STANFORD, CA - SEPTEMBER 03: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal passes the ball during their game against the San Jose State Spartans at Stanford Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
At his introductory press conference to the media as the Colts No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck was asked (by ESPN's Paul Kuharsky) about what he planned to work on this offseason as he prepares to replace Peyton Manning as the franchise quarterback in Indianapolis. Luck did not hesitate in his answer:
I think the deep ball. I gotta get back to throwing a good deep ball. I think that comes with reps with the guys and receivers and sort of feeling each other out. Seeing the differences between all the guys and them seeing how I throw, and all that good stuff. That will come with reps and time. I'm looking forward to getting going with the guys.
This was an interesting answer from Luck in light of all the public criticism he took from former Giants quarterback Phil Simms last year. Simms questioned Luck's arm strength, saying:
I just don’t see big time NFL throws. I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve watched a lot of him. He never takes it and rips it in there. And you can say what you want but, man, you’ve got to be able to crease that ball every once in a while.
Simms' critical comments seemed to rile the No. 1 overall pick. At his Stanford Pro Day, Luck opted to throw a 70-yard bomb into the wind just to prove a point. The deep ball was sharp, accurate, and traveled 70 yards through the air against 15 mile-per-hour cross winds.
Another individual who was critical of Luck's arm strength, but in a more precise, constructive manner, was NFL Films' Greg Cosell. Cosell (nephew of Howard) watches a lot of tape on players, and prior to the draft he wrote that Baylor's Robert Griffin III was the superior QB over Andrew Luck. I had the pleasure of sitting directly in front of Greg at Radio City Music Hall last week during the draft. Sometime during Thursday evening, we starting talking about Luck's arm strength. Greg shared with me some very interesting observations.
For starters, Luck has been working on improving his deep ball since the Fiesta Bowl. According to Cosell, who has been talking to the specialist who is working with Luck, there is an issue with Luck's deep ball. However, that issue is not his arm. He has a very good, powerful arm. He can gun the football. Watch tape, and you will see it.
The problem with Luck is that he is lifting his back leg when he tries to drill the football into tight windows, or throw it deep.
Instead of driving off the back foot and using his strong legs (more often than not, leg power makes a football fly through the air farther, not necessarily arm strength), he is lifting his back leg. This takes power out of the throw.
If you watched the ESPN special featuring former Buccaneers and Raiders coach Jon Gruden, towards the end of the segment (while the two are outdoors practicing drops and throws), Luck starts asking Gruden about stances and throwing motions out of the shotgun. Watch his feet during that segment, and you'll see it relates to Luck looking to improve his deep ball.
Cosell made it clear to me that if Luck corrects this throwing motion flaw, he will be a-okay driving the football deep. Luck is not some noodle-armed nobody. He has all the physical gifts one needs to become a great quarterback.