It was 2008 and Brett Favre was leaving. Aaron Rodgers' life in the post-Favre era was just beginning. It was, initially, a total nightmare for Rodgers. That time is also a potential lesson for Andrew Luck.
While there were Rodgers supporters in AF (After Favre) there were far more Favre faithful and they were much more boisterous. In his initial practices in 2008, Rodgers was booed by fans. His truck was keyed. Rodgers and a teammate were harassed at a gas station.
"It was ugly," Packers receiver Greg Jennings said in a 2009 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story that detailed some of the incidents that happened to Rodgers. "They didn't always mean harm. But it was very harmful, what they were doing. I remember this one lady saying, 'I'm a Favre fan. I don't dislike Aaron; I just don't like the fact that he's our quarterback.' I was like, are you serious right now? This guy hasn't done anything! He didn't ask to be here. He didn't ask to get drafted by the Packers. He didn't ask to be behind a future Hall of Famer. He didn't ask Brett to leave."
"I was really beat down," Rodgers said in the story.
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Luck may not have his car vandalized or face extremism at a gas station, but his transition is going to be utterly brutal. And if Luck doesn't quickly succeed, his introduction to the NFL could be more painful than Rodgers' or the handful of other unlucky men who were forced to follow legends.
If this were a movie it would be called The Impossible Mission of Andrew Luck. It would be directed by Quentin Tarantino with Brad Pitt playing Luck, and Luck would be fighting behind enemy lines in a basement.
You won't see a more difficult task in sports than this. It's worse than Rodgers following Favre, or Steve Young replacing Joe Montana, or the unlucky sap who followed John Unitas. This is nastier than them all.
Though Favre and some Packers fans treated Rodgers like dog poop, Rodgers walked onto a team with a great deal of talent. He also had years to study his craft as Favre's understudy. Rodgers, unlike Luck, also wasn't a rookie.
The biggest issue for Luck is he takes control of an organization that by the time Jim Irsay is done, will be completely gutted. Much of the talent on the Colts that was around Manning will be gone. Luck will basically inherit the Kansas City Chiefs.
Young got Jerry Rice. Young got a great defense. The 49ers were stacked. The Colts are the opposite of stacked. They are anti-stacked.
One other significant difference for Luck is that he enters a football era where patience is all but gone. Fans will expect Luck to turn things around within several years. If he doesn't this is what you'll hear: Manning would not have gone 6-10 with this team. Manning would have scored on that drive. Manning would make the playoffs if Rob Lowe was playing wide receiver.
It won't just be that Luck will always be compared to one of the top three quarterbacks of all time in Manning, it's that he will be compared to him from the time he steps off the draft stage in New York, in what is this Twitterific environment, where players are expected to produce immediately even though that isn't realistic at all.
Manning had about as good a run in Indianapolis as any athlete who stayed in one place in the history of sports. He's comparable to a Derek Jeter (though Jeter won more), who might be the modern gold standard.
Scouts have told me that despite Luck's sort of goofy demeanor there is a steely will locked away inside. They tell me he's far tougher than he looks and is perfectly suited for this challenge. The truth is there is no training for this. They don't teach classes on how to follow a legend, even at Stanford.
This is a bear trap. It's incredibly dangerous. So yes, good luck, rook. You're gonna need it.