Indianapolis Doesn't Deserve Andrew Luck
While Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is in the midst of coming back from a debilitating torn labrum in throwing shoulder, he has sustained another injury, this time to his foot. Colts head coach Frank Reich assured the media Tuesday that Luck would "play Sunday if they had a game" and as of now, fans are going to have to rely on that testimony. The immediate reaction to this news that Luck is hurt again was met with a loud gasp of worry from Colts fans who have painfully seen what their team is capable of without his services. The Colts compiled a dreadful 4-12 record without Luck on the field in 2017. Indianapolis has taken steps since to slowly begin rebuilding this roster to hopefully pave the way for a better outlook in the future.
Luck is also a critical piece to this rebuilding process led by general manager Chris Ballard. Luck will serve as a pillar the Colts will rely on to make his surrounding cast better game by game. What the Colts are attempting to do now in this new Ballard and Reich regime is similar to the approach Indianapolis took with Peyton Manning. Build a roster primarily through the draft and surround a superbly talented quarterback in Luck with the tools he needs to craft a prolific offense. This prolific offense will then hopefully generate enough points to ensure a winning formula is properly balanced in the coming years.
Yet the Colts have failed to do that this season. Luck has no real weapons to exploit other than an undersized T.Y. Hilton who put up the worst season of his career last year with lows in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns. The stats indicate that even though Hilton is talented, his talent is best served when #12 is throwing him the ball. Luck makes his weapons better as opposed to them making him better. The Colts are also in a difficult situation at the running back position with their best option, Robert Turbin being suspended for the first four games of the regular season. Options outside of Turbin are either hurt or don't have the NFL experience necessary to make a true impact this season. Luck has never had the luxury of enjoying offensive balance in his career and that fact will remain intact for this season.
The offensive line is slowly getting better with Notre Dame standout Quenton Nelson being a solid interior blocker. Center Ryan Kelly also returns as a reliable and consistent player. But injuries and inconsistent play continue to plague the one thing that will extend Luck's career more than anything else, an ever changing offensive line. The defense will also struggle this year with a number of question marks, injury concerns, and a scheme that is designed to give up a ton of yards and points. These circumstances all mean that Andrew Luck will once again be forced to carry this franchise on his now damaged shoulder for yet another season.
Some fans are concerned that Luck will become a consistent injury liability, unable to perform on the field due to his aggressive style of play. A style of play that requires extending plays and running in the open field in order to put his team in a better position to win. It's also understandable that fans want to see Luck play out his monstrous contract, one that will guarantee him $87 million if he never plays another down of NFL football.
While it is concerning that Luck has been nicked up again on the field, it should be noted that Luck is merely doing what is required of him for the rest of his team to win. Andrew is a smart fella, if he didn't want to play football, he'd quit. So for the fans who are complaining about the way Andrew Luck plays, that criticism is laughable.
It's also fair that there should be a certain amount of blame put on Luck for the punishment he has taken by holding onto the ball for too long or for not learning how to properly slide after a run. But these kind of plays by Luck are the ones that have enabled Indianapolis to sustain a winning record, when the rest of their roster is pedestrian at best week by week. Luck is required to extend plays and put himself in harms way because no one else has the toughness or talent to do it at his level.
Andrew Luck is sadly a victim of a few circumstances at play, all of which are happening at the same time. The first and most devastating factor is a dreadful roster that he is forced to improve through his own exceptional skill set on the field. The second is a coaching staff and scout team that has failed to adequately protect and surround Luck with the talent he needs and rightfully deserves. Injuries happen and are unpredictable when a player is brought in. But it's odd that the best pieces Luck has at his disposal to make him better, always seem to get hurt at a time when he needs them most. The third and most embarrassing element is a spoiled fan base. Colts fans are the most spoiled of all fans in the NFL by first reaping in the success of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. But when it came time to let the aging and hurt Manning go, to bring in the young and vibrant Luck, the spoiled fans immediately started drawing unrealistic comparisons of Luck to Manning. While it's fair to compare the two players since they both played for the same franchise, Luck was doomed from the start with this fan base. A fan base that has the shortest leash for failure and the shortest attention span for success.
Andrew does deserve some of the blame for his style of play. That is one factor that has left him battered and bruised going into the 2018 season. But he is merely trying to win alongside a putrid roster in an attempt to also please a fan base that is taking him for granted for yet another year. It's understandable for fans to be frustrated, but the one man who should be frustrated more than anyone is Andrew Luck. Indianapolis doesn't deserve a playmaker or a quality human being of Luck's level. The fan base and franchise have repeatedly failed to value him the way they should have from the start. While everyone should want see Andrew have a prolonged career in the NFL at a high level, it shouldn't be with a horseshoe on his helmet. As crazy as it sounds, Andrew should walk away while he still can and not fall victim to anymore of this treatment on or off the field.
Jimmy Kennedy, who believes Andrew Luck has fallen victim to circumstances outside of his control, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org