The Indianapolis Colts have struggled this year - that's no secret. They've managed just a 3-4 record through seven games of the season, with all three wins coming against AFC South opponents. For a team that entered the season with Super Bowl expectations, that's the furthest thing from the mind right now as the Colts have yet to beat a non-divisional opponent.
One of the biggest (perhaps the biggest) reasons for the struggles so far this year has been quarterback Andrew Luck, who hasn't been particularly sharp this year other than a few terrific moments. The franchise quarterback has covered over a lot of flaws in the past few years, but now that he's not playing well this season, those flaws are incredibly evident for everyone to see. For his part, Luck knows that he needs to get better.
"Team sports, personal accountability," Luck said. "I know the first step for me is making sure I'm taking care of my business and handling my job in a sense. Again, I've said this earlier, it starts with good practice, it starts with sharp practice. It was a great practice today. Guys flying around doing some good things. I realize I've got to play better and (make) way less mistakes and hopefully that gives our unit a better chance to succeed."
By nature of being the quarterback, Luck gets more praise during wins and more blame during losses. That's just a fact about playing the most important position in the game. And it's deserved, too, as Luck hasn't been good this year and has been one of the biggest reasons for the struggles. But head coach Chuck Pagano isn't ready to single out his quarterback as the main reason, as Pagano realizes that everyone needs to be better, not just Luck.
"It's team football, right?" Pagano told Carolina media while on a conference call Wednesday. "It's offense, it's defense, it's special teams, it's myself, it's coaching, it's everything. We all have to be better. If we want to win in the division or outside the division you have to play good team football. We've put together a half here and there. We've found a way to win three ball games and we've found a way in some other ones where we've dug ourselves some holes that we couldn't get ourselves out of. So, it's team football and it doesn't fall on one guy and one player, period."
With that said, however, Pagano does realize that Luck needs to play better too. He said that you can't pinpoint one reason as to why Luck has struggled some, but he did attribute some of it to the fact that the Colts have started slow and are often trying to come from behind.
The Colts have a lot of issues, so quarterback isn't the only one of them. But while a lot of players and a lot of positions have been disappointing, Luck tops that list because of how good the Colts expected him to be. He's had flashes, but he hasn't been able to produce consistently this year. The Colts were counting on Luck being one of the league's best quarterbacks, and instead he hasn't been close to that through seven games. One common theory on why Luck and the offense is struggling (at least in part) is because of the pressure, and that has led to questions of whether Luck holds on to the football too long. After all, when Matt Hasselbeck started two games he released the ball faster and the line looked better. Is that something Luck needs to do? Pagano said they'll see what the defense gives them in that regard, but he also urged against overreacting or expecting Luck to be someone he isn't.
"Matt comes from one system," Pagano said. "He's got a clock in his head. He's been playing 18 years in the league, right? Matt is Matt and Andrew is Andrew. Regardless, he did some nice things. He did some good things. We all know that our starting quarterback has done some great things. Let's not be too quick to judge and get ready to do whatever. 12 is going to be fine, and we're going to be fine."
The Colts desperately need Andrew Luck to be fine, as that's the biggest thing that could help this disastrous 2015 season turn around. If Luck is fine, then the team will look better. The question right now is about getting Luck playing well and doing whatever it takes to get to that point.