Why The Coronation Of Andrew Luck Is Premature

The clock was winding down in the CBS telecast of the Chiefs-Steelers game yesterday in the early window, and the network did a live look-in to promote the main game of the day, the Indianapolis Colts and the Dallas Cowboys down in Big D. Andrew Luck was warming up and CBS studio host James Brown identified the Indy quarterback as one who is “definitely headed for elite status.” Definitely? Aren’t we jumping the gun just a little bit here?

This offhand comment by Brown gets to the heart of what annoys me regarding media coverage about Luck. I discussed a lot of this back in a September column that asked why the Colt quarterback was the anointed one of the media, and traced it back to the insane hype that accompanied Luck during his senior year in college in 2011.

I won’t revisit all that here—except to again ask why Indianapolis wouldn’t have been better off trading that #1 overall pick used to pick Luck to get at least three first-rounders back, keep Peyton Manning and draft Russell Wilson as the insurance policy. What I want to focus on here is why we’re supposed to just assume that Luck’s rise to elite status is a foregone conclusion.

AndrewLuckLet’s begin by acknowledging Luck’s obvious attributes…

  • He’s got the physical build of a classic NFL quarterback. He’s big enough to see over the line while in the pocket, durable enough to take hits and has a strong arm.
  • He puts up the Fantasy numbers, from passing yardage to touchdown passes.
  • He’s got an obvious clutch gene in him. If I were a betting man, I’d love to bet on this guy in an underdog role in the playoffs and hope he could just get the ball late in the game and a chance to lead a game-winning drive.

Now, let me ask you this. Review all these genuinely great things and ask yourself—is there any reason we can’t say the same about Matt Ryan in Atlanta? Would you consider Ryan an elite quarterback? I wouldn’t. I consider “Matty Ice”, who got his nickname for his coolness under pressure, to be pretty good and a quarterback I’d definitely like to have—but not elite.

If you would consider Ryan elite, than I have no problem with granting the same tag to Luck. Although if Ryan is elite, then so is Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and maybe Tony Romo now that he’s won in December.

Add that to the standard list of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and we’re up to ten quarterbacks with the elite tag. If you’ve got almost of the third of the starting quarterbacks in this category, then we need to revisit what the term “elite” means before doing anything else.

Besides, when it comes to Luck, we know what James Brown and the legion of Luck defenders out there mean—that his coronation as the next Peyton Manning is all but assured. And I’ll conceded this—Luck might well get there. You can certainly look at his first three years and see what he’s already done, combine it with his potential and obvious work ethic and make a credible argument that he will become the next truly great quarterback in the NFL.

Making a credible argument on behalf of something though, is not the same as saying as it’s a foregone conclusion. And that’s the heart of my beef with Luck-Mania. We’re not allowed to wait. We’re required to assume. But prudence should instead require that we allow Luck’s career to unfold before elevating him past his current status as the next Matt Ryan and up to the level of the next Peyton Manning.

Because right now, Andrew Luck has committed more turnovers than any quarterback in the NFL not named Jay Cutler. And that’s not elite by any measurement.