The 2015 season was the toughest of Andrew Luck's professional career, without a doubt. When he was on the field, it wasn't all great, as he finished 32nd in the league in passer rating out of 34 qualified quarterbacks. Staying on the field was just as tough for Luck, however, as he missed nine games due to injury: two due to a shoulder injury and then seven due to a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle.
Though Luck missed over half of the season, the Colts made sure that it wasn't a wasted year for him and that he learned and got better from it. Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, who has been Luck's position coach since 2012 but is now leaving to become the offensive coordinator of the Dolphins, told the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder about how the Colts did this.
"We made a point to emphasize that this would not be a wasted year," Christensen, who starts his new job on Wednesday, told Holder. "I look at it like this was the last year of undergrad work for him. He'd experienced everything but a physical injury. So, this was an important year. Anyone who thinks this year didn't help him just doesn't understand. He learned so much. One of Peyton's key years was the year he was hurt. He grew as a husband and a family man and teammate. This year will propel Andrew."
Few people in the NFL know Luck better than Christensen does, so his word holds a certain weight. He said that the Colts gave Luck assignments and projects to keep him engaged through his injury, particularly studying film of opponents and types of defenses. Christensen is confident that the year of learning and studying will only help him going forward and will help Luck have a better grasp of the offense, which is what Christensen says is the thing separating him from the top-tier, elite guys. Basically, when you better understand what the defense is trying to do to stop you, you'll have a better idea of how to combat that.
"(The offense) has to become yours," Christensen said. "It's not just about what the play caller calls. When you really understand all that, that's the mark of a great player."
It's interesting to hear Christensen talk about how a year that to all outside observers seemed like a disaster could in fact be a big help to the quarterback moving forward. The hope is that Luck's time studying film and defensive concepts will give him a better idea of what's going on when he is on the field and will therefore give him a better command of the offense. If that happens, then we may very well look back on the 2015 season as a beneficial on for Luck, though not in the way that anyone would have liked or imagined.
Ultimately, we all know that it would have been better to have Andrew Luck on the field, as if he played in all 16 games the Colts almost certainly would have won the division and made the playoffs. But though things didn't work out as Luck and the Colts would have hoped, Clyde Christensen and the coaches made sure that it wouldn't be a wasted year for the franchise quarterback. Hopefully, that pays dividends going forward, even though Christensen won't be coaching with the Colts anymore.