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How Does Andrew Luck’s 2016 Season Stack Up Against the Best Quarterbacks of 2017?

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Minicamp Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The excitement is real. Indianapolis Colts fans are patiently — some more than others — waiting for Andrew Luck’s much-needed return to the football field. A quick recap: Luck gets hurt in 2015 and misses half of the season. He comes back and has his best complete season as a pro in 2016 while nursing a shoulder in need of repair. Luck has surgery after the 2016 season and misses all of 2017. He resurfaces looking like a linebacker and is ready to prove any doubters wrong.

That 2016 season was a big one for Luck. He didn’t lead a team to an 11-win season like he had previously, but did carry a pathetic roster to only 3 fewer wins with a bum cannon. He didn’t just have a good season, it was great — his first establishing himself as a clear top-5 passer for the duration of the year.

We discussed all of the reasons why he was an elite QB in 2016. But with all of these segments on the major networks ranking the QBs, ranking their divisions, etc., I went back to my formula to work it out for myself. I do this to help formulate my own opinion on how these quarterbacks stack up against each other, it’s purely statistically based and each area of measurement is weighted by importance.

These specific ratings each involved clutch ratings on late-down, long yardage as well as redzone success, air yards, completion rate and touchdown/interception percentage differential just to name a few. Luck was ranked 5th among the league’s passers in 2016, so let’s see how that season would have compared to the field.

Last year was a little bit strange for quarterbacks. Definitely some surprises arose, but most of who we expect to see at the top of the league was still there. Case Keenum was a starter nearly the entire season, and an effective one at that, Deshaun Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo literally took the league by storm at opposite ends of the season, but only played in 6 games apiece.

Jay Cutler and Jacoby Brissett played a ton and Carson Wentz was playing at an MVP level — before jacking up his knee near the end of the season — laying the foundation for Nick Foles to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win. It was an interesting year to say the least.

We saw Jared Goff shake the bust moniker and play at an elite level, while Dak Prescott came back to Earth, but still shunned any sophomore slump nonsense. Luck’s year off will undoubtedly will create some rust to be shaken off, but anyone who’s watched him knows that he’s more than capable of getting back to form very quickly.

He’s still only 28 — will turn 29 during the season — which is very young for quarterbacks and the last we saw of him was that elite level, all-around, efficient and dangerous passer that we all knew he’d be. I have no doubt that 2018 Andrew Luck will be incredible again.

So, let’s stop filling up the page with what you already know, and get into the numbers.

When you add Luck’s 2016 level of play with the quarterbacks of 2017, we see how special his 2016 season was and can really appreciate it for what it was. An 8-8 record doesn’t turn any heads, but his score will.

red = player who did not start more than half of the season | Top 10 2017 QBs with and without Luck, red players

With Watson getting knocked out after 6 games, Garoppolo getting 5 starts late in the year after being traded to the San Francisco 49ers and Rodgers getting knocked out in October, they didn’t technically qualify for the rankings. I did, however, want to show how effective they were while starting for their teams.

All factors in the calculation are prorated to a 16-game season, but honestly if they don’t play at least three quarters of the season you’re not going to see the peaks and valleys that come with a full season under center. In the case of these three, it’s reasonable to assume that Rodgers could carry that kind of week-in-week-out pace as we’ve seen it from him throughout his career, while presuming that Garoppolo and Watson could seems a bit more unlikely with their limited experience.

In any case, we see that Luck would have earned a top-3 score any way you slice it. His 2016 score is second if you don’t consider Watson, and is still third if you do. That’s impressive.

Among these quarterbacks, Luck’s red zone clutch score would have placed 4th, with Watson, Wentz and Rodgers being 1, 2 and 3. His late-down-and-long clutch score was ranked 3rd behind only Wentz and Josh McCown (McCown was better than you think last season), his air-yard score came in at No. 2 behind Watson and his touchdown/interception percentage differential was good for 8th.

Luck was at or near top-10 in every other calculation which made some of those top-5 scores even more important to his rank amongst the NFL’s best. Can we expect Luck to come back and be able to just deal it all over the field in Week 1? I think if he does we should be somewhat surprised. But, I think by Week 4 or 5 — if there is honestly no pain or issues with the $100-million arm — he should be ready to eat. A solid month under the lights, between the lines, taking live bullets — or whatever other cliche you want to add here — should be enough to get back to the 2016 version of himself or better.

Don’t let anyone tell you that Andrew Luck isn’t elite. Purely statistically, his numbers from 2016 say otherwise.


NFC West | Player’s Individual scores and division average

AFC South | Player’s Individual scores and division average

AFC East | Player’s individual scores and division average

NFC East | Player’s individual scores and division average

AFC West | Player’s individual scores and division average

NFC South | Player’s individual scores and division average

NFC North | Player’s individual scores and division average

AFC North | Player’s individual scores and division average