News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 25, 2012

Choices at QB are plentiful for Indianapolis

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Whatever decision the Indianapolis Colts ultimately make on who will be the team’s starting quarterback in 2012, the job will ultimately be in good hands.

The Colts can opt to re-sign four-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning when his $28 million team bonus comes due March 8. Conversely, Indianapolis officials also can release Manning and choose between Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III when it comes time to use the No. 1 pick in April’s NFL Draft.

Or the team can have the best of both worlds by keeping the franchise’s iconic signal-caller around a while longer and selecting one of the two highly rated prospects. The possibilities are interesting, to say the least.

Conventional wisdom has the Colts and Manning — who has undergone four medical procedures on his neck over the past 19 months — parting ways after 14 successful seasons. And if there ever was a time for a split to occur, this would appear to be the perfect situation because Luck and Griffin are considered “can’t miss” candidates.

Which is why all eyes were on the two former college QBs when they met with the media Friday at the National Football Scouting Combine. They didn’t disappoint.

Griffin, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, was loose and relaxed. He was impressive, composed and sure of himself. Luck, on the other hand, was a little more reserved, but answered questions confidently. Both were imminently likeable and said the right things.

Neither will throw during the combine, planning instead to wait until their own personal on-campus workouts later this spring.

Instead they will meet with teams for one-on-one interviews, undergo medical tests and go through a few on-the-field drills. Griffin has already talked to Philadelphia and was scheduled to get together with representatives from Kansas City and Cleveland on Friday evening. Luck, meanwhile, met with Colts quarterback coach Clyde Christensen on Thursday night.

“On the field, we’ll be running. Get out there, move around, have fun, compete. Just looking forward to just show [teams] who I am. Let them get to know me, I get to know them,” Griffin said, adding that it was his own decision not to throw this weekend.

“You don’t go somewhere and run a game plan. You don’t throw to guys you don’t practice with. And you’re in an environment that you’re not prepared for. That’s why [he’s not going to throw]. I’m just really excited to really show them who I am as a person. Happy go lucky, like to make people laugh but know when to be serious as well.”

Luck said that after talking with his father — former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck — as well as his agent, he made the decision to sit out the combine’s passing drills.

“Nobody advised me not to throw. Now is not the place. I made the decision by myself. I bounced it off my agent and my father and felt like it was in my best interest to wait until Pro Day,” he explained.

When the topic of Manning came up, both were respectful of the situation. They also didn’t shy away from the idea of serving an apprenticeship for a couple of seasons if need be.

“I’ve talked to Peyton a couple of times. I wish him the best. I hope what he wants can come about from the situation. It would be amazing for him to stay in Indy and play out his career,” Griffin said. “I would embrace [playing behind Manning]. It’s not very often you get chances to play or to be on a team with a legend like that and learn from a guy like Peyton.

“Definitely, I would come in and compete to be that starter. But I definitely wouldn’t be upset if Peyton Manning was the starting quarterback of the team that I’m on. It would be an honor to sit behind him and learn. I’d hold that clipboard with pride. I’d have no problem with that. I wouldn’t come in and demand to be the starter.”

Luck had a similar response.

“I understand it’s a possibility [of being drafted by the Colts]. Peyton was my hero growing up. He was my football hero. That’s who I modeled myself after in high school. You never truly replace a guy like that. And who knows what happens. So many different things can happen,” he said.

“I understand the speculation. But nothing’s happened yet. I haven’t been drafted by any team. And obviously, with Peyton, that’s still going on with the Colts. It’s not uncomfortable. I understand the questions have to be asked. If I have an opportunity to learn from a guy like that, of course I’m going to take advantage of it. Absolutely. If you have a chance to learn from a guy like Peyton Manning, if that chance arises, you’d better take advantage of it. He’s arguably the best quarterback ever.”

Quarterback tidbits — Luck was coached in college by former Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who proceeded Manning as the starter in Indianapolis. Harbaugh is part of the team’s Ring of Honor at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Know all about [Harbaugh’s career with the Colts]. Captain Comeback and all that,” Luck joked.

Griffin, meanwhile, comes from a strong military background as his father was in the service for 21 years and his mother served for 12 years.

“They served in two wars, so discipline was something that was obviously huge,” he recalled. “When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. When you start it, you finish it. You’ve got to have that kind of structure in your life. So that helped me be that disciplined person that I am.”

He was recruited to Stanford by Harbaugh, but opted instead to go to Baylor.

“[Luck] was already committed and the two-quarterback thing doesn’t work. So I didn’t want me to be the one to transfer or Andrew be the one to transfer, so I decided to go to a different college,” Griffin said. “But I liked Stanford and Coach Harbaugh.”