One of the biggest knocks on Andrew Luck since he came into the NFL has been that he’s “turnover prone.”
Those who are frequent readers here know that I believe that, outside of 2015, that narrative has been way overblown, and so far this year I’ve been encouraged by the fact that most people seem to be coming around to the fact that Andrew Luck is playing very well this year.
But sometimes pre-existing narratives can get in the way of that, so I think Andrew Luck’s protection of the football this year should help to dissuade any lingering opinions of Luck’s play being bad or turnover prone to begin the 2016 season.
Here’s what I mean: Andrew Luck, a quarterback many see as turnover prone, has as many interceptions this year (three) as Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback considered by many to be the gold standard of protecting the football. And in fact, Rodgers has already had his bye week and has thrown 139 passes this year, while Luck has thrown 205 passes. So Luck has an interception percentage of 1.5% this year, while Rodgers has an interception percentage of 2.2%.
Now, it’s important to note that one season (actually five games) doesn’t erase what we’ve seen from the past four years, so even though I think Luck’s turnover issues have been overblown that’s not at all the point I’m making here. Nor is the point I’m making to discredit Rodgers or say that Luck is as good as him. There are all sorts of caveats and qualifiers that we can add in, but instead, I only say this to suggest that Luck is playing really good football to begin the 2016 season.
Only one quarterback has thrown more passes than Andrew Luck this year (Joe Flacco), while 15 quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions, including players such as Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matthew Stafford. In addition, Luck’s three interceptions are tied with Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, and Trevor Siemian. Luck is also tied for fourth in the NFL in passing yards (and tied for sixth in passing yards per game) and is tied for fifth in touchdown passes despite being the most sacked quarterback in the NFL and, according to many metrics, having the most dropped passes of any quarterback in the NFL.
Luck has also lost a fumble this year, bringing his turnover total to five through five games, but in 240 dropbacks (including passes, sacks, and scrambles) that’s not such a bad mark (a turnover on just 2.1% of plays). And a better understanding of those turnovers is also needed. The first one was a pick by Aqib Talib in the fourth quarter of the game against the Broncos in which Luck tried to force it to Phillip Dorsett in the middle of the field (when he had Jack Doyle wide open in the flat). That was just a bad decision and throw by Luck. Later in the game, Luck was strip-sacked by Von Miller after he completely embarrassed Joe Reitz, so while Luck needs to hang on to the football in that situation, it’s also hard to blame him too much for it since that one was largely the offensive line’s fault. Then the next week, Luck made another bad decision in the second quarter against the Chargers when he tried to throw a comeback route to a covered Chester Rogers and made a bad throw too, and it was picked. Later in the same quarter, Luck’s line was overrun and he was sacked quickly, and he was held up for a while (the play should have been blown dead but wasn’t) as the Chargers wound up stripping the ball after several tries. Luck needs to hold on to the football so it’s on him, but it’s hard to give him all the blame considering the circumstances. And then last week against the Jaguars, the play after a drop Luck had a free rusher just completely blow by Austin Blythe and get in Luck’s face. Luck tried to throw the ball quickly upon pressure but the defender batted it up in the air, and another defensive lineman made a heck of a read and catch for the pick. That’s unfortunate for Luck and the Colts, but those things happen in football.
So far this year, Andrew Luck has completed 131 of 205 passes (63.9%) for 1,469 yards (7.2 yards per attempt), ten touchdowns, and three picks with a passer rating of 95.4. That puts him on pace for a 4,701 yard, 32 touchdown season with just ten picks while completing nearly 64% of his passes (and adding 253 yards rushing). That’s a good year, even if the Colts’ record doesn’t neccessarily reflect his play.
Again, does this address all of the questions or provide the definitive explanation of Luck’s season? No way. But I think it helps to put Luck’s play in context, as he’s playing really well and even the one thing people tend to like to use against him - his turnovers - isn’t a problem this year. So far, so good for the Colts’ franchise quarterback.