Either Love Andrew or Set Him Free
There is a clear lack of appreciation for Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. Luck is continuing to recover from off-season shoulder surgery with the original time table being that Andrew would return in time for training camp. The Colts have taken the step of finding an adequate replacement until Luck returns by trading for QB Jacoby Brissett from the New England Patriots. Brissett has a similar build to Luck, being able to extend plays with his legs and take punishment when plays break down. Brissett is essentially a rookie QB in the NFL this season being only 23 years old.
He was a student of the ageless wonder Tom Brady in New England prior to coming to Indianapolis making him prepared for this opportunity. Brissett will be successful in this league given his physical skillset and preparation having also been around a coach like Bill Belichick. He was able to showcase his playmaking ability against the Cleveland Browns having 259 yards and 3 total touchdowns including 2 rushing, leading the Colts to a 31-28 victory. But when taking a look on social media and listening to fans in Lucas Oil Stadium, people are saying, "Andrew Who?" "Why can't we just keep Brissett and get rid of Andrew?" These are the same people that wanted to keep a 40 year old Matt Hasselbeck in at QB when Luck originally went down with this shoulder injury in 2015.
As talented as Brissett is as a backup, it's amazing to me how quickly fans forget just how much Andrew Luck has done since being drafted back in 2012. Fans are entitled to their opinions, but they are making it much easier for Andrew to request a trade from Indianapolis with their lack of appreciation for him. This lack of appreciation is a product of a few things at play since Luck was brought in with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft. The love for and ugly break up with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis before Luck was drafted is the first component.
The Colts have won the QB lottery twice. The first time they were able to get Peyton Manning at the top of the draft in 1998. After Peyton was let go regretfully by Jim Irsay and the Colts, Indianapolis was in the same position to draft Andrew Luck. Luck was praised as the best quarterback prospect since Manning, making Luck the ideal pick for anyone in Indianapolis's position. While it was difficult to let a person like Peyton go, it was the right decision for the Colts in the long term. But there are still those that feel Peyton was done wrong in Indianapolis.
Because of this resentment, Luck has never been able to escape the massive shadow left by Peyton in Indianapolis. But when taking a look at the numbers, Luck is actually better than Peyton was through their first 70 games. This is despite the fact that Peyton was able to benefit from a much better offensive line as well as a productive running game with not one, but two Hall of Fame running backs. Just imagine for a second how much healthier and dangerous Luck would be with running backs like Marshall Faulk or Edgerrin James at his disposal. Just thinking about it, the possibilities of that offense would be scary for anyone to deal with in the NFL.
Then there are those that say Luck isn't a top tier QB and isn't worth his contract. Luck's deal is massive with Andrew having a guaranteed $47 million if he never plays another snap of football again. The deal also includes incentives totaling up to $140 million. It doesn't help the Colts that he is earning this fortune on the sidelines. But Andrew Luck is the most valuable QB in the NFL and the 2nd most valuable athlete in American sports behind LeBron James. Value doesn't mean the best player, but instead means the most important player to a team. Without Luck and his ability to make others around him better, the lack of talent and coaching on this team would be even more apparent. Even with Luck this season, the Colts may win 5-6 games.
This fact merely shows how much work needs to be done to rebuild this roster for future success. Two players that are considered among the leagues best over the past decade, Tom Brady and Big Ben are not nearly as vital to their teams. Without Tom Brady, the Pats would still win 10-12 games playing the Bills and Jets twice every year. Without Big Ben, the Steelers would win 9-10 games playing in a division with the Bengals and Browns. In fact at this point in the year, both the Bengals and Browns have yet to hold a lead at any point this season. Both the Patriots and Steelers also have a multitude of offensive weapons with Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski being just a few notable names.
As far as the Colts and the pieces surrounding Luck, it has been ugly to say the least. The Colts have ranked in the bottom half of defensive statistics including points and yards allowed every year since Luck was drafted in 2012. They have steadily gotten worse since 2013, finishing 22nd in points and 30th in yards last year. The Colts have also had 35 different offensive line combinations through five years, allowing absolutely no consistency for Luck to be protected in the pocket. In fact, Luck has been sacked 156 times in his first five seasons. This does not include being under duress and hit after releasing the ball. This lack of time to throw is an explanation for why Luck throws as many interceptions as he does year to year. Now, Luck needs to get rid of the ball sooner, but it's difficult to throw a football from the ground.
Luck's receiving core also isn't that physical with the undersized T.Y. Hilton being his best option. T.Y. has talent that is off the charts, don't think I'm not aware of his playmaking ability. But when I mention him alongside players like Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham Jr., who would you rather have? Them or T.Y.? Luck also has lacked a running game through his entire career. He has had only one season where a running back rushed for more than 1,000 yards. It was done by Frank Gore, a Hall of Fame level running back, but someone who is in the twilight of his career at 34 years old. When it comes to the running back position, the worst move was executed by former Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson.
Grigson traded a 2014 first-round pick for Trent Richardson. Richardson, who in hindsight is an NFL bust, barely averaged 3 yards a carry with under 1,000 yards in two seasons with Indianapolis. Richardson's downfall accelerated when he fumbled his only carry in the 2013 playoffs against the Kansas City Chiefs. Luck made up for it though rallying the Colts past a 38–10 Chiefs' deficit, winning 45-44 in the closing minutes. Richardson then tumbled further, being a healthy scratch for the 2014 AFC Championship Game, the contest that launched the Deflategate controversy. Luck isn't worth the money? Really? He has carried and made a subpar team better each year. This heroic effort is in spite of a front office that has remained naive about the talent level until now.
Luck has had no real help in his career thus far, but has kept the Colts competitive year after year. In 2012, he had 7 game-winning drives, as a rookie, something that had never been done. The following year in 2013, the Colts would beat both teams featured in Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle and Denver. This season also included 4 more game winning drives by Luck. In 2014, Luck led the Colts to victory in 8 of their last 10 games, after starting out the year 0-2. Luck also had two playoff wins against CINN and DEN. In 2016, with a shoulder injury present, Luck would lead 4 more game-winning drives. Luck also had one of the best seasons of his career in 2016, posting the second best passing TD total in his career (31) and second lowest INT total of his career (13). Luck did all of this despite being sacked 41 times, which tied the number of sacks he took in his rookie campaign.
All together, excluding the 2015 season where he saw action in only 7 games, Luck’s completion percentage and QBR have increased each year since 2012. Luck also has 18 game winning drives in his career. This is the same number of game winning drives Aaron Rodgers has so far with the Green Bay Packers. Finally, since making the playoffs for the first time in 2012 as a rookie, Luck led the Colts one stage farther year after year through 2015. But fans want to go with Brissett over Luck? Really?
They say that if you love something, set it free. If the Indianapolis Colts love Andrew Luck, they will set him free and let him play out his career with a team that will appreciate him more than they did. There needs to be an appreciation for Andrew in Indianapolis before he wakes up and ultimately decides to move on to a better situation.
Jimmy Kennedy, who thinks Andrew Luck has reason to leave the Colts, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org