So are Indianapolis Colts fans ready to forget about Peyton Manning yet?
Well, maybe not, but Andrew Luck’s performance on Sunday probably put Manning a bit more in the rearview mirror of Colts fans’ collective consciousness.
Luck’s stellar preseason debut against the St. Louis Rams Sunday isn’t so much about making people forget about Manning—Indianapolis will never forget No. 18—as much as it is getting the team’s fan base focused on the future.
It won’t be an easy task.
It shows what Luck and the Colts are up against when the rookie throws a 63-yard touchdown pass on his first play from scrimmage, and an entire fan base and the local press contingency seem to scream, “Just like Peyton did it,” noting that Manning threw a TD on his first preseason play of his rookie year. It’s sure to be the first of many on-fieldcomparisons between Luck and Manning, and the Luck-era Colts and Manning-led Colts.
On Sunday, Luck completed 10 of 16 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Already this morning, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic were asking if Luck’s rookie Colts teams will win more games than the team did in Manning’s rookie campaign. The type of endless comparison—to one of the greatest to ever play quarterback—that Luck will face is not fair. But that’s the shadow the Stanford grad was thrust into.
While Luck’s focus is squarely on winning games, the front office is set on winning back fans—some still annoyed that Manning was cut loose after last season and allowed to sign with the Denver Broncos. Others not yet convinced that the new regime brought in by Colts owner Jim Irsay will bounce back after last year’s 2-14 debacle.
The immediate challenge involves trying to sell out Lucas Oil Stadium for the regular season home opener Sept. 16. There are still more than 1,000 tickets available, but after light from Luck’s star peeked through Manning’s long shadow on Sunday, there will probably be a lot less in a couple days.
When the cameras have been off and the pens put away at the team’s training camp in Anderson this month, Colts officials—from coaches to public relations folks—have gushed about their new quarterback.
Colts officials have been careful not to put too much pressure on Luck, but have been eager for the team’s fans to see what they’ve got. On Sunday, Colts fans got their first sneak peak. Today, Colts officials hope that starts to translate into sales.
Is one preseason game likely to convert all the doubters into loyalists? No way.
And let’s not get carried away. The Rams defense wouldn’t ever be confused for the Steel Curtain and could finish in the bottom half of the NFL this year.
Still, Luck didn’t make any major mistakes and never put his team in a hole. After a year of watching poor Curtis Painter, that’s important for Colts fans to see.
“The volume of calls is definitely a lot higher after yesterday’s game,” said Larry Hall, Colts vice president of ticket operations, when I talked to him Monday morning.
While Luck’s performance likely helped, Hall said just having the Colts game on television Sunday—with the stadium roof and window open—helps sell tickets.
“Having the game on TV,” Hall said, “lets people know it’s football season again.”
As for expectations? Colts officials are clear about one thing.
“We expect to sell out every game,” Hall said.
Now it’s time to see if that expectation holds true, and if Luck’s star continues to burn bright.