In a stunning turn of events that shocked the football world on Saturday, Andrew Luck, star quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, retired for good from football.
As someone who's been a fan of the game for a good long time, I remember in 2012 when Luck was drafted by the Colts as the first player overall and as the successor to all-time great Peyton Manning. He was the savior. The preordained. Just as Aaron Rodgers had come into Green Bay and replaced an aging and increasingly cantankerous Brett Favre, so too was Luck supposed to supplant the injured Manning.
And he did! For a time. Making the playoffs for the first three seasons of his career, Luck advanced his Colts one step further in the playoffs every season, eventually appearing in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
But after being bounced from that iteration of the playoffs Luck took some hits. Rather, a lot of hits. From a shoulder injury in 2015 to his most recent difficulty with his calf, Luck has had no easy go of it. Oh, and sprinkle in some kidney and rib injuries while you're at it.
This violent turn in his career likely spurred from the deteriorated offensive line that Luck was made to play behind in his latter years, produced poorer results, including his absence from the entire 2017 season.
However, interspersed with that pain was greatness. Just last year Andrew Luck ranked second in the league with 39 touchdown passes, was named to his fourth Pro Bowl, and won the 2018 Comeback Player of the Year award.
As it seems, the comeback was short-lived.
As disheartening as this is, there is a part of me as a fan that is appreciative. Not only am I appreciative of the magical performances that Luck delivered (his historic 28-point comeback against the Chiefs in the 2013 Wild Card round is one I remember fondly) but appreciative of his forwardness and candor.
In the game of football, it's easy to ignore what your body is telling you. From the intense amounts of money to the intense fans and coaches, there are a multitude of pressures that provide constant direction: win, and win now. Not to mention an athlete's own competitiveness. After all, we are in an era wherein Tom Brady and Drew Brees have absolutely demolished anything we thought was common knowledge about quarterbacks and aging. Their proximity to Luck, then, is all the more surprising.
But above anything, football is entertainment, and as they say, the show must go on. For the Indianapolis Colts, the reality of these words may be a bit more nauseating than they were intended to be. That's because they're set to be as blindsided by this move as anyone else.
Sure, Luck claims to have spoken with Colts owner Jim Irsay as early as two weeks before today, but that doesn't mean the Colts have been able to make up the difference in that time. You don't just replace a player of Luck's caliber, especially at a position as integral to the modern game as quarterback. Right now the plan is to move forward with Luck backup and Patriots castoff Jacoby Brissett.
The only problem? Brissett started near the entire 2017 season in Luck's absence and went 4-11. He threw for just over 3,000 yards and had a 13-7 touchdown to interception ratio.
And while these numbers don't cause for immediate panic (the Colts lost six of their 12 games by one score or less after all) they are far from dazzling. While Andrew Luck had the potential to claim the MVP any time he stepped on the field, Brissett doesn't have nearly the same skillset. As such, Indianapolis will have to rely that much more heavily on the running game in third-year back Marlon Mack, as well as a defense led by Defensive Rookie of the Year and First-Team All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron will also have their mettle tested, among others.
There's real talent on this team (hence why they were 16-1 favorites to win the championship with Luck) but outside of Hilton and his veteran quarterback, much of it is still young, raw, and/or unproven.
Tomorrow morning we will all wake up in a world where Andrew Luck is not the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, the first time that has been true since the 2011 NFL season. That is a fact. The question then presented is how will things move on? For the average person, it likely won't be any more challenging than flipping the news to a different channel. In Indianapolis, that's going to be a little more difficult.