Colts' Andrew Luck faces Jets after breakthrough win over Packers
It may have seemed like Andrew Luck's NFL coming-out party a week ago.
Luck, the much-discussed No. 1 overall pick in the April draft, had all the fanfare and attention on him when he was selected by the Colts to lead the post-Peyton Manning era.
After three games, a 1-2 record and an abysmal first half against the Packers, Luck and his rookie-laden offense put it together to rally for a 30-27 win over Green Bay. Luck threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another.
"I don't think I had any revelations or "Aha!" moments," Luck said. "It was just maybe a little more focus on the offense, and good things started happening."
Luck's coaches have seen it coming since the draft. Even before that.
"That light's been on with him -- it's getting the light to click on with the other 10 guys," said Bruce Arians, the Colts' offensive coordinator and interim head coach. "His light's been burning bright since he got here. The other 10 guys are starting to pick it up -- there are times we have six rookies out there on offense. I'm not worried about Andrew."
The unusual situation the Colts are in as they visit MetLife Stadium Sunday to face the Jets, with head coach Chuck Pagano in an Indianapolis hospital undergoing treatment for leukemia, makes this an even more challenging environment for any quarterback, much less a rookie.
But Luck, who handled the spotlight well at Stanford and is the son of a former NFL quarterback, has remained calm and eager to learn and grow through all of the firsts.
"He's seen a lot of different things so far, and he's handling them all as well as we'd hoped," said quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, who has been on the Colts' staff as either an assistant or offensive coordinator for a decade. "Last Sunday was his first time seeing a [Packers defensive coordinator] Dom Capers defense, and he handled that well. Now he's got a Rex Ryan defense for the first time, and on the road, in a hostile environment. He's getting the full range."
Arians said it didn't take long to realize what the Colts would be getting if they selected Luck first overall last spring.
"It was probably the second interview before the draft. Sitting down and talking football with him -- how easily he got it and grasped it, and gave it back to you," Arians said. "Then, saw him a month later, asked him the same questions without any prep, and he remembered everything. This is a very special mind you're dealing with here. Without all the physical tools, the mind was unbelievable. If we can take this guy, we can throw the playbook at him."
And so they have. Much like what the Giants did with Eli Manning, Luck has the responsibilities of a more veteran quarterback -- pointing out coverages at the line of scrimmage and, as the Colts did to great success in the second half last Sunday, going no-huddle when needed.
Arians was the Colts' quarterbacks coach in 1998, when Peyton Manning was a rookie. Arians said the Colts didn't even try a no-huddle with Manning back then, waiting until his second year for that.
There's also a strong Luck-Manning connection: Luck has been a counselor at the Mannings' Passing Academy for the past couple of summers.
"Andrew's got a lot of his mannerisms," Arians said. "If you're at our practice, I'll look at [Luck] and go, 'What's Peyton doing here?' That's because of the mannerisms he picked up."
Luck is staying as unassuming as he possibly can, given the attention. He said Colts fans have given him space when he's out and about, and he's also had good communication with Arians as far as the playbook and on-field calls.
"Some of the things we've talked about and said, 'OK, maybe we can't do that this week, this is a little too much,' " Luck said. "I know it's very cliche, but as a first-year quarterback, it's imperative to just get better. You learn more and keep on grinding."