees many similarities between the two situations.
In a recent interview with ESPN's Mike Wells, Jeff Saturday, the great Colts center who played in Indianapolis from 1999 to 2011, said Manning's attitude and approach didn't change a bit after he signed his big contract.
Saturday sees Luck going down the same road.
"I think both of those guys felt they were or going to do their very best to win a championship respective of their pay," Saturday told Wells. "Their performance allowed them to be the highest paid at their position or be classified at the top of their position. Good for them. I don't think it changes who they are. I think with both those guys and the type of pressure they put on themselves, I don't think they change at all. I think they look at it as they're going to continue on the same journey that they were on and try to help their teams win championships."
Now, you can read the entire piece by clicking here. It's definitely worth your time, as Wells not only uses Saturday — who is now an ESPN NFL analyst — and his expertise on the matter, but has stats to back up those claims, too.
For example: we all know how Manning experienced a somewhat trying rookie season after being the No. 1-overall pick, with his 26-to-28 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 71.2 quarterback rating. From there, however, the Colts, and Manning, began to take off, featuring the trio of Manning, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and running back Edgerrin James, among others, to become one of the better offenses in league history.
After 55 starts in the NFL, Manning had thrown for 14,111 yards, 98 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. During that span, Indianapolis was 30-25 overall, but 0-2 in the playoffs.
Luck, meanwhile, got off to a little more steady start than Manning after being the No. 1-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, with a 23-to-18 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 74.9 quarterback rating in his rookie year.
A look back at Peyton's 2004 season with the Colts.
Perhaps what's most striking, though, are Luck's stats compared to Manning's after their first 55 NFL starts. Luck has thrown for 14,838 yards (727 more than Manning), 101 touchdowns (three more) and 55 interceptions (12 fewer). During that span, Indianapolis has built a 35-20 overall record, and Luck has led the team to a 3-3 playoff record, including an appearance in the 2014 AFC Championship game.
One could argue that the Manning-Luck comparisons can be a little much, considering how different their styles as quarterbacks can be. Manning, of course, is your traditional, drop-back passer, while Luck brings much more athleticism to the position.
But on the other side of the coin, the comparisons certainly can be fair. Both quarterbacks were No. 1-overall picks tasked with playing major roles in getting their franchises back to being perennial championship contenders.
Manning answered the call after his mega 2004 contract by delivering the Lombardi Trophy to Indianapolis just two seasons later.
Team owner Jim Irsay — one constant from Manning's deal and the contract Luck signed last month — feels Luck is poised to be in position to do the same down the road.
"(Luck's) been ahead of the curve, obviously, you know, going back to into Peyton (Manning) and Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison and all those great players' era after four years," Irsay said. "We hadn't won a playoff game and we hadn't done the things that we've done with Andrew. … We're excited about the year, including everything about the way the offseason has gone has been a big plus."