The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, we all know that. That much is evident by a quarterback like Brock Osweiler getting massive money on the free agent market. No disrespect to Osweiler, but he's made just seven career starts in which he was mostly just average. The Texans gave him a four-year, $72 million deal this year regardless, showing the desperation for so many teams in looking to find their franchise player at the position.
The Colts are in the fortunate position of already having theirs. Andrew Luck is undoubtedly their franchise player, and they will pay him accordingly at some point this offseason with a deal that is sure to be staggering. The reality, however, is that Luck is coming off of his worst season in the NFL, and that means he has plenty to prove.
Last week, Sports Illustrated ran a series looking at the quarterbacks with the most to prove in 2016, with five different writers each choosing a different quarterback. The list comprised of the Cardinals' Carson Palmer, the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill, the Bills' Tyrod Taylor, the Texans' Brock Osweiler, and the Colts' Andrew Luck. And honestly, it's hard to argue with the inclusion of any of those five players on such a list.
Regarding Luck, SI's Melissa Jacobs wrote:
The excuse bank was in overdrive last year. Yes, the offensive line was mostly ineffective (though interestingly, Pro Football Focus ranked the Colts’ line within the top half of the league.) Yes, the injuries were frequent and reportedly more severe than originally thought.
But the brutal reality is that last year, Luck, a player who once inspired the “Suck for Luck” draft sweepstakes, actually just sucked. He often mistimed his reads as he overthrew receivers. As pockets began to collapse, his reaction time was off, making his escapability nonexistent.
Lest you think that Jacobs is just hating on Andrew Luck, she goes on to explain just how good the Colts' quarterback was in his first three years, how he was "a rare Brady-esque QB whose mere presence turned around a franchise" (Colts fans will probably cringe at the description of Luck as Brady-esque, but for a quarterback that's not a bad thing). It's true that Luck was tremendous in the first three years of his career but that last year was rough. Luck missed nine games due to injury and wasn't really fully healthy much, had a 15-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and turned the football over thirteen times in just seven games. He still showed his potential at times - most notably the Colts' win over the Broncos - but the season overall was a rough one for him.
The Colts need Andrew Luck to bounce back, and as Jacobs writes, the NFL needs Andrew Luck to bounce back. With Peyton Manning retired and several other top quarterbacks getting older, Luck has long been considered one of the stars of the next generation who would take the torch for Manning. Jacobs focuses more on the NFL side of things, which shows the impact that Luck does have. But for the Colts as well, they need their franchise quarterback on the field. They're going to give him a huge extension this offseason and they need to see him prove that he's worth it on the field. I have no doubt that Luck will get back to being Luck this year if healthy, but there certainly is a lot of pressure riding on him to play well after last year's disaster.