Are the Indianapolis Colts Wasting Andrew Luck?

Andrew Luck has the potential to be one of the all-time great NFL quarterbacks | Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Andrew Luck could be one of the all-time great NFL quarterbacks … if the Colts don’t hold him back | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Back when Andrew Luck was a college quarterback leading the revival of the Stanford Cardinal football program, scouts and coaches in the National Football League knew there was something special about the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder. His football IQ measured off the charts; he displayed elite arm strength and pinpoint throwing accuracy; he possessed the physical size to survive taking hits at the NFL level; he flashed above average athleticism with excellent footwork inside and outside of the pocket; he won games; and lastly, he was one of the rare quarterbacks who played his college ball in a pro-style offensive scheme. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that multiple fanbases were starting “Suck For Luck” campaigns with the hopes that their team would be bad enough in 2011 to land the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and that NFL scouts and draft analysts were calling Luck the best quarterback prospect to enter the league since John Elway (another Stanford alum) back in 1983.

Prior to the start of the 2011 NFL season future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, then a member of the Indianapolis Colts, suffered a neck injury that required multiple surgeries to repair. The injury and recovery time caused Manning to miss the entire 2011 season, and without the record-breaking quarterback under center, Indianapolis posted a 2-14 overall record and ended up winning the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

To the surprise of few, the Colts moved on from Manning, who would go on to have a highly successful four-year run with the Denver Broncos before retiring this offseason, and drafted Luck to be the face of their franchise for the next 10-15 years.

Al Bello/Getty Images
Andrew Luck has been great despite having a subpar supporting cast | Al Bello/Getty Images

As expected, Luck hit the ground running in the NFL. And from day one of his professional career, it was clear that his future was bright. Luck led the Colts to the AFC Playoffs in each of his first three seasons as the team’s starting quarterback, and in 2014 (his third year in the league), the 27-year-old led Indy to the AFC Championship Game while posting MVP-caliber numbers (4,761 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes) during the regular season. They fell short of the Super Bowl, but if nothing else, the 2014 season officially put Luck on the map as an elite NFL quarterback.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances that are largely out of his control, the 2014 season has thus far been the peak of Luck’s NFL career. In 2015, the three-time Pro Bowler took an absolute pounding that eventually resulted in him missing an extended period of time — he missed Indianapolis’ final eight games of the season to be exact – which in turn resulted in the Colts limping to a very mediocre 8-8 overall record. And up to this point, it looks like it is going to be more of the same for Luck and the Colts in 2016.

Andrew Luck cannot be blamed for the Indianapolis Colts' struggles | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Andrew Luck cannot be blamed for the Indianapolis Colts’ struggles | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In 2016, the Colts have gotten off to a 5-5 start to the season, and in the first month of play Luck had been sacked a league-high 15 times (he’s currently at 35 sacks through 10 games). With the exception of their Week 1 loss to the Detroit Lions, Indianapolis has inexcusably looked very ordinary on the offensive side of the ball. And it’s time to start placing the blame where it truly belongs: On General Manager Ryan Grigson and the rest of the Colts’ front office decision-makers.

In a recent interview with the NFL Network, former Colts great and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Reggie Wayne had this to say:

“I honestly think Andrew Luck’s playing pretty good, despite some of the O-line woes that they’re having. A lot of people are wanting to criticize Andrew Luck instead of really, in my opinion, going after what the big problem is. I think that big problem is a lot of the front office decisions. Whether it’s draft picks or it is free-agent picks, they’ve missed on a lot of guys. They went in free agency they got LaRon Landry and got rid of Antoine Bethea who is a Pro Bowler; that was a swing and a miss. They had Arthur Jones who hasn’t found his way in there yet. You still have Trent Cole, who is now out, who hadn’t given them anything last year. You went and got his teammate Todd Herremans from Philly, also who didn’t give them anything. So they missed on so many guys and also picks in the draft. You have Bjoern Werner who is now out of the league. Khaled Holmes who was playing center from USC — he came and left. There were so many decisions that they made in there and they just missed. And don’t forget the Trent Richardson trade. They got rid of a first-round pick to bring in Trent Richardson who ended up not doing anything for them.”

Wayne continued:

“That’s just how it’s been. You look at all those other teams in the past, you take a Seattle, when they used their money to build around, until it was time for Russell Wilson to get his deal. Then when that time came, they gave Russell Wilson his money and then they had guys around him. (The Colts) used the money to get free-agent guys that didn’t do anything.”

It looks like the Indianapolis Colts are wasting Andrew Luck's best years | Grant Halverson/Getty Images
It looks like the Indianapolis Colts are wasting Andrew Luck’s best years | Grant Halverson/Getty Images

While we whole-heartedly agree with everything Wayne said, we also can’t get over the fact that Grigson used a first-round draft pick on wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. The former Miami Hurricane hasn’t shown the ability to be anything more than a No. 2 or No. 3 wide receiver in the NFL. And the decision to select him makes even less sense when you consider the Colts’ offensive line issues.

Speaking of their offensive line issues, the Colts are playing with fire when it comes to their most-prized asset: Andrew Luck. Nevermind the fact that they have built a flat-out disaster on the defensive side of the ball, Grigson and Co. have also consistently put a subpar o-line in front of Luck, who is now the highest-paid player in NFL history. Luck does possess toughness that is rare for the quarterback position, but a guy can only take so many hits before his body starts to break down. And to be brutally honest, the Colts would probably be the unquestioned worst team in the league – yes, even worse than the hopeless Cleveland Browns – without Luck under center.

At their current trajectory in 2016, our guess is that the Colts will part ways with head coach Chuck Pagano at the end of the season. While he hasn’t been perfect, the Colts would be better served to part ways with Grigson. The minimal success he has had as the team’s general manager is a direct result of Luck falling into his lap – which is something he actually had nothing to do with. When it comes down to it, with Grigson at the helm, the Colts are in danger of wasting a once-in-a-generation player in Luck.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and ESPN.