It's not far fetched to say that the Indianapolis Colts have one of the best running quarterbacks in the entire NFL in Andrew Luck. While he doesn't get the amount of rushes, yards, or touchdowns as other guys in the league (such as Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Michael Vick, etc.), he is just as effective at doing so, and perhaps most importantly, he doesn't rely on his running ability to be successful.
Luck is a tremendous pocket passer and can win that way, but he's perhaps even better on the move - an incredible feat. And, with the terrible offensive line play that Luck played behind last season and for much of this preseason so far, he has had to be on the move quite a bit in his short NFL career up to this point.
And while he is great at throwing on the run, Andrew Luck also is great at tucking and running. He ran the ball 66 times last year in 17 games (including postseason) and has 5 carries so far this preseason. He is good at carrying the ball, not relying on it but using it as a compliment to his passing, not taking contact that he shouldn't (well, he's getting better at that), and he does manage to get first downs and productive plays a large percentage of the times that he runs the football.
All of that is leading up to the main point that I want to focus on, and that is Chuck Pagano's comments after the Colts' third preseason game, a 27-6 win over the Cleveland Browns that saw the team's franchise quarterback take 77 snaps. In that game, Luck scrambled 4 times, gaining 20 yards on the ground. Luck actually shied away from contact that he would normally take, namely on a rush on 3rd and 13 from the Browns 20 yard line on the team's first drive. On that play, he gained 6 yards before sliding down, but myself (along with several other media people) couldn't help but wonder whether, if it were a regular season game, he would have tried to juke back inside to try to get the first down. He didn't even try last night and instead just slid (and, I must say, while his slides still don't look good, he is showing improvement at least).
After the game, however, Colts' head coach Chuck Pagano still wasn't thrilled with his quarterback running the football so much.
"He's running way too much. I know that. He's running way too much. We've got to do a better job of keeping him clean."
Obviously, the train of thought is a beneficial one that deserves at least some credit. The Colts' biggest priority this offseason was to improve the offensive line and keep Luck upright, so that's what the team is committed to doing and they don't want their quarterback contributing to the number of hits that already is too high. Accross the board, the leadership of the franchise - Jim Irsay, Ryan Grigson, Chuck Pagano, Pep Hamilton - all want Luck healthy and taking less hits. And that's absolutely something that needs to happen.
Consider, though, that when Luck scrambles, most of the time it is not because of it being a called run or not even because Luck tucks it too early, often times it is because the pressure forces him to make a decision quickly, and he sees a lane to run so he takes it. So while the Colts' primary goal was keeping Andrew Luck upright, this offensive line still looks to have it's struggles and Luck likely will take a lot of hits again this year. If the line could keep Luck's pocket clean, I am absolutely positive that Luck's rushing numbers would diminish, and I still think that they will this season. But it's not a huge concern right now for Luck to take a few carries a game and then go down while running the football. Especially if he gets his slides improved (Luck commented on it after the game by saying "I don't know, I haven't figured out how to slide. I'm just going to go down and however way I go down and avoid a hit is the way it'll be."), I don't think this is an issue.
Why not Andrew Luck use his athleticism to make some plays to extend drives, score more points, and perhaps win another game or two? As long as he's not running dumb like other guys (ahem, RG3) and taking a ton of shots that he shouldn't, Luck will be fine.
So I totally understand Chuck Pagano's concern. His job security is DIRECTLY tied to Andrew Luck and his success. If Luck gets hurt, the Colts' will struggle and the blame there ultimately goes to the head coach, whether right or wrong (just ask Jim Caldwell). So I don't blame Pagano at all.
I just don't think that I'd say Luck is running "way too much."