Luck has been impressive. And Luck can make throws on a football field that even Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would have a hard time completing. But, that does not automatically put him in their category, and that certainly does not make him an MVP candidate, as Adam Schein — who has a vote — argued on Wednesday.
Schein makes a compelling case, kind of. He goes by the premise that Luck is the most valuable player because of how he’s turned the Colts around this season. We all know the story: the Colts were 2-14 last season, and now, under Luck, they’re 8-4. On paper, that certainly screams “most valuable,” right?
The problem is, Luck shouldn’t be rewarded for the fact that the Colts started Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky in 2011. And Tom Brady shouldn’t be punished for the fact that the Patriots started Tom Brady in 2012. And Peyton Manning shouldn’t be punished for the fact that the Broncos overachieved last season. And we shouldn’t be deciding the MVP off a win-loss record anyway.
In a Twitter conversation, Schein specifically said he doesn’t vote for the MVP based on numbers. But that’s exactly what the argument is if its based on how Luck has turned around the Colts. Lets face it, if any quarterback other than Painter was leading that 2011 squad for nine games, they would have had more than two wins. Orlovsky proved that hypothesis when he came in and started the last five games and won two of them.
Luck has been great, but he’s also been wildly inconsistent. He makes just as many questionable decisions and inaccurate passes as throws that show why he was the most NFL-ready quarterback since Manning to enter the NFL draft. He showed that inconsistency against New England, Jacksonville and for the first three quarters against Detroit. And in every other game he’s played this season. Because he’s a rookie, and rookies aren’t perfect. The fact of the matter is, some stats and numbers do matter. Luck has 16 interceptions — good (or bad) for most in the league tied with Drew Brees. His 55.5 percent completion percentage ranks 32nd in the NFL, .5 points above Mark Sanchez, and .8 points above John Skelton.
To give Luck credit — and he deserves it — he’s thrown the most deep passes (traveling over 20 yards) in the league, and he’s on pace for the most since Pro Football Focus started tracking the stat in 2008. Deep passes will of course drag down your completion percentage, because there’s no way to be as accurate on a 25-yard pass than on a five-yard pass. Just ask Alex Smith, who leads the NFL in completion percentage because he’s thrown less deep passes than 31 other quarterbacks this season (18).
Luck on the other hand, has thrown 84 deep passes. He’s completed 42.9 percent of them, and he has seven touchdowns and five interceptions on those throws. Even if you took away all of those deep passes, and only concentrated on the shallow to intermediate throws, Luck’s efficiency rate would still stand at a mediocre 59.4 percent.
Luck has been very impressive for a rookie. He stands right up there with Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson on the offensive rookie of the year ballot, but MVP talk is just crazy. If the “Luck for MVP” chatter is starting, there should be just as much for RGIII and Wilson, whose teams would be equally screwed without their strong rookie seasons.
When it comes down to it, the MVP voting should come down to Brady, Manning and J.J. Watt. Those three players have been the best in football this season, and if we’re going by “most valuable,” each of their teams would be in major trouble if we started playing the George Bailey game.
Like stores decorating for Christmas in early November, NFL fans and writers want to start celebrating Luck’s talents before they’ve actually come around. Wait for Luck to be the quarterback that Brady and Manning are before bestowing him with veteran awards. He doesn’t deserve them yet, after all, rewarding him for playing better than Collins, Painter and Orlovsky is below him. If Luck actually was the most outstanding player this year (and if Griffin keeps up his pace, he might be), there would be no issue with giving the award to a rookie (Johnny Manziel for Heisman). But Luck is not playing up to his full potential, and he’s been far from the best player in the NFL.