The Indianapolis Colts are a case study in disappointment. Five years into the Andrew Luck experience, the team languishes at the bottom of the laughably-shallow AFC South with a 1-3 record, having just blown a game in England to the equally hapless Jacksonville Jaguars. Even this early in the season, it’s obvious Luck can’t hope to carry the entire team on their shoulders, such are the Colts’ deficiencies, and at age 27, supposedly entering his prime, he might be doomed for another lost season.
In February 2011 the Green Bay Packers captured their 17th NFL championship. At the helm was another young quarterback who, while not quite the can’t miss prospect Luck was, had long been anointed the future of his franchise. Three years after he had become the Packers’ starter, the team had surrounded him with enough key pieces – namely Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Josh Sitton, Greg Jennings, A.J. Hawk and Charles Woodson – to help him realise his potential. Obviously that QB was Aaron Rodgers, aged also 27.
It might seem like just yesterday teams were trying to out-sabotage themselves for Luck, but the stark reality is Luck is very much at the “win now” point of his career. He’s now the same age as Rodgers was when he won his first Super Bowl, and it’s not like Rodgers’ age was an outlier either. Ben Roethlisberger was 23 when he won his first, and 26 he led the Steelers to his two second, while Tom Brady had three by 27 – Luck’s other perennial benchmark, Peyton Manning was the only one older, aged 30 when he won his first.
Given the state of the Colts right now, Manning might not be the only franchise QB of theirs left hanging. Case-in-point was their week 4 game against the Jags in London, an embarrassing 30-27 loss where the Colts really only came alive in garbage time. Luck was sacked six times on the day, barely mustering any yardage while the game was still in the balance, while his defence couldn’t keep Mr. Garbage Time himself, Blake Bortles out of the endzone. It encapsulated everything about the Colts that explains why Luck is so stranded, and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Speaking on Friday Colts GM Ryan Grigson tried to use Luck’s massive $140 million contract as an excuse for why he hasn’t added any pieces, but that doesn’t excuse his poor drafting. The Colts have had five years to surround Luck with talent, and have almost nothing to show for it. Hell, all seven of their 2013 picks are already off the roster! Good teams build through the draft, and their atrocious statistics –28th in defensive DVOA (per Football Outsiders), 29th in pass defence and 26th against the run, 3.9 yards per carry, and a league-worst 15 sacks conceded – can’t be explained away by one sizable contract.
If the Colts were smart, they’d have left Chuck Pagano in England, but more importantly, locked Grigson in the Tower of London. Ray Rice has a better chance of returning to the Ravens than Luck does of turning this ship around. Forget being competitive, with the hits Luck is taking the Colts are seriously risking shortening his career, right when he’s supposed to be entering the prime of it. But as long as Grigson remains at the helm, and is allowed to pass the buck as he did on Friday, don’t expect anything to change. The career arcs of Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Brady show that the future is now for Andrew Luck and yet sadly, he’s still waiting.