The first question I’m asked when talking with someone about the Indianapolis Colts is this: “what happened to Andrew Luck last year, and will he bounce back?”
That’s the biggest question surrounding the Colts, because their franchise quarterback struggled mightily in the seven games he played and missed nine games due to injury. He turned the football over 13 times in those seven games, and that has led to some people questioning his status as the NFL’s next superstar quarterback.
That doesn’t seem to be the same feeling around the NFL, however. ESPN’s Mike Sando released his annual quarterback tier rankings, and he consulted 42 NFL executives: ten general managers, five head coaches, seven offensive coordinators, five defensive coordinators, five personnel evaluators, and seven position coaches/other executives.
Though Luck took a drop from his number three ranking last year, he still fared pretty well. Luck this year falls into tier 2, meaning he is a quarterback who “can carry [his] team sometimes but not as consistently” as the quarterbacks in tier one. The league executives gave a tier ranking (1-5) for each player, and overall Luck ranked seventh with an average rating of 1.67. Here’s what Sando wrote:
Voters had to decide how much to downgrade Luck following an injury-shortened 2015 season that saw him struggle. Luck got 16 votes in the first tier, 24 in the second and two in the third. That was a significant shift from 2015, when 30 of 35 voters placed him in the top tier.
"Luck is a 1," a defensive coordinator said. "He was still able to come out and compete with a lacerated kidney. The man had a lacerated kidney for how many games until it was, 'OK, it's bleeding too much and I can't play'? Who are his wide receivers? T.Y. Hilton. Does he have a great running back at this stage? The combination of his arm strength, his intelligence, his physical ability -- he could carry a football team and he did it his first few years."
A GM said he thought "a large swath of teams" would choose Luck over Rodgers if both were available on the market, based on Luck's long-range outlook. That doesn't change Luck's stat line for his last 16 games, counting playoffs: 56.8 completion rate, 30 TDs, 22 INTs, 78.9 passer rating and 48.9 Total QBR.
"I'm much higher on Andrew Luck than a lot of people because I think the problem with Andrew Luck is all that's surrounding him sucks so bad, including their defense, that it impacts him as a player," another GM said. "There are days I want to put him as a 1, but I will go high, high 2 right now."
A great majority of voters expected Luck to bounce back. A couple were less sure.
"I did think he was a surefire 1," another GM said. "Do I think he has a great future? I don't know. He played really bad last year, even when he was healthy. I'm interested in seeing how he responds this year."
Luck is behind Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson - not a bad group to be behind.
As I’ve said before this offseason, I think ranking Luck seventh is a very fair place to put the Colts quarterback, as it recognizes he’s not at the top yet and struggled in 2015 but also recognizes the talent he has and the production he had in his first three seasons in the NFL. I really don’t have a problem with any of the players ranked above Luck on this year’s list, and I think with a nice year in 2016 we could see him once again climb like he did a year ago. People around the NFL still seem to have plenty of confidence in Andrew Luck being able to be the top-tier franchise quarterback that he has the potential to be, and that should encourage Colts fans. Though Luck’s coming off of his worst season in the NFL and though some fans might be doubting the quarterback, people around the league still seem to think the Colts’ quarterback is pretty good.