|Posted on April 14, 2014 at 12:10 AM|
Just two years into Andrew Luck's NFL career, many have been quick to laud the perception of his early success. The Indianapolis Colts have sported a 23-12 record with Luck as the starter and he has been selected, as an alternate, to two Pro Bowls. His pedigree, along with the noteriety of being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft, has left many with plenty of incentive to want to see him succeed. The question is: How successful has Luck been in respects to his individual contributions?
Peyton Manning carried an injury-plagued Colts team to a 16-1 record in games he finished during the 2009 season, and in 2011, a very similar roster, sans Manning, got off to an 0-13 start in his absence. The offense averaged a putrid 15.2 points per game—down from 27.2 the previous season. The passing offense, which ranked No. 1 with Manning in 2010, dropped down to 27th as the Colts backups were unable to produce with all of Manning's "weapons."
The Colts ranked 17th in passing in 2013, but any lack of production has been easy to excuse since Luck's been labeled a "winner."
In a day and age that favors winning-records without context, the specifics of Luck's game have gone mostly unnoticed. Cropped highlights showcasing game-winning drives that took place after three and a half quarters of inconsistent, erratic play, exciting rushing touchdowns and patented celebration spikes have all made for great TV, while the luxury of playing in a horrific divsion has helped to secure victories along the way.
If televison highlights, jersey sales and final scores sans the context of their attainment are your criteria, it's not difficult to see why Luck has been painted as the leader of a new generation of quarterbacks. But once you begin to actually compare him to his contemporaries across important areas of performance-measure, it quickly becomes apparent that Luck's on-the-field output doesn't come anywhere close to matching the perception of his contributions.
Andrew Luck (2012 QBS: 0.0)
- 7th in passing yards.
- 14th in touchdown passes.
- 31st in completion percentage.
- 20th in adjusted net yards per attempt.
- 3rd in interceptions.
Andrew Luck (2013 QBS: 0.0)
- 13th in passing yards.
- 15th in touchdown passes.
- 23rd in completion percentage.
- 16th in adjusted net yards per attempt.
- 22nd in interceptions.
Luck's been credited, ad nauseum, with his improvement with protecting the football. The Colts new offensive scheme in 2013 played a big role in that, but Luck certainly deserves recogition for better decison making. What he continues to struggle with are some of the most vital parts of playing the quarterback position. He tends to be unproductive, routinely failing to move the Colts up and down the field. His sometimes horrendous, inconsitent accuracy stalls drives while his inefficency often equates to a lot of passing attempts that fail to produce yardage.
Luck doesn't lack the touch or kinetic depth perception to fit passes into tight windows, but he's been so shamefully inconsistent that his peformance often fails to match his skill-set. It's not all his fault. The Colts offensive line has often done a terrible job protecting Luck, and to his credit, his ability to utilize a remarkable sense of pocket presence often results in impressive first down conversions that are picked up with his legs. But even if you add his rushing totals to his passing totals, he failed to produce at a rate that nine other quarterbacks exceeded with their arms alone in 2013.
As a quarterback, Manning developed much quicker than Luck. Both players broke the single-season rookie record for passing yards, but Manning ranked third, below only Steve Young and Brett Favre in 1998, while Luck ranked seventh during the production-inflated 2012 era. By Manning's second season, he ranked in the top-three in areas of production, accuracy and efficiency. Conversely, Luck ranked towards the middle of the league in production and efficiency, and towards the bottom in accuracy.
Peyton Manning (1998 QBS: 9.0)
- 3rd in passing yards.
- 5th in touchdown passes.
- 19th in completion percentage.
- 21st in adjusted net yards per attempt.
- 1st in interceptions.
Peyton Manning (1999 QBS: 32.5)
- 3rd in passing yards.
- 3rd in touchdown passes.
- 2nd in completion percentage.
- 2nd in adjusted net yards per attempt.
- 8th in interceptions.
It's easy now to overlook how remarkably productive Manning was. In the 16 years that have past since he was drafted in 1998, the Colts have experienced all three of their least productive passing seasons since other quarterbacks have taken up the mantle. 2011 was by far the worst, but Luck has been less productive at his best than Manning was at his absolute worst. The difference on the field has been night and day—especially when comparing their sophomore seasons.
Colts' Passing Offense Rankings Since 1998
- 1st in 2010.
- 1st in 2004.
- 1st in 2003.
- 2nd in 2009.
- 2nd in 2006.
- 2nd in 2001.
- 2nd in 2000.
- 3rd in 2005.
- 4th in 2002.
- 4th in 1999.
- 5th in 2008.
- 6th in 2007.
- 6th in 1998.
- 7th in 2012.
- 17th in 2013.
- 27th in 2011.
The good news for the Colts is that Luck does appear to have the mental and physical tools needed to develop into a much better quarterback. It was never really fair to compare him to a quarterback of Manning's caliber and with two lackluster seasons already in the books, it will be virtually impossible for Luck's resumé to ever equal Manning's. But that shouldn't be the expectation. If Luck can hone his skills to the point of becoming a more consistent, more accurate, more efficient and more productive passer—he has the potential to become one of the best quarterbacks in the game. No need to label him as such before he reaches that point.