The Andrew Luck Story: A Warning to NFL GMs Everywhere
Andrew Luck shocked the sports world on August 24th, 2019 by abruptly announcing his retirement before the season began. Citing injuries and mental fatigue, the dynamic franchise quarterback chose to hang up his cleats under his own terms and walk away from the game. An instant rift was created between sports fans, as some of them thanked Luck and wished him well, while others angrily disagreed with his decision and thought he was leaving his teammates out to dry. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, Andrew’s situation should be an important warning to NFL GMs everywhere: if you don’t invest in protecting your quarterback, you risk losing a valuable piece of your franchise puzzle.
In no other team sport can I think of an individual more important than the NFL quarterback. The entire offense revolves around this player and with the league continuing to transition towards a pass-first, high-tempo game, the quarterback is more important than ever before. There is evidence of this throughout the league. Middle-of-the road teams like Seattle and Atlanta are immediately threatening with the presence of Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan, while teams with quality core players like Jacksonville and Denver are brought down by their poor quarterbacking performance.
Since Andrew Luck was drafted by the Colts in 2012 until 2017, the Indianapolis offensive line was only ranked inside the top 10 for least sacks allowed twice. On September 27, 2015 Andrew Luck was sacked three times and hit four others in a game against the Titans. After the game, Luck was seen struggling with his shoulder in the locker room. Continuous abuse throughout the season led to a lacerated kidney and partial abdominal tear. In 2016, the offensive line was ranked 28th and they gave up 128 hits which was the worst in the NFL apart from the Cleveland Browns. However, despite his injuries he played every single game. Luck would go on to have surgery and complications which resulted in him missing the entire 2017 season.
There are two key aspects of failure on the part of the Colt’s management. The first is to take care of the health and well-being of their players. We may never know how much pressure Luck was under to play the 2016 season, but after the beating he took in 2015, it would have probably been within the Colts’ best interest to ensure that he was 100% before the season started. If they had been more thorough, Luck may not have had so many complications on the road to recovery. The second is their inability to invest in their offensive line. From 2015 until 2017 the only starting-quality offensive lineman drafted by the Colts was C Ryan Kelly in 2016. They failed to recognize a need at the offensive line positions and left their star quarterback out to dry. Offensive lines have a direct impact on the playing career of their quarterback. Not only do they protect him from incoming pass-rushers, but they also provide him time to find open receivers downfield and they create gaps for the running game to operate. The offensive line is the lifeblood of the offense, and without investment, your team and your franchise quarterback are in serious trouble.
So here’s the warning to NFL GMs: invest in your offensive line and be extremely cautious with injuries to your star quarterback. If you do not heed these warnings, you could be the next victim of an early retirement or a career-ending injury to an individual playing the most essential position in all of professional football.