Andrew Luck, and the Indianapolis Colts, are off the board.
Saturday night wasn’t shocking in the same way the retirement of Barry Sanders was shocking, but I essentially jumped to my feet when a friend in my Xbox party chat shared the news, and boy did it happen in awkward fashion.
On a Friday last November, I had just gotten off a plane from Kansas City to Detroit and immediately touched down to the news of Kareem Hunt’s TMZ video. I felt blitzed by it. Imagine being in the stadium for that preseason game when Adam Schefter’s tweet dropped. I’ve got several friends who are NFL season ticket holders and a number of teams are becoming continually aggressive about encouraging them to pay thousands of dollars in advance for the following season before the current one has even gotten underway. No doubt some fans were just aimlessly booing at Luck, but I wonder how many at Lucas Oil Stadium are already committed for at least a season that could be headed for a nosedive.
That Luck retired days shy of his 30th birthday isn’t such an oddity. The list of injuries he’s had extends far beyond the labrum tear that forced him out of the picture for all of 2017. Zak Keefer of the Athletic detailed more of them: torn cartilage in two ribs, at least one concussion, a partially torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney (which he says left him urinating blood), and most recently the calf/ankle issues.
It is strange that the news leaked hours before Luck had planned a press conference to let teammates and the world know about his decision. Just how many people knew about Luck’s decision and could have leaked word that eventually reached Schefter? Was it someone within team management who was floored or dismayed by the news? A team doctor? If it was, indeed, someone within the Colts, it made their own team look foolish. This news should have been kept under wraps like a Hollywood blockbuster script until it was time to pop the cork.
What’s done is done, though, and the Colts could be filed under that category. I suspect like most Chiefs fans, I have nothing against Luck, but also little to no fondness of Indy for all those Ls taken in the playoffs. Being at Arrowhead and watching them get smacked back in January after that devastating Wild Card defeat in 2013 was wildly gratifying. Luck had helped lead the Colts to wins in 10 of the 11 games prior to that snowy Saturday.
With Luck, more dates against the Colts in January for the Chiefs looked like a pretty decent wager. Just over a month ago, ESPN published NFL Future Power Rankings that had Indianapolis at the very top, trailed by New England, Philadelphia, then Kansas City and Seattle. Of the handful, only New England didn’t score a “top-5” QB, though Brady’s rank of eighth is more indicative of the future than now. An Oct. 6 game at Arrowhead when the Colts come to town now seems like much less of a test, as oddsmakers have Indy down at seven wins for the season instead of 10.
Without Luck, there’s lots of work to be done for Colts general manager Chris Ballard, formerly Kansas City’s director of player personnel and football operations. Indy’s draft last year finally gave Luck some protection on the offensive line and what looks like a franchise player in linebacker Darius Leonard, who was named 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year. That’s all good and well, but the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. A talent like Pat Mahomes is a godsend, if it even needs to be said.
Fortunes can change in the NFL quickly. The Colts could go out and surrender some draft picks to reach for a QB in next year’s draft, or a veteran could see the situation as appealing and free agency could turn the tide. Until they do, the Chiefs, Pats, Browns and some of the other AFC frontrunners can feel like at least one roadblock to the Super Bowl just took a downsizing.
Some more B-roll of general thoughts from the past week’s news:
- ●Injury news wasn’t kind on the Chiefs the past few days, either. Breeland Speaks, last year’s second-round pick, suffered an MCL sprain on a play in the final minute of the third quarter in the preseason game against Pittsburgh. Instead of a potential breakout year, the Chiefs will now hope to have him back in time for the playoff push. Backup QB Chad Henne also broke his ankle and prompted the team to sign veteran Matt Moore.
- ●Major League Soccer announced St. Louis will be the recipient of an expansion franchise, which is good news for all parties involved. The city has a history of producing good youth talent, and for supporting international games, which should translate well. When locals balked at funding a stadium — a ballot measure was defeated in April 2017 — it was hard to fault them after Stan Kroenke left the town high and dry by relocating the Rams. Designs of the stadium released in April that were pending a franchise awarded make it appear as if it will try to enclose crowd noise as well as any in MLS. Sporting Kansas City will benefit by finally getting a true geographic rival. Those games, like Seattle-Portland, are frequently featured on national TV and help drive general fan interest.
- ●No. 8 Florida took a sloppy 24-20 win over Miami that “kicked off” the college football season Saturday night. It was, by my count, the first time in at least a while that a game worth anything was scheduled before Labor Day weekend. Schedule-wise it jumped the gun, and the way it played from reports and highlights backed that up. The schedule gets into full swing on Thursday with No. 1 Clemson, and it should feel appropriately back by Saturday when Mizzou visits Wyoming and Auburn-Oregon highlights the Week 1 slate.
- ●Caris Levert was really good at Michigan, but a plague of injuries might have diminished just how good he was in college. The bug bit him again last year, but not before he did enough in New Jersey to secure him a three-year, $52.5 million extension. The 20th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft turned himself into at least a sizable part of why the Nets landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Bryan Everson can be followed on Twitter @BryanEversonMF.