For most teams, the most difficult aspect of managing a franchise quarterback is acquiring one in the first place. Drafting quarterbacks is such a crapshoot that teams talked themselves out of DeShaun Watson, one of the best college players ever who also had some obvious professional abilities. And he’s now tearing up the league as a rookie.
The Colts, though, lucked (sorry) into back-to-back star-level quarterbacks. Peyton Manning is one of the best players of all time, and after just one down year due to Manning’s injury absence, the Colts were bad enough to draft Andrew Luck, everyone’s favorite prospect in decades. Other than the Packers, who went from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, it’s hard to find a more blessed franchise in terms of quarterback situations.
Now, though, Luck is injured, having not played all season with a shoulder problem that no one seems able to identify:
Source tells me that Luck visited multiple docs and got multiple opinions. “No one agrees what exactly is wrong.” Colts want him to throw.
— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) October 31, 2017
“Hmm, we’re not sure what’s going on, rub some dirt on it, Andrew,” is just about the dumbest thing a team could decide to do, especially given their season is going nowhere. But this isn’t a case of Luck just getting randomly hurt after years of success. Since entering the league, Luck has been sacked 156 times, including 41 times last season. And he’s been hit even more often. This is from 2015:
QB knockdowns (hits + sacks)
2012 leader – Andrew Luck (122)
2013 leader – Andrew Luck (115)
2014 leader – Andrew Luck (115)
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) May 18, 2015
The Colts failed to protect Luck with any semblance of an offensive line. They also failed to build a winning defense, or even give Luck the weapons needed on offense to be anything other than a paper contender, making forays deep into the AFC playoffs thanks to weak competition, only to be eventually and easily dispatched by the Patriots.
That finally cost general manager Ryan Grigson his job. Grigson, whose only real achievement was drafting Luck (something anyone over the age of 6 would have done), should have been fired long before, but he also had the temerity to blame Andrew Luck’s contract extension for his own failings. Last October, I wrote this:
As the roster is now almost entirely reliant on players acquired during the Grigson era, it was time for him to take a long look in the mirror and figure out just what or who was responsible for the mess. It might shock you to discover that the answer Ryan Grigson came up with was not, in fact, Ryan Grigson:
“We have a defense that is work in progress,” Grigson said on Fox Sports Radio. “When you pay Andrew what we did, it’s going to take some time to build on the other side of the ball.”
That’s right! It’s all on Luck’s new $140 million contract! When Luck was on his rookie deal, Grigson is seemingly suggesting, it would have been easy for the Colts to build a stellar defense.
The Colts were almost victims of their own overachievement. Had they been in a tougher division, or had Luck not been so heroically talented, the problems with Grigson’s roster construction, drafting, free agent strategy…basically everything you need to be a GM, would have been more readily apparent.
Instead, they burned through Luck’s most valuable years with very little to show for it, unless you count empty drafts and consecutive postseason drubbings at the hands of New England, their longtime rival. (Oh, and Deflategate.)
It’s time to move on to someone, anyone else, before it’s Luck’s entire career that’s wasted, and not just his rookie deal.
Now, a year later, Grigson is gone, but the damage might have been done already, because the Colts let Luck take a brutal physical beating, apparently hopeful that his stature would hold up. It was foolish, and irresponsible, and now we’re here, where Luck’s shoulder is messed up and the Colts are essentially in tanking mode all over again. If his health improves, it’s possible new GM Chris Ballard can take advantage of the one down year, restock talent around Luck, and build with a new coaching staff.
But if not, the Colts essentially celebrated so hard after winning the lottery that they tore up the ticket before it could be cashed in.