Andrew Luck, the heir to the quarterbacking throne of the great Peyton Manning, has been reduced to a 28-year-old playing in the body of a 38-year-old.
He has been sacked, clotheslined and slammed ever since he was selected first-overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2012 NFL Draft. No offensive line, limited offensive weapons and questionable coaching is stunting his growth and sustainability to the point where he should be in owner Jim Irsay’s office demanding a trade right now.
Luck hasn’t taken a snap in nearly two years due to a lingering shoulder injury, which Irsay once claimed was all in his head, per former Colts head coach Tony Dungy.
But shoulders are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the long list of scary injuries he has faced so far in his young NFL career.
A concussion, more shoulder injuries, an abdominal tear and a lacerated kidney—all injuries consistent with someone in a car accident—have taken a toll on the quarterback responsible for leading the Manning-less Colts to three consecutive playoff appearances.
Even if Luck returns before the start of season, which is still uncertain considering he has yet to be a full participant in the early practices, the Colts face long odds of competing in an AFC South that has become a house of horrors for quarterbacks.
It’s hard not to wince at the idea of Luck dropping back to pass behind a shoddy offensive line against a top-ranked Jacksonville Jaguars defense, a much-improved Tennessee Titans defense and a Houston Texans defense with a healthy J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney side-by-side once again.
Luck’s time is running out in Indianapolis.
The three-time Pro Bowler obviously can’t force the Colts to trade him, and other than a stroke of divine intervention, it would take a treasure the size of which not even Jack Sparrow has seen to get the team to consider moving him.
"“Trust me, there were people that would’ve given an unprecedented amount of draft picks, all with a No. 1 [pick] behind them, for [Luck], and we wouldn’t even think of drifting in that direction,” Irsay said in April, via NFL.com. “He’s our guy. We feel 100-percent confident that he is going to come back and lead this football team with some of the new teammates he’s accumulated to great things.”"
Good quarterbacks are so hard to come by in the NFL that the Texans offered Brock Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract back in 2016. The Colts are far from prepared for life after Luck, and they aren’t yet willing to entertain the idea of losing the luxury of having him behind center.
But so much can change in a year.
What if Luck misses some, if not all, of the 2018 season as well? Another year of losing and quarterback questions might be enough to change Irsay’s mind. A potential out for the Colts in 2019 lies tucked away in his massive five-year deal, but they would be better off seeking a willing trade partner to at least get something in return for parting ways with their franchise quarterback.
Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett was decent in some stretches last season, but he is still a long way from proving himself capable of performing at the consistency required to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
The Colts would have to find a suitable veteran replacement or look towards the draft.
As for Luck, an opportunity for a fresh start on a team that doesn’t take him for granted could put him back on the Hall of Fame trajectory.
The Colts have had six years to build the necessary talent around their quarterback to give him an opportunity to compete, but it’s been the same vicious cycle of quiet free agency periods and disappointing draft picks.
Breaking that cycle might be Luck’s only hope of salvaging whatever career he’s got left.