Time waits for no man, and as hard as it will be for fans of the New England Patriots to accept, Tom Brady will eventually retire. Everyone has been questioning who will fill his role as the NFL’s best quarterback. For the better part of the last twenty years, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have ruled the roost. But in 2016, there’s a young quarterback that might be following in a legend’s footsteps. Here’s what Peyton Manning’s Colts and Derek Carr‘s Raiders have in common.
Comparing Peyton Manning’s Colts and Derek Carr’s Raiders
Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts of the early 2000’s were some of the best teams in football. Driven by a high-powered offense, Peyton Manning and company made the playoffs seven times between 2000 and 2010. So how did the team dominate so consistently?
The Franchise Quarterback
As everyone knows, Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. When the Colts selected Manning with the first overall pick in 1998, they found their starting quarterback. As a member of the Colts, Manning would throw for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdowns while leading the team to the playoffs 11 times, winning the division eight times. The team lived and died on Manning’s arm, and in 2006, he got the monkey off his back, finally delivering a Super Bowl to the franchise. But he couldn’t do it alone.
To quote Mrs. Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, “He can’t throw and catch the ball by himself”. As great as Manning was, he needed some talented receivers to catch his passes, and there was no shortage of talented pass-catchers.
Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Marcus Pollard, Brandon Stokley, Austin Collie, and Pierre Garcon all caught at least ten touchdown passes from the future hall of famer. In fact, Marvin Harrison is already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with Reggie Wayne soon to follow.
Harrison was in only his second year when Manning was drafted, and he made the progression from rookie to All-Pro very easy. The addition of Wayne gave Manning a second weapon to go to when defenses doubled Harrison. But all the fire-power in the world couldn’t deliver the Colts victory without a great offensive line.
The Great Wall
It’s not like the offensive line that Manning played behind was made up of slouches either. The likes of Tarik Glenn, Jeff Saturday, Jake Scott, and Ryan Diem helped protect Peyton Manning, and led rushers like Edgerrin James to over 1,500 yards in a season. A strong offensive line kept Peyton Manning up and helped him destroy defenses. Speaking of defenses…
In 2002, the Colts drafted a defensive end out of Syracuse University named Dwight Freeney. While undersized, Freeney was a clean prospect, and made an immediate impact for the Colts. He had 13 sacks as a rookie, and 51 sacks in his first four seasons. He gave the Colts a defensive force on defense, and later, with complementary players like Robert Mathis, he was able to disrupt the likes of Tom Brady.
Derek Carr’s Oakland Raiders
While the Oakland Raiders are headed to the post-season this year, this hasn’t happened for a long time. They haven’t even had a winning record, let alone a playoff berth, since 2002. So how are Peyton Manning’s Colts and Derek Carr’s Raiders alike? Here’s how.
The Franchise Quarterback
In 2014, the Oakland Raiders selected quarterback Derek Carr in the second round. Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater were all selected before he was, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, and Minnesota Vikings have had to watch him become the NFL’s best young quarterback.
After a rough rookie season that saw Carr’s Raiders start the season 0-10, number four and his team have steadily gotten better every year. Only Dan Marino had thrown more passing touchdowns thrown more touchdowns than Carr through two seasons, and that includes Peyton Manning. In fact, if Carr manages to throw at least seven touchdowns over the next two weeks, he’ll maintain a better pace than Peyton Manning.
The Raider defense has given up over 370 yards a game this season, and leads the league in big plays given up. This means that often, Carr’s arm has determined the outcome of the game. In games where Carr has been able to get going, he’s won. In both games against the Kansas City Chiefs, he struggled, and in both of those games, he lost.
It remains to be seen whether Carr will have a Manning-esque career, but he’s certainly off to a good start.
Much like Manning had Wayne and Harrison, Carr has Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Unlike Manning, Carr had to wait a season for the NFL to draft his number one receiver, but when they did, he certainly wasn’t complaining.
Randy Moss had 1,000 yards receiving for the Raiders in 2005. Between that season and Amari Cooper’s rookie campaign in 2015, the Raiders didn’t have a single 1,000 yard receiver. Now? Cooper has 1,000 yards again in 2016.
As for Michael Crabtree, many considered him a bust after he struggled with the San Francisco 49ers, but with the Raiders, he’s thrived. He has 17 touchdowns in just 30 games with the Raiders, and has proven to be a redzone favorite for Carr.
The Great Wall
While the Colts went with a group of undersized athletic guys, Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders did the opposite. Through the draft and free agency, the Raiders assembled the biggest offensive line in the NFL. The smallest lineman on the Raiders is center Rodney Hudson, who stands at 6’2, 300 pounds. The other four linemen are all over 330 pounds.
Despite the huge size difference, the gameplan is the same. The line has made Carr the least sacked quarterback in the NFL, and has helped make huge holes for the NFL’s sixth ranked rushing offense. The Raiders are averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and have scored on the ground 15 times this year.
In the same draft where the Oakland Raiders found Derek Carr, they also found a pass rusher by the name of Khalil Mack. You know Khalil Mack, the guy with 30 sacks through his first 46 career games? Mack, the favorite for defensive player of the year this season? Yup. He does a lot of the same things that Dwight Freeney did for the Colts, only for the Raiders. To complement, players like Mario Edwards, Aldon Smith, and Bruce Irvin, are vying to play the role of his Robert Mathis.
A little over a decade after Peyton Manning and company made the Indianapolis Colts among the AFC’s elite, Derek Carr and the Raiders look to do the same. It seems like general manager Reggie McKenzie has followed in Bill Polian’s blueprint, finding a star quarterback and surrounding him with talent. Peyton Manning’s Colts and Derek Carr’s Raiders have a lot in common, and it’ll be interesting to see if they achieve the same success.