One aspect of the Indianapolis Colts stunning trade with the Cleveland Browns that hasn’t been dissected: The Colts and owner Jim Irsay are doing for Andrew Luck what they did for Peyton Manning over a decade ago: Surrounding him with talented playmakers.
[Aside: Hear that faint sobbing? That's Mark Sanchez.]
Here’s how the Colts built around Peyton Manning in the late 90s/early 00s, creating a decade’s worth of success: Manning arrived in Indy as the top pick in 1998 and the team had an elite running back in Marshall Faulk, and elite WR in Marvin Harrison. But the defense couldn’t stop a nose bleed, and the Colts went 3-13 in Manning’s rookie year. Then-GM Bill Polian dealt Faulk for a couple draft picks after the season and quickly replaced him with Edgerrin James using the 4th pick in the 1999 draft. Two years later: receiver Reggie Wayne with the 30th pick. Two years later: tight end Dallas Clark with the 30th pick.
The year they added Clark, the final piece to the offense, the Colts reached the AFC title game (losing to New England). Three years later, they won the Super Bowl.
To recap: After drafting Peyton Manning, the Colts went to the playoffs in 11 of 13 seasons. When all the offensive pieces were in place – James, two WRs and a tight end, they finally won a playoff game (after first round exits in 1999, 2000, 2002) and went to two Super Bowls.
[The Colts gave James a Super Bowl ring even though he wasn't on the team. He was replaced by another 1st round pick, Joseph Addai. For the second Super Bowl trip, Edge was replaced by Joseph Addai, and Harrison was replaced by Pierre Garcon.]
And now, Indianapolis has surrounded franchise QB Andrew Luck with young, talented players – just like they did with Peyton Manning.
Trent Richardson, RB – 22
Ty Hilton, WR – 23
Coby Fleener, TE – 24
Dwayne Allen, TE – 23
That’s not even including Wayne and Darrius Heyward-Bey, the latter of whom they
traded for added via free agency last offseason. The Colts only have two priorities over the next few years: Improve the defense and protect Andrew Luck. There’s no reason to believe Indianapolis can’t duplicate the Peyton Manning era.