INDIANAPOLIS –Sunday's Colts-Buffalo contest will be the first time former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon will provide telecast analysis of a game involving Andrew Luck.
A veteran of 17 seasons and a performer who started 132-of-157 games for four teams, Gannon was a solid and durable player who threw for nearly 30,000 yards and 180 touchdowns, while rushing for almost 2,500 yards and another 21 scores.
At Lucas Oil Stadium, he will view Luck, one of the game's brightest young players. While Gannon had his eyes opened to Luck years before, he will be able to speak Sunday while watching him play in person.
What Gannon has seen already is impressive.
"I just think his poise to me is a big deal," said Gannon. "You naturally could tell from watching him in college and his first 10 games that his great instincts are evident. His awareness in the pocket, it just seems like it's not too big for him, not any situation. I think that can overwhelm young players. Third downs can be a real handful for young quarterbacks with all the different fronts, pressures, coverages and blitzes. You see him doing a good job with that."
Luck was dissected and praised as much as any collegiate player over many years. The Stanford process helped him achieve early at the next level.
"He benefited from the relationship and experience at Stanford with Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw. You could tell he was so much further along than most guys coming into the league," said Gannon. "I think you're seeing him play like a veteran. You see him handling different situations. You see a guy doing a better job each week with the decision-making.
"He's a very mature guy. He's handled himself well. I think he's developing into a respected leader on the team. I go back to Andy Dalton last year. It's a much different situation (than in Cincinnati), but you see the (same) temperament, the poise, the confidence. I see that from Andrew.
"I think great things are in store for a guy who is probably a lot further along than most rookie quarterbacks."
Gannon did not start until his fourth season. He then opened at least 10 games over eight of the next 14 years, earning a 76-56 record as a starter. Gannon appreciates the football intellect in a player who started from day one.
"Typically (with rookies), you see the timeouts, the delay of game, the stumbling out of the huddle and they're late getting to the line of scrimmage, kind of a helter-skelter look. You just don't see that with him," said Gannon. "You're not seeing communication issues with protections or problems getting changes out to the receivers. Those are things you will see typically with young quarterbacks who are playing a lot of snaps.
"The other thing I like is when he does make a mistake, you see how much it really bothers him. I like that about him. You see some guys who don't show any emotion. I like the fact he shows emotion.
"He reminds me a little bit, and I don't want to compare him to Peyton (Manning), but you see it bothers him. It really bothers him when he throws an interception or makes a wrong decision. I like when a guy who plays the position shows emotion."
Luck tops AFC quarterbacks with 163 rushing yards and five scores. The running dimension he brings to the offense is one Gannon possessed.
"If you studied him at Stanford, what excited me was his athleticism," said Gannon. "He had the ability to make a couple of first downs or touchdowns. His ability to run for touchdowns now and keep the chains moving is good.
"He's a much more athletic quarterback than the previous guy, and he's smart about it. You just don't see a guy who goes to the first read and then pulls the ball down and runs. He goes through his progressions. He's patient. When he sees an opportunity when things break down, he can make a play."
Through 10 games this year, only three teams (Houston, San Francisco and Washington) have rushed the ball more often than they have thrown. As defenses adjust to today's attacks, Gannon feels the rushing ability in a quarterback is much more important than it has been.
"In order to survive and play at this level, it's hard not to have that anymore," said Gannon. "With the speed of these defensive ends, the ability to get pressure on the passer and with the rule changes, you have to have a quarterback who can protect himself back there. Clearly, Andrew is that type of player."