Some Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts On Andrew Luck, Colts

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal shakes hands with players from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish after their game at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

So, like many of you, I watched Notre Dame v. Stanford last night, very likely the final regular season college football game for Cardinals quarterback Andrew Luck, as he is sure to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

Before I get into Luck, I'd like to take a moment to plug Matt Grecco's Twitter account: @mgrex03. You should be following it if, or nothing else, the absolutely hilarious tweeting he does during Irish games. This is all brilliant stuff:

Brian Kelly has waved the white flag at halftime. He doesn't want Crist to prove his decision to stick with Rees all year was wrong.

Round 2 of the "ND Shoots Themselves in the Foot Game" comes with "Miss Extra Point length Field Goal". What's next?

The next time Tommy Rees looks at the play clock will be his first. You'd think such a winner would know how to do that.

If you had "blocked pooch punt at midfield" in the ND Shoot themselves in the foot game, you win!

Following Matt on Twitter during a Notre Dame game is sometimes more entertaining than the game itself. I say that sincerely because, while it is often fun to follow a truly rabid fan when his favorite team is playing, it's especially entertaining with Matt. If you know him as I know him (always calm, rational, collected, logical), seeing him transform into a raving Jim Mora press conference as he watches Notre Dame implode is a captivating experience.

So, yeah. Follow Matt's Twitter account. And don't forget Stew's handle as well: @stewblake22.

Back to the main topic: Andrew Luck.

I've watched Luck closely all season, and last night (with the media putting all kinds of silly, undue pressure on the game in an obvious attempt to boost ratings), I wanted to see how the kid would respond against a pretty good Notre Dame defense.

What I saw was a franchise QB that is the obvious No. 1 pick. Better than Barkley at USC. Better than Griffin at Baylor. Best college prospect at QB position I've seen in some time.

First off, let's get the numbers out of the way:

Andrew Luck in 2011: 70% completion, 3170 yards, 35 touchdowns, 9 INTs

Andrew Luck in 2010: 70% completion, 3338 yards, 32 touchdowns, 8 INTs

Look at those two seasons. They show one thing (other than insanely gaudy numbers) that one always looks for in a quarterback prospect: Consistency

In 2010, Luck had better receivers, a better head coach, and a better overall team. He went out there and lit up the nation. This season, his receivers are crap, his head coach is no longer Jim Harbaugh, and the team, overall, just isn't as talented. All he does is put up virtually the same impressive numbers.

Last night against Notre Dame, in a game everyone was watching as Luck's final 'audition' for the much-overhyped Heisman Trophy, Luck torched the Irish for four touchdowns, with three in the first half.

Now, with all due respect to Matt Barkley of USC, who is also likely to enter the NFL Draft and get taken in the top ten by a team despite for a QB, but he just is not as consistent as Luck. That lack of consistency is a BIG red flag. Yes, Barkley looked amazing last night carving up a truly wretched UCLA defense. He had 6 TDs, and for the flash-in-the-pan-types who are only interested in the player who looks the best right now, Barkley is better than Luck.

In reality: Luck is far more polished, much more proven, and a safer overall prospect.

More numbers:

Matt Barkley in 2011: 69% competition, 3528 yards, 39 touchdowns, 7 INTs

Amazing numbers. But, let's compare them to last year, shall we?

Matt Barkley in 2010: 62% competition, 2791 yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 INTs

That's a big spike from '10 to '11, and it should give people interested in drafting Barkley pause. It should not deter anyone from drafting him, but when comparing prospects, consistency is a major factor. Luck is more consistently great at playing quarterback than Barkley is, and is able to maintain that consistency regardless of circumstances.

Plus, this is just my own personal bias, but I don't trust anyone throwing the football coming out of USC. The last two QB prospects that were drafted high were Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez.

Consistency is also an issue when comparing outstanding Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III to Luck.

Robert Griffin III in 2011: 72% competition, 3678 yards, 34 touchdowns, 5 INTs

Robert Griffin III in 2010: 67% competition, 3501 yards, 22 touchdowns, 8 INTs

Like Barkley, that's another big leap from '10 to '11. In Griffin's case, 2010 was a bounce back year after tearing his ACL in the third game of the '09 season. Despite the injury, Griffin is still an elusive runner and dynamic passer. His dismantling of TCU in the first game of the 2011 season was truly awesome.

But, like Barkley, there is a lack of consistency year-to-year with Griffin.

The other general notes I have about Andrew Luck are all subjective. He simply commands an offense better than Barkley and Griffin, and is given more responsibility to run it. He makes decisions very quickly, and more often than not those decisions are spot on.

He's also impressively good at finding favorable match-ups and exploiting them. It's in this area that Luck is so often compared to Peyton Manning. Pre-snap, Luck sees a defense and looks for weaknesses. On each of his four TDs last night against the Irish, it was Luck recognizing a mismatch and getting the ball accurately to the receiver to exploit that mismatch.

So, yeah. I can now see why Andrew Luck is No. 1 on Dan Kadar's draft board. It's not even close.

And for those suggesting the Colts should trade the No. 1 overall pick (if they get it) for a king's ransom of picks so that the team can re-load with a supposedly healthy Peyton Manning: No friggin way.

Peyton Manning will be 36 next year, and coming off three serious neck surgeries. He's got, maybe, two years of great football left in him. Again, this is assuming the nerve regenerates in his neck, which is a HUGE 'maybe' right now.

Andrew Luck is 22, and has all the potential in the world going forward. Manning is 'the past.' For Colts fans, we absolutely must accept that if Luck is taken, Manning is finished. The two cannot co-exist on the same roster both for cap reasons and for general football reasons. Luck looks ready to play right now, and should play right now. He's a great prospect to rebuild around, and with the Colts near total lack of talent (they are 0-10 for a reason), it makes sense to make Luck the focal point of the team.

Rebuilding around an injured 36-year-old is utter stupidly reinforced by useless sentimentality.

This is the NFL. You don't get 'sentimental' in the big leagues. When players get injured and old, you replace them, especially when one of those replacements is named 'Andrew Luck.'

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