QBS2 Comparison: Peyton Manning vs. Andrew Luck (First Three Seasons)

Posted on January 2, 2015 at 11:55 AM
Even before Andrew Luck was drafted No. 1 overall by the Colts in 2012, the comparisons between him and Peyton Manning had already begun. Though their playing styles are undoubtedly different, their similar resumés, in some respects, have perpetuated the public's desire to compare the two. In the here-and-now world of 2014, many seem to forget about the early chapters of Mannning's career. In 1999, he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated—who touted him to be "So Good, So Soon."

Photo credit: Sports Illustrated (November 1999)

Proclaiming Luck to have had the better start by virture of contextless raw statistics is akin to saying the iPhone 6 is superior to the StarTAC—which tells us what exactly? Luck's presence within the familiarity of the here-and-now impacts only perception, not history. To that end, the QBS2 system provides historical context for comparison by evaluating the performance of quarterbacks, on a season-by-season basis, in relation to their peers. League ranking in passer rating, DVOA and QBR (weighted equally) yields a quarterback's grade, which then places them from first to last amongst all qualifiers. The results illustrate, after similar rookie seasons, a substantial advantage in favor of Manning. Luck now ranks towards the lower half of the league's Top-10 where Manning, in his second and third seasons, had already become a Top-2 passer.

Peyton Manning QBS2 (1998-2000)

  • 1998: 35.00 (18)
  • 1999: 93.54 (2)
  • 2000: 91.93 (2) 

  • Average: 73.49

PR rank: 23rd (1998), 4th (1999), 6th (2000)

DVOA rank: 18th (1998), 2nd (1999), 1st (2000)

QBR rank: N/A

Andrew Luck QBS2 (2012-2014)

  • 2012: 46.87 (17)
  • 2013: 59.37 (13)
  • 2014: 71.87 (8)

  • Average: 59.37

PR rank: 26th (2012), 18th (2013), 7th (2014)

DVOA rank: 19th (2012), 16th (2013), 12th (2014)

QBR rank: 9th (2012), 8th (2013), 11th (2014)

Luck's superior ability as a mobile quarterback is reflected in the QBR component of his QBS2. His average of four rushing touchdowns per-season has been advantageous, while his low league rankings in completion-percentage (31st in 2012, 23rd in 2013, 23rd in 2014) has hindered his ability to develop as an efficient passer. As a further point of comparison, Manning's completion-percentage rankings during his first three seasons were 19th in 1998, 2nd in 1999 and 6th in 2000.

Manning was much more productive, and while Luck has thrown fewer picks, his lost fumble total (13) is more than double what Manning's was (6).

Manning (passing yards): 3rd in 1998, 3rd in 1999, 1st in 2000
Manning (touchdown passes): 5th in 1998, 3rd in 1999, 1st in 2000
Manning (interceptions): 1st in 1998, 8th in 1999, 9th in 2000

Luck (passing yards): 7th in 2012, 13th in 2013, 3rd in 2014
Luck (touchdown passes): 14th in 2012, 15th in 2013, 1st in 2014
Luck (interceptions): 3rd in 2012, 22nd in 2013, 6th in 2014

Manning had better support in team rushing-efficiency—though it's easier for a running game to be successful when it's supported by an efficient passing game.

Indianapolis Colts Running Game (YPC)

  • 1998: 17th
  • 1999: 12th
  • 2000: 7th

  • Average supporting Manning: 12.00

  • 2012: 23rd
  • 2013: 12th
  • 2014: 22nd

  • Average supporting Luck: 19.00

Luck's defensive support has been neither consistent nor stellar, but Manning's was worse.

Indianapolis Colts Scoring Defense

  • 1998: 29th
  • 1999: 17th
  • 2000: 15th

  • Average supporting Manning: 20.33

  • 2012: 21st
  • 2013: 9th
  • 2014: 19th

  • Average supporting Luck: 16.33

Even after taking the various degrees of support into consideration, Manning's superior performance in his second and third seasons is too distant from Luck's to make for a close comparison. Luck's QBS2 ranking has improved from 17th in 2012, to 13th in 2013, to 8th in 2014—which is impressive. But in his first three seasons, Manning had already delivered two second place finishes in QBS2, which is more than some Hall of Fame quarterbacks have in the entirety of their professional careers. Manning would only get better as his career continued, recording a record seven first place finishes in QBS2 (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013). Practically speaking, that will be nearly impossible for any quarterback to top. Luck's trajectory continues to point upward—with the remaining chapters of this debate still yet to be written.

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