Picture it: the year was 1998 and it was Peyton Manning‘s rookie year as the starting quarterback of the Indiannapolis Colts.
The Colts finished 3-13 that year and last in the AFC East Division. Additionally, Manning set rookie records for both touchdown passes (26) and interceptions (28), while playing all 16 games.
While Manning did throw a ton of interceptions, he also did pass for 3,739 yards that year and had the luxury of suiting up in Indy with a star running back in Marshall Faulk.
Despite the Colts’ terrible record that year, Faulk rushed for 1,319 yards that year and he’d end up being traded the following season after holding out of camp for 12 days at training camp. Faulk was traded to the St. Louis Rams for a second and fifth round draft pick and the Colts moved on by drafting Edgerrin James.
Already a three-time Pro Bowler at that point, Faulk would go on to have a spectacular NFL career. After signing a seven-year, $45.2 million contract with the Rams, the Hall of Famer running back would become the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2000 and a Super Bowl XXXIV Champion in 1999.
Solid career. Nobody’s questioning him or Peyton Manning’s abilities. But…what if those two had stayed together?
On a recent episode of the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show, I asked faulk how much did they make each other’s during their lone season together in Indy. “I’m going to say at that point in time I was making his job easier,” Faulk told me.
“In a sense that just confirming the things that he worked on. The things that he believed in. That’s all. I mean, you couldn’t just come in and be more prepared. You couldn’t. The dude was PREPARED. It was just the game and understanding the game and the speed of the game and everything; that’s all he needed. And that’s why it was like, boom! Like in no time you saw him as you saw him.”
Manning‘s attention to detail is fascinating. Faulk shared what Manning was like in the early days. “The college game was actually too predictable,” he said.
“And it didn’t allow Peyton to be who he really was. Because in college, you had to slow the game down because the guys coming in college, they weren’t as advanced enough. But when he got to the pro level, and it was like, ‘Oh everybody gets to study football? They don’t have to go to class, they don’t have to do this — and we get to dedicate this much?’ and he can get mad at you if you miss a check? To watch a rookie quarterback start EVERY game; I mean, to throw the amount of interceptions he threw and to not lose confidence…do you understand how many young guys if they were — how many young guys had the first year that Peyton had and they never came back from that? Or if you go to the wrong coach? If you go to a defensive minded coach, you never become the guy that you were supposed to? They strip you of that and they limit you. They don’t allow you to make those mistakes.”