Luck, Griffin get chance to meet with NFL scouts
INDIANAPOLIS – A poster hanging outside Lucas Oil Stadium still bears the image of Peyton Manning.
Inside the house Manning built, the discussion is all about his successor.
On Friday, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III finally got a chance to start making their pitches to be this year's No. 1 draft pick and supplant Manning as the face of the Colts' franchise though neither is ready to push him aside yet.
"Peyton was my hero growing up, he was my football hero, he's who I modeled myself after in high school and middle school. You never truly replace a guy like that," Luck said at the NFL's scouting combine. "If I had the opportunity to learn from a guy like that, of course you're going to take advantage of that, absolutely."
One of the top two quarterbacks in this year's draft may not have a choice about whether he plays or sits in 2012.
After going a league-worst 2-14, the Colts won the lottery ticket for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, and team owner Jim Irsay has already said he intends to use the No. 1 overall pick on Indy's next big franchise quarterback.
Presumably, that quarterback's portrait will wind up on the wall of the same venue both are expected to participate in some of Sunday's workouts.
Who will it be?
Luck met with Colts quarterback coach Clyde Christensen on Thursday night and will undoubtedly see more of the Colts staff this weekend. Griffin has already met with Philadelphia and has meetings scheduled with Kansas City and Cleveland, a team that may be looking to swap picks with St. Louis to take Griffin.
Coaches and general managers believe Luck, like Manning in 1998, is the more polished prospect.
"He (Luck) has got a great start," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who was been watching Luck since his high school days. "He's been coached very well. The system he's been running is very similar to what most of the people do in pro football. He's doing a lot of stuff at the line of scrimmage. He has a good chance to be a great, great player in this league."
Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner, is believed to have more upside, just like Ryan Leaf, who went second in the '98 draft.
And with scouting reports on Griffin steadily improving, the biggest concern heading into the combine was Griffin's height. Some worried the quarterback who was listed at 6-foot-4 in high school and 6-2 at Baylor, was actually shorter.
Griffin ended any speculation about the incredible shrinking quarterback by measuring in at 6-2 3/8, 223 pounds -- a point he made three times during a 15-minute question-and-answer session with reporters.
"Cam (Newton) is a bigger guy, 6-5, 240 and I'm 6-2 3/8 and 223," Griffin said, drawing laughter. "I'm not going to let that one go."
This year's crop of quarterbacks is an intriguing mix of talent.
There's quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M. There's Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and 28-year-old Brandon Weeden, who have already been drafted -- by Major League Baseball teams. There's Kirk Cousins from Michigan State, the undersized Kellen Moore from Boise State and little known Patrick Witt from Yale.
Then, of course, there's Luck, considered the most NFL ready quarterback since Manning, and the rapidly-rising Griffin.
Most believe that barring any unknown medical issues, Luck will go No. 1 to Indianapolis and Griffin could go No. 2 if the Rams trade the pick.
The quarterbacks don't believe it's that clear-cut.
"I think that's a little premature," Luck said when asked whether he'd started house-hunting on his second trip to Indy in less than a month. He was also here during Super Bowl week.
With more than two months to go before the April draft, there's lots of time for scouts to dissect the flaws and change their rankings.
But in a strange twist, it could be the No. 2 pick that ends up with more playing time in the fall.
Manning still has not completely recovered from a nerve injury that caused weakness in his throwing arm and forced him to miss the entire 2011 season. The Colts must now decide whether to pay the four-time league MVP a $28 million bonus by March 8 or risk losing him as a free agent. Complicating matters, Manning has also offered to redo the deal five-year, $90 million deal he signed last July in hopes of finishing his career in Indy.
If the two sides can work out a new deal and Manning is healthy, he could be the Colts starter and relegate the No. 1 pick to bench duty.
It's a prospect Griffin and Luck believe can work.
"I'd like it to stay Peyton's picture, but I'm not going to be a politician for that," said Griffin, who wore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle socks to the interview session. "I've talked to him (Manning) a couple of times, and I he hope he gets the chance to finish his career here with the Colts."
Luck agrees that his friend should get that opportunity.
The two have already built a strong friendship.
Luck's father, Oliver, and Manning's father, Archie, were teammates for two seasons with the Houston Oilers in the 1980s, and Andrew Luck has attended the Manning Passing Academy as both a pupil and a counselor. After returning he would return to school last year rather than enter the draft, Luck called Peyton Manning for advice about going back.
"I think I improved on general knowledge of the game, and I think I sharpened up a lot of my skills," Luck said of the extra year in college.
Sitting behind Manning could help the learning process, too.
But at some point, one of these two is likely to have his picture replace that of Manning on the front of the stadium.
"I understand the questions have to be asked. It's part of it. I understand the speculation," Luck said. "In my mind, nothing has happened yet. I haven't been drafted any team, and, obviously, the deal with Peyton, that's still going on with the Colts. But I understand the questions have to be asked."