Chuck Pagano hasn't let the question of Andrew Luck's status linger in recent weeks, and he's not starting now. The Colts' head coach today announced that his franchise quarterback will not play in Sunday's regular season finale at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Tennessee Titans.
Luck was again at practice today, as he has been in recent weeks, but Pagano made it clear that Luck will not get enough reps to be ready to play. This makes a lot of sense, considering the fact that he hasn't played in two months and that he still hasn't been cleared for full work. It's not a surprise that Luck won't play Sunday, as the fact that the team signed two quarterbacks yesterday was a strong indication that number 12 would again be on the sidelines.
What it does mean, however, is that Luck's fourth season in the NFL is almost certainly over. While the Colts may not be placing him on injured reserve (my guess is probably for the small chance they make the playoffs), they will need nine different games to go their way in order to get into the postseason. That's an incredibly unlikely reality, meaning that we've very likely seen the last of Luck this year. The last we saw of him was on November 8, in the team's 27-24 win over the then-unbeaten Denver Broncos and their top-ranked defense. It was his best performance of the season, as Luck completed 21 of 36 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns without an interception while also rushing for 34 yards on six carries - all against the best defense in the NFL and while getting hit quite a bit. Unfortunately, early in the fourth quarter Luck was hit hard and awkwardly on a scramble and the hit lacerated his kidney and tore an abdominal muscle. The Colts announced it on Tuesday of the following week, and Luck hasn't played since then.
On the year, Luck - a popular preseason MVP pick - played in just seven games (missing two due to a shoulder injury and seven due to the kidney/abdominal injury), the first time in his short NFL career that he hasn't played in every game. Even when on the field, it was a rough season for Luck filled with a number of downs and a few highs, as he completed 162 of 293 passes (55.3%) for 1,881 yards (6.42 yards per attempt), 15 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions for a passer rating of just 74.9 (he also added 196 yards rushing on 33 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per attempt). Luck's passer rating ranks 33rd out of 35 quarterbacks who have qualified this year, ahead of only Nick Foles and Peyton Manning. It was about as disastrous of a season as Luck could have possibly had, with him missing over half of the year and struggling when he did play.
With the Colts nearly eliminated, it makes sense to shut Luck down and move on from a horrendous 2015 season. Luck is still a very talented quarterback who has produced in the NFL, so there will be higher hopes for him next year. This year, however, is nearly over, and we won't see Luck return - unless, of course, the miraculous happens.
So who will start at quarterback this Sunday? Matt Hasselbeck hasn't been ruled out yet, but he's an unlikely option considering his injuries. Charlie Whitehurst is on injured reserve. So that leaves either Stephen Morris, Josh Freeman, or Ryan Lindley. It's unclear at this point which of them would make the start this Sunday in the season finale, however.