When the Indianapolis Colts moved on from franchise quarterback Peyton Manning after he missed a season with a neck injury, they thought they’d found his heir apparent in Andrew Luck. For a while, despite putting Luck behind a suspect offensive line, it seemed Indy might have found their next QB. Then Luck, who constantly battled injuries during his NFL career, abruptly retired at 29, sending the Colts back out searching for their next signal-caller.
First came Jacoby Brissett, a career backup who is better suited to a secondary role. Two seasons ago the Colts went with Philip Rivers, who was decent but largely washed up by the time he got to Indy. And last season the Colts went with Carson Wentz, a move that seemed opportunistic but ultimately cost the team a playoff spot.
This offseason, the Colts dealt Wentz to the Commanders and then traded with the Atlanta Falcons to bring Matt Ryan, a former MVP, to town. Ryan, who has been called “overrated” during his career largely due to his reliance on game-breaking wideout Julio Jones, gives the Colts the closest approximation of Manning they’ve had, according to wide-receiver-turned-wide-receiver-coach Reggie Wayne.
“Man, it makes me almost want to throw up, because he reminds me of Peyton so much,” the legendary Colt told USA Today. “He’s the epitome of a leader. In the meetings, he’s vocal, he’s trying to get that connection with the receivers, trying to get extra [work] as much as possible. He’s out there, he’s grinding with them. I really feel like with his years and experience in this league, it will help these young guys. I remember having a quarterback with some experience, that was everything for me.”
Indianapolis coach Frank Reich has also seen shades of Manning while working with Ryan in the film room to tailor the Indianapolis offense to fit the former Falcons quarterback.
“Both have these brilliant minds, but I can tell already, both have just a phenomenal ability to keep it simple,” Reich said. “That’s like the first thing that jumped out to me about Matt. He’s got 14 years of experience, he’s done it all, and all he’s talking about is ‘Let’s keep it simple. Let’s keep it simple. We don’t have to try to do too much. Let’s keep it simple.’ That rings of Peyton.”
For Matty Ice to truly ring of Manning, he’ll have to win a ring the way Peyton did in Super Bowl XLI.