Just two years after being drafted #1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck has a regular season record of 22-10 and a playoff record of 1-1.
After completing a monumental, 28-point 2nd-half comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round, the Indianapolis Colts will travel to New England to take on the legendary Tom Brady and the #2 seed Patriots.
Thus, he still has at least one more game to add to his playoff record before his sophomore campaign is complete. The Colts organization and fan base doesn’t want him to stop there, though. The end goal is obviously a trip to the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. Their last Super Bowl appearance? 2009 with Peyton Manning under center.
His rookie-season statistics were decent to slightly above-average at best. He set the record for most passing yards in a season by a rookie with 4,374 (7th overall in the NFL that season), but he also threw 18 interceptions–just one less than league-leaders, Drew Brees and Tony Romo.
His quarterback rating of 76.5 was in the bottom five of the league, but his Total QBR (which I personally consider a better measure to use when looking at a quarterback) of 65.2 was 11th best in the NFL in 2012. Don’t know what Total QBR is? ESPN has a pretty lengthy explanation here.
Luck led the Colts to an 11-5 regular season record as a rookie and ultimately lost to the Baltimore Ravens 24-9 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. His running backs didn’t make it any easier on him–tallying just one 100-yard rushing game Week 15) all season.
Here are eight milestones accomplished by Luck in 2012: (source Colts.com)
- First QB drafted #1 overall in NFL Draft to start a playoff game as a rookie
- Most wins (11) by a QB selected #1 overall in NFL history
- Most 300-yard passing games (6) by a rookie in NFL history
- Broke record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie (433)
- First rookie to throw two game-winning TDs in last two minutes of 4th quarter
- Most 4th-quarter/OT game-winning drives (7) by a rookie since 1970
- Six straight weeks (8-13) of out-passing the opposing QB (tied for most as a rookie)
- Five rushing touchdowns in 2012 (most by a Colts QB in franchise history)
Luck’s biggest improvement from 2012 to 2013? He took care of the ball much better–cutting his interception total in half. Both his completion percentage and QB rating improved as well. His QBR may have been slightly less, but it was 9th best in the NFL.
Let’s take a closer look at his 2013 season. Colts starting running back, Vick Ballard, sustained a season-ending freak knee injury in practice after Week 1. Ahmad Bradshaw, signed in the off-season to serve as a quality back-up, took over after Ballard’s injury, but he, too, got injured after just three games (two starts) and 186 rushing yards. Dwayne Allen, one of Luck’s favorite targets from 2012, suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 1.
If those three injuries to the offensive unit weren’t enough, the Colts lost #1 receiver, Reggie Wayne, to a devastating ACL tear (video) in the team’s Week 7 victory against the Denver Broncos. When asked about the injury, Luck said it best, “It stinks to the nth degree. I put a lot of blame on myself for missing him. I don’t think there was anybody within a square mile of him. I missed it.” Name another quarterback in the league, let alone a second-year one, that would be as honest and open about the situation as Luck. I am sure you could find a few, but Luck took ownership of the situation without instigation by reporters or instruction from his coaches, immediately after an emotional victory. That’s wisdom and leadership far beyond his years.
When Wayne went down, to just about no one’s surprise, the Colts offense began to struggle. Luck no longer had his primary target, his security blanket, one of the most sure-handed receivers in the last decade. TY Hilton is a terrific young talent, but was he ready to take over as the #1 target that faced other team’s shutdown cornerbacks week in and week out? Some weeks (especially last week agains the Chiefs) he stepped up, but other weeks he was stifled by opposing cornerbacks.
Colts owner, Jim Irsay, recognized a need to add some fire power on offense and did his best by trading a future first-round pick for second-year running back, Trent Richardson. Richardson ended up being a huge disappointment with the Colts this season–averaging a minuscule 33 rushing yards per game and scoring only three touchdowns.
The offensive line was much healthier this season which led to an improvement from last year, but it was still nothing to rave about. The rushing offense produced didn’t produce a single 100-yard rusher in a game all season. In fact, Luck was the team’s third leading rusher (377 yards) with the second highest rush yards per attempt (6.0) on the team. The defense, led by Robert Mathis, was solid–allowing 21.0 points per game–good enough for ninth in the NFL.
Despite all of the issues I listed in the last five paragraphs, the Colts have successfully advanced to the Division Round of the playoffs. Were some wins lucky? Maybe, but when all is said and done, I look at the end-result. At the end of the season, I look at the resumes of each team, and it would be tough to find a better one than the Colts this season. They beat the San Francisco 49ers (12-4), the Seattle Seahawks (13-3), and the Denver Broncos (13-3).
Many people point out his tangibles: his interceptions (27 in two seasons), his completion percentage (57%), and his quarterback rating (76.5 in ’12, 87.0 in ’13). To be honest, I don’t really care about the tangibles at this point. The amount of adversity this team has faced (especially this season) played a limiting factor on Luck’s tangibles. This is not meant to be a knock on the current state of the Colts, but let’s be honest, the team is missing some very key skill players and have room for improvement in many areas this off-season–on both sides of the ball. When this team gets fully healthy and surrounds Luck with even more potent weapons (i.e. more players like Hilton), his tangibles will improve and hopefully his critics will take notice.
Luck’s intangibles–especially his leadership–are what set him apart from most quarterbacks–especially ones his age. Team leaders such as veteran Robert Mathis even rave about Luck’s leadership, and it’s only his second year in the league. Since he entered the league (including the playoffs), Luck has won seven games after trailing by double-digits. Were some of these victories lucky/fortunate? Of course, but disregarding the role of Luck in these comebacks is irresponsible (in my opinion).
That’s enough from me. I am just a baseball writer after all.
Thus, I will leave you with a few tweets about Luck from well-respected NFL experts:
Breer tweeted this after Luck led the successful comeback against the Chiefs:
How many teams would like to go back and throw some games in 2011 now?
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 5, 2014
I asked my favorite NFL insider his opinion of Luck:
@stlCupofJoe he’s awesome
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 5, 2014
Matt Miller, NFL draft scout, had this take as Dalton blew yet another playoff game:
Imagine if Andrew Luck had Andy Dalton’s supporting cast?
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 5, 2014
If (and this is a very big if) Luck takes down Brady and the Pats tonight, I hope Luck gains the respect he deserves from around the country. He may just be two years into his NFL career, but I will tell you this, there aren’t many other quarterbacks in the league that I would rather run my offense than Andrew Luck.
Until next time…
Luck does not have a Twitter account, but he is one of the brand ambassadors for Klipsch Audio–one of the best audio companies in the business. You can find them on Twitter: @KlipschAudio