You will read plenty of glowing stories about Andrew Luck over the next 24-to-48 hours. He deserves them after making the painful and difficult decision to retire at the top of his game after his best NFL season because his body wouldn’t cooperate any longer.
It was easy to feel for Luck, and like him, as he delivered his retirement speech and stood at a podium to honestly answer every question lobbed his way Saturday night.
This will not be one of those commendatory stories, however.
How could it be? We cover the New England Patriots over here at NESN.com. The Colts haven’t beaten the Patriots since Luck was drafted No. 1 overall in 2012. (Indianapolis actually hasn’t beaten New England since 2009. A lot has happened since 2009. Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo was in his second season as a PLAYER in 2009.)
This wasn’t some small-sample sized fluke either. The Colts have played the Patriots six times with Luck under center. The Patriots have won every single time. Five of those six victories were by double digits. Half of them were by 20 points or more.
At a certain point, a game against the Colts felt like an automatic win for the Patriots. But with every sure bet, you start to doubt your conviction.
“Well, they’re different teams.”
“It’s a different head coach.”
“History shouldn’t have any bearing on this outcome.”
“Their offensive line is fixed.”
“At some point Luck is going to get his revenge.”
It never happened. Luck is stepping away from football having never bested Bill Belichick and the Patriots. His seven-year career is merely a blip on Belichick and Tom Brady’s going-on 20-year run.
In six games, Luck completed 55 percent of his passes against the Patriots with as many touchdown passes as interceptions. He was 150-of-272 for 1,771 yards with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In two playoff games — one of which being the infamous Deflategate game — Luck completed 43.2 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and six (!) interceptions.
Luck always seemed to be gauged in the present based on what he was expected to achieve in the future. He was a very fine quarterback who was crowned as elite the moment he stepped foot onto an NFL field based on tools that never quite fully surfaced. And the opinion never changed even as Luck hit a ceiling a step below his expectations.
The 29-year-old was a Ben Roethlisberger-level QB when many around the NFL would have you believe he was Aaron Rodgers. To put it overly simplistically, he never had a 100 passer rating in an era where Jared Goff and Ryan Fitzpatrick can stumble into them. He always took too many risks, and he stunk in the playoffs.
Luck is a sympathetic figure in that his body finally broke down after years of porous blocking when his offensive line had finally been fixed. He didn’t deserve to be booed by Colts fans Saturday night, he wasn’t soft and some of his early-career shortcomings can be blamed on lack of protection or injuries.
In the end, Luck’s career should be defined by unfulfilled promise, but that won’t be the story spun in the next few days. We wouldn’t even be surprised if the term Pro Football Hall of Fame is thrown around.
There are plenty of other New England-related elements to this story. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was considered a dunce for walking away from Indianapolis’ head coaching job after the Colts’ promising regular season last year. Former Patriots backup Jacoby Brissett is now the Colts’ starting quarterback. A threat to the Patriots’ AFC crown isn’t looking so intimidating anymore.
But Luck was never a player feared around New England. There really was no reason for Patriots fans to dread facing the talented QB.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images