Andrew Luck’s game winning throw against the Detroit Lions (Photo credit: Julian H. Gonzalez/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com)
With the outstanding, if not a little stunning, quarterback class of 2012, inevitably comes the burning question: will these players experience the “sophomore slump” in their second year? And for the Indianapolis Colts, a little Luck won’t hurt.
Andrew Luck, the second-year quarterback phenom for the Indianapolis Colts, had a fantastic freshman debut in 2012: 4371 passing yards (rookie record), 54.1% pass completion, 23 passing touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 5 rushing touchdowns, and 7 impressive game winning drives (ties NFL record), not to mention breaking the rookie record for most passing yards in a single game. NFL fans with little knowledge of the Colts would say Luck is primed for a drop off, but numbers never tell the whole story.
Luck played behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, the other contender for that title being the Arizona Cardinals, and Luck actually made his line look better than it really was. Yes, he made the worst offensive line in football (in my opinion) look better somehow. Couple this with the fact that Luck was in a Bruce Arians offense, which thrives off the deep ball (Luck lead the league in most balls thrown over 15 yards), and you can see he wasn’t in an ideal situation. Luck’s offense required him to have plenty of time in the pocket, while his offensive line afforded him almost none.
As we are now approaching the 2013 NFL season; Exit Bruce Arians and enter Pep Hamilton. Newly hired as the Colts offensive coordinator, Hamilton is the former Stanford offensive coordinator, also, ironically, known as the “Andrew Luck director of offense”. Hamilton’s offense is more of a quick hitting, take what you can get offense; also popularly known as a west-coast offense. Combine this with a reconstructed offensive line, with the signings of right tackle Gosder Cherilus and offensive guard Donald Thomas along with drafting of guard Hugh Thornton and center/guard Khaled Holmes, and I believe Luck is poised for a remarkable season. Reason being, the biggest knock on Luck last year was his completion percentage, and with shorter routes and a more solid (even if not great) offensive line, it is bound to increase significantly. Not to mention the fact that an improved offensive line will lead to better running lanes for second-year running back Vick Ballard, and 2013 free agent signee Ahmad Bradshaw. Furthermore, an improved running game with an already great passing game leads to a more unpredictable offense and an even more successful season.
414 words and still not all of the variables of this equation have been put into play. Consider the fact that his starting two tight ends (Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener), one of his top receivers (T.Y. Hilton), and his starting running back (Vick Ballard) were all rookies. Not to mention that the Colts defense was completely revamped, mostly with players who didn’t cut it on other rosters. Combine all this with the element that Andrew Luck was also a rookie himself, and still lead this team to an 11-5 record, with 7 game clinching drives and a wild card playoff berth; this is clearly a man who can lead a team with more than just his arm and legs.
Luck is not a rookie anymore, and he is a man who has the, oh so coveted, “x-factor”. Watching Colts games all I can say is Luck truly has it. It being, when there is 2 minutes left in the game and you need to drive 80 yards for a score and a win? You don’t doubt Mr. Luck has more than the ability to provide that exhilarating game clinching drive. When there’s a pass rusher breathing down his neck and he has to make a miraculous throw? You truly believe he can deliver the ball right between the receiver’s numbers with a 270 pound body draped on his back. I might even believe this guy is from Krypton and flies around sporting an S on his chest on his free time.
So I genuinely can’t comprehend someone who could be a real life superman and has a much, much improved offense (and defense) will suffer any sort of slump. He may not save the world, but he certainly has saved this Colts franchise from years of living in the NFL’s basement. Go get ‘em Andy, and go Colts.