Andrew Luck’s comeback season should lead to individual recognition
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Andrew Luck has been more revealing than in years past. He’s allowed glimpses into his inner workings, shared snippets of his emotions. An appreciative smile seemingly has followed him into every meeting with the media.
Having something that means so much to you taken away, and wondering if you’ll ever get it back, can have that affect on someone, certainly an elite professional athlete.
This was Luck in the aftermath of the Indianapolis Colts’ 38-10 dismantling of the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago.
“I was not in a good spot a year ago today. I remember that,’’ he said. “I am in a good spot now.’’
Yes he is.
No longer is Luck pestered with questions regarding his surgically-repaired right shoulder. Or his extended rehab in the Netherlands. Or his exhaustive work on the West Coast with throwing gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeaux. Or his graduated transition from throwing weighted balls to an undersized football to a legit NFL football.
Or, after Frank Reich used Jacoby Brissett’s howitzer on a Hail Mary at Philadelphia, whether there still was a concern with Luck’s arm strength.
Now, Andrew Luck is just playing. And at a high level, arguably at a level that rivals at any point in his career.
Thursday, he was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for November. Luck led the Colts to three wins this month with impeccable quarterback play: 74-of-95, 925 yards, 9 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, a 125.7 passer rating.
The overriding objective is team first. Always.
But let’s not kid ourselves.
On this Comeback Season, Thursday’s honor likely is the first headed in Luck’s direction.
Comeback Player of the Year?
“Sure, I would love for him to get it,’’ offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “I would be really happy for Andrew to get that because he has worked really hard to get back to this point of playing the type of football he’s playing right now.’’
During the five-game winning streak, Luck is completing 75.8 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 129.6 passer rating. He’s the second Colts QB to complete at least 70 percent of his passes in five straight games, joining Peyton Manning (six straight in 2008).
Luck ranks second in the NFL with 33 TDs and has had at least three TDs in eight straight games, tying Manning for the second-longest streak in NFL history.
It won’t be a slamdunk for Luck to be named Comeback Player of the Year, not with Houston’s J.J. Watt in the mix.
Not surprisingly, Luck isn’t preoccupied with the possibility.
“I honestly haven’t thought about it,’’ he said. “It’s just fun to play football. I think anybody who has gone through a significant injury and missed time or missed a season and comes back, I think your perspective certainly changes.
“Yeah, just appreciative to be playing and certainly when a team does well, guys get awards. If at the end of the year there are guys getting recognized, then that’s probably indicative of us being a good team.’’
How about Most Valuable Player? New Orleans’ Drew Brees should be the clear front-runner, with the Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley probably on his heels. After that? Perhaps Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, even the Chargers’ Philip Rivers.
Perhaps Luck? If the Colts can finish their climb out of the 1-5 hole and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014, he should at least be in the discussion.
“Yeah, absolutely,’’ Frank Reich said. “The string of games he has put together, playing a high level.
“(He’s) doing everything that you would think an MVP player would, winning and helping win the kind of games that we have won and just the level of consistency week-in and week-out.’’
Marcus Brady has worked with Luck on a daily basis since being brought in by Reich to be his assistant quarterbacks coach. He prepped for the job by reviewing video of Luck, getting to know as much as possible about the cornerstone of the franchise.
Since Luck’s early rehab involved throwing with weighted balls, the initial task was to concentrate on his mechanics and the fundamentals of playing the position. House and Dedeaux focused on tweaking Luck’s throwing motion, making it more compact.
“He’s come off the injury when I got here, so really it was getting him back in the rhythm of taking the drops, seeing the field, the movements in the pocket,’’ Brady said. “It wasn’t new to him, but he was a little rusty with that.
“It was just taking reps, reps and reps. You could see him progress. You could see the difference if you watched the film from the first day of practice in training camp to the second day, third day. He improved each day. He just felt more and more comfortable being surrounded by pass rush in the pocket. His throws and accuracy continued to improve and it’s improved throughout the season.
“Arm’s stronger. He’s running around, trusting himself a lot more. You can see the success he’s had.’’
Contributing to Luck’s success has been an offensive line that has stabilized with the insertion of rookie guard Quenton Nelson and return of left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Nelson, center Ryan Kelly and right guard Mark Glowinski have offered Luck a solid interior in protection, which has allowed him to step up in the pocket to avoid the outside rushers and step into his throws.
“He hasn’t always had that,’’ Brady said. “Whenever you have that as a quarterback, it keeps you in rhythm because you want to be able to step into your throws.
“When you can take your drop, step up, feel clean and not feel the presence in front of you . . . you’re going to be an accurate quarterback and we’re going to be successful.’’
And be in the conversation for MVP?
“Just the way he’s playing,’’ he said. “Every game obviously we require a lot out of him. There’s a lot on his shoulders and he steps up to the plate every week.
“He’s always been great. He was great before I got here. It was just getting the reps, getting comfortable, getting back to where he was. Not just to where he was, but even better.
“He’s still a young quarterback. He’s going to improve.’’