Playing in Peyton's Shadow, Eli Shines Bright
A Hall of Famer, though? His former teammate, Kurt Warner, now an analyst with the NFL Network, says not so fast. "I fully disagree with that," Warner said. "I mean, he has an 82 quarterback rating throughout his career. You know, he's had five of his eight seasons where he has thrown 16 interceptions or more. His completion percentage on his career is 58 percent. To me, those aren't Hall of Fame numbers and by that I mean every time you step on the field you're a game changer, you're a difference maker. And I don't believe Eli Manning has been that guy until this year. I think this year is the first time in his career when he's become that guy."
Even though Eli may have been the belle of the ball on Super Bowl Sunday, many of the stories throughout the week focused on Peyton. Since it was learned early last year that Peyton was dealing with neck issues that would require surgery, it's been tough going for Peyton, who believed he would be healed in time for the 2011 season, but instead had to sit by helpless as his Colts bumbled their way to a 2-14 season, a position that would help them earn the first pick of the 2012 draft.
Complicating matters for the Colts and their perennial Pro Bowler are two looming factors: Peyton's contract and Andrew Luck.
Before the 2011 season began, Peyton and the Colts agreed to terms on a five-year contract worth $90 million, with more than $69 million coming in the first three years of the contract. Manning is also due a $28 million roster bonus on March 8th, four days before the start of the league's year, meaning that the Colts front office essentially has their hands tied. Either fork over another $28 million to a quarterback who earned almost that much this year, when he was physically unable to play, or cut loose a leader who transformed a consistent loser of a franchise into one of the NFL's most respected teams for nothing. It's becoming increasingly clear that Colt's owner Jim Irsay prefers the latter to the former.
And then, there's the man that everyone's been talking about since he decided to stay at Stanford for his senior season - Andrew Luck. With that season now behind him, Luck is seen by many experts as the top overall prospect in next year's NFL Draft. In fact, Luck is so well-liked by draft experts many are claiming that he is the best quarterback prospect since John Elway in 1983, or (*gulp) Peyton Manning in 1998. The Colts drafted both Elway and Manning, but Elway used his interest from the New York Yankees as leverage to get himself traded to Denver, where he preferred to play.
At this point, it seems inevitable the Colts will take the opportunity to move forward with Luck, trying to replicate the decade-plus of success that Peyton was able to achieve, leaving one burning question: Where will Peyton land next?
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