I wasn’t old enough to remember Barry Sanders retiring in his prime or even Michael Jordan from the Bulls the first time, but I’ll always remember the moment when it was announced Andrew Luck retired unexpectedly from the Indianapolis Colts. The news broke while both of my parents were at the preseason game and I thought it was terrible joke, a hacked social media account. Instead, a likely first ballot Hall of Famer retired at the age of 29 ahead of a very promising season.
The next John Elway, the perfect replacement for the legend Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck came in with high praise and high pressure and still delivered in his first season. General Ryan Grigson was applauded for his first draft with so many contributors coming from it for a team that was drafting #1 overall. Instead history proved that Luck put the team on his shoulders and carried them to the playoffs.
Three straight 11-5 seasons advancing further each season; the implausible comeback against the Chiefs, beating Peyton Manning in his new building, Luck immediately lifted the Colts. Then the terrible offensive line caught up to him. Despite having their franchise quaterback Grigson refused to do what he needed to do to keep him upright and healthy. Now in 2019 the NFL will be without Andrew Luck.
Torn cartilage, partially torn abdomen, lacerated kidney, concussion, torn labrum and now the ankle injury are all the things Andrew Luck has suffered through in his short career. When you put them all next to each other it makes absolute sense that he’s tired of the cycle of constant rehab. That doesn’t make it any less surprising just a week before the start of the season, and a season in which the Colts could threaten for a Super Bowl.
Fans cried all over and fans booed Luck as he walked off Lucas Oil field for the last time. This isn’t a decision Luck came to lightly and he owes the fans nothing, but fan is short for fanatic. I don’t think it’s right to challenge his toughness, look at the list of injuries, or to boo him but it’s emotional. It was going to be another great season but the anger is targeted at the wrong person.
Fans should be mad at Grigson and fans should be mad at the Colts organization. For the second time in just a few seasons season ticket holders spent good money and won’t have their franchise QB, their potential Hall of Famer. Now Luck himself said this decision really has arisen in the last two weeks and gamesmanship with injuries is part of the game, but the Colts left themselves with this ‘What if?’
Playing in the NFL is accepting that it’s a physical game that injuries are always going to be part of. Just tonight the Houston Texans lost Lamar Miller for the season to a likely ACL tear. That’s happening while there’s a shift in coaches sitting their important players. In the Colts and Bears preseason game pretty much everyone important was sat even though it was that third preseason game that is normally the tune-up game. Meanwhile the 18 game schedule is being debated again and this retirement should put a huge pause in that discussion.
It’s ironic that with all these injuries and Luck retiring early that Tom Brady and Drew Brees are over 40 and still playing at such a high level. Their health is a result of several factors; system, team, organization and also plenty of luck. 'Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good’ and that is the downside of Andrew Luck’s football journey, but his organization did not help him. Why did it take so long for a Colts GM to get him a Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith?
There is so much money in football and more coming. The last few seasons we’ve seen more players calling it a career early because of injuries or the fear of the risk to their long term health and I don’t think this trend will stop. Now players can amass generational wealth sooner and careers may just get shorter and shorter.
Still, with all the rules to protect quaterbacks it still wasn’t enough to keep Andrew Luck upright and ultimately injuries did him in. His management failed him and he tried to tough it out for his team but that instead cut his career short. It was tough for him and it was tough for fans, all fans and not just those that cheer for Indianapolis. This retirement sent huge ripples through the NFL and something like this won’t go without some consequences for the rest of the league.
No offense to the other positions in the league but when something happens to a quaterback it changes the league. You can’t tackle low because Tom Brady tore his ACL, you can’t land on a QB because Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. There was no specific injury for a rule change but this will change things in the NFL.