BY ADRIAN JARDING | Ball State Sports Link
Shocked would be putting it mildly. As someone who has studiously followed the NFL (and researched its history) since 2004 this is a first in my lifetime. The closest situation we’ve had like this in recent memory was Calvin Johnson’s retirement.
There is so much that goes into being an NFL player, let alone being a number one pick and superstar. Nobody in the organization since 2012 has wanted to win more than Luck. This has been stated numerous times.
He gave everything to the team and the city of Indianapolis for seven seasons. He took a 2-14 team with many flaws and in one season made them a wildcard team. He led them to an AFC Championship in his third season. His legacy is made in Indy.
Before I go any farther I have a few things which I think should be addressed:
To those who booed Luck, you should be ashamed. He doesn’t owe you anything. This isn’t a betrayal, this isn’t him purposely hurting the team, he needed to do what was best for himself. We all need to respect that decision, regardless of the timing.
Secondly for those who want to write off this team all because of one player leaving, you aren’t following through in your belief of Chris Ballard and Frank Reich. This is a young team with a lot of potential. I haven’t loved a Colts roster this much since 2008 and Jacoby Brissett has a good chance to succeed with it.
Lastly, realize that we as fans were lucky to watch Andrew Luck play football at the highest level. He has done so much for this game and the league that it’s hard to deny we will miss him congratulating defensive players for giving their best shot.
Let’s rewind the clock back to 2011 (painful as it may be). The so called “Suck for Luck” campaign wasn’t really a campaign, the team really was that bad. They lost 62-7 against the Saints on Sunday Night. Kerry Collins was brought out of retirement and they shuffled through Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky as well. They very easily could’ve lost every game if it weren’t for a few clutch plays.
Peyton Manning’s brilliance hid many flaws to the 2010 squad and his absence brought it to light in 2011. Many weren’t sure at the time if he would ever be the same, and with them holding the number one overall pick it made sense for both sides to move on.
The Colts could get a fresh start without risking Manning’s health and legacy with a rebuilt roster, while Manning could also get a new start whilst seeing if his neck could hold up.
Enter Andrew Luck, Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson. A new quarterback, head coach and general manager offered a fresh start for the first time since Manning’s rookie year in 1998.
The first year under the new campaign was a very good one, finishing 11-5 and making the Wildcard round. A major concern though was the amount of hits Luck was absorbing. The offensive line needed to be worked on.
Grigson did draft two lineman in 2013, Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes, while also bringing in Gosder Cherilus (making him the highest paid Right Tackle at the time). Cherilus was alright, but the two draft picks did not pan out.
23,671 pass yards. 171 pass TD. 4x Pro Bowler. 2018 Comeback Player of the Year.
Congrats on an incredible career, Andrew Luck. pic.twitter.com/OqIEdKbKkH
— NFL (@NFL) August 25, 2019
This was also the beginning of many questionable free agent signings. Rick Jean-Francois, Darrius Hewyard-Bey and Ahmad Bradshaw were among the highlights of the 2013 signings. This was making an already old roster even older. There was no rebuild which was needed.
These trends would continue for the next few seasons and it made it hard for Luck to grow. Trading for Trent Richardson will forever be a tainted memory in Indy sports lore. The lack of quality offensive lineman made Luck carry a load on his back and shoulder.
Speaking of shoulders, Luck played the majority of 2015 and 2016 with an injury. Football was his life and it nearly cost him his then girlfriend because he was so focused on the game. For those who say pro athletes don’t care I give you this example.
He played through the pain because he let his play define who he was. Ultimately it took a toll mentally and physically. All of this led to the interesting trek which was his 2017 disappearance.
Luck is a very private individual. The NFL is an interesting place because people don’t like to give info, but they do need to give off the appearance they do. Nevertheless he escaped as far as he could because he didn’t want people to know what was happening to his body, understandably.
After a years hiatus and a regime change with general manager Chris Ballard coming in 2017 and head coach Frank Reich in 2018, Luck was ready to come back. And boy did he ever.
Picking up like nothing happened the Colts went on a tear after starting 1-5 with Luck at the helm. His last moment as QB1 at Lucas Oil Stadium was his incredible comeback against the Giants, of which I was fortunate enough to witness in person. That game and the following week’s win at Tennessee sealed him winning Comeback Player of the Year.
I can see where frustration set in for Luck after what he experienced in his career. He took many, many hits early in his career. He overcame a bad roster for much of his career. He had shoulder surgery and missed a year. This team has so much talent and potential, coming off the heels of a playoff run.
Would be hard to find a nicer QB than Andrew Luck.
— NFL (@NFL) August 25, 2019
Then you have a nagging injury which you still can’t figure out.
All of these things took a mental toll on him and I understand why he retired. He just got married and has a kid on the way. He has sacrificed so much for a game which he has loved, but ultimately only comprises a small portion of his life.
If there is a villain in this story is certainly isn’t Andrew Luck, it’s Ryan Grigson. He failed to help the investment he swore to protect and it fractured the young man on so many levels.
Every Colts fan should thank #12 for his contributions to the franchise and Indianapolis. He provided stability to a team which could’ve been very unstable after 2011.
Again, for those who are want to skip this season you need to think again. General Manager Chris Ballard is building something special. Quenton Nelson and Darrius Leonard provided a fresh breath of air that hasn’t been with this team in a while.
This is also Jacoby Brissett’s big chance to prove he belongs. He isn’t inheriting the same team and circumstances he did in 2017. He also has a brilliant head coach who will provide him will much needed support. Luck even said he’s excited to see what he can do.
This isn’t easy and it will take some time to fully digest, but Luck did what he felt was best for himself. Ultimately everyone needs to respect this. I hope the next time he walks into the Lucas Oil Stadium he will get a better reception because he deserves it.
He gave his heart to all of us and on behalf of all Colts fans, I thank you Andrew. I hope your life after football is filled with nothing but happiness.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 25, 2019
Andrew Luck will be somebody I tell my kids about. The person & the player. Respect Andrew ✊🏾 #LTE
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) August 25, 2019
An incredible competitor and a truly great person. I’ll miss competing against a guy who always played the game extremely hard, with an immense amount of respect. Wishing Andrew nothing but the absolute best moving forward. I know this had to be unbelievably difficult decision. pic.twitter.com/jgMHwJvPxo
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) August 25, 2019
Pagano: “I will forever be a huge Andrew Luck fan.” pic.twitter.com/Acvd9WbH9m
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) August 25, 2019