According to NFL.com’s Ali Bhanpuri, former Indianapolis Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck is the second best #1 overall pick of the past decade—behind ex-Carolina Panthers superstar quarterback Cam Newton:
2. Andrew Luck
Drafted: Indianapolis Colts, 2012
It’s hard to believe that Luck played just five and a half seasons in the NFL, considering his impact on the game and the league as a whole. His 33 wins in his first three years — despite inheriting a flawed team that went 2-14 the season before he arrived — are as many as Jameis Winston and Sam Bradford had combined during the same span to start their careers. Luck’s toughness and big-play ability in the most desperate of moments helped cement his own legacy in The House that Manning Built. Now that we’re further removed from the QB’s shocking retirement — and the hysteria his decision incited — it’s a bit easier to appreciate the totality of what he accomplished in such a short amount of time: Four Pro Bowls, four playoff appearances, 2018 Comeback Player of the Year, 2014 passing TDs leader, celebrated teammate and respected opponent. Had he continued on last year and managed to stay healthy, I thought we might see him capture the league MVP, which would’ve made the decision at No. 1 here even more challenging.
As the #1 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, Luck completed 2,000 of 3,290 pass attempts (60.8%) for 23,671 passing yards, 171 passing touchdowns, and 83 interceptions during 86 career starts. He also rushed for 1,590 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
Not that quarterback wins are a stat, but the Colts also went 53-33 during his 6 seasons with the Colts. The Colts made the playoffs in 4 of the 5 seasons Luck was healthy in—highlighted by an AFC Championship Game appearance in 2014.
It’s still weird writing this, but Luck was the complete package for the Colts as far as his golden right throwing arm, ability to make plays with his legs, and overall football intelligence/leadership. He checked all of the boxes—until his career’s bitter end.
If given the choice between Newton and Luck in their primes, #12 would still be my clear choice every time, but to his credit, Newton did win NFL MVP in 2015 and led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance—neither of which Luck accomplished with the Colts (although one could easily make the argument that Newton was on better overall teams).
Newton was drafted a year earlier than Luck, and as a direct result and with less injuries, started in 124 games over the past 9 seasons (38 more starts than Luck)—which helps explain the loftier careers passing yards (29,041) and touchdowns (182).
Newton also should still be able to extend his playing career eventually and pad his overall football resume—which Luck cannot, already in retirement.
However, Luck accomplished a lot with seemingly very little the majority of his Colts career.
He rarely had a reliable offensive line, his offense lacked dynamic playmakers beyond T.Y. Hilton, and his defense was never an overly strong unit on the other side of the football.
Luck consistently took a beating behind the Colts old offensive line, and while his own reckless style, willingness to play through pain (although one could argue that the powers that be should’ve held him out entirely), and engagement in extracurricular activities (i.e. snowboarding) also exacerbated the issue, his body eventually just kept breaking down with various injuries and lingering pain—which always meant rigorous physical rehabilitation followed soon thereafter—and still that pain.
Until enough was enough.
It was time for the 29 year old to hang up the football cleats for good and move onto his life’s next chapter—with other interests beyond football and the joys of being a new father.
That being said, Luck accomplished a lot with the Colts in a very limited period of time—certainly one that didn’t last as long as anyone would’ve reasonably expected or hoped for back in 2012.
Luck is still the Colts’ 3rd best quarterback in franchise history despite having his career cut way too short. His abrupt retirement because of lingering injuries will always be a tragic career ending for such a promising NFL superstar quarterback, goofy, yet intellectual personality, and tantalizing talent—leading many to always wonder ‘what could’ve been’.
If fully healthy throughout his career and with better overall talent (and superior coaching) surrounding him, it’s fair to question whether we’d be arguing if Luck was the 2nd best quarterback of all-time—20 years from when he was drafted, not just for ‘the silver medal’ #1 overall pick of the past decade.