Published November 20, 2014
Andrew Luck is a still long way from being considered an elite NFL quarterback.
Over the coming weeks and years some very smart men who get paid significant sums of money to devise defensive schemes to stop elite players will be spending night and day trying to decipher the most insignificant of weaknesses in Luck's game.
And at some point in the future there are sure to be hiccups along the way for Luck but understand future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning was 3-13 during his first season in Indianapolis.
Luck just doubled that win total and needed all of nine games to do it, throwing for 227 yards and running for two scores as Indy avenged a Week 3 loss to lowly Jacksonville with a 27-10 thumping on Thursday night.
Luck in fact beat Manning's rookie win total in a month's worth of games, piloting the Colts to a fourth straight triumph in the Sunshine State.
"This win was huge," Luck said. "We wanted to keep our winning streak going. Jacksonville got us earlier this year. We didn't want to go 0-2 against a team. This is a good step in the right direction."
It's not like Luck took over a team loaded with talent. There was a reason Indianapolis secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft -- it earned it with a dismal 2-14 record. And in case you were wondering the Colts were 3-13 the year before Peyton arrived and hung up his own 3-13 mark in the Hoosier State.
Coming off an NFL rookie record 433 passing yards against Miami, Luck wasn't dominant in Jacksonville. His streak of four straight 300-yard passing games, which matched Manning's rookie record, did come to an end but he was able to find a way, using his legs effectively in the red zone while shaking off two turnovers to guide the Colts deep into the playoff picture with less than half the season left.
With Luck at the controls this season the Colts entered Thursday night's game fourth in the NFL in offense, averaging 390.9 yards per game. Last year with Manning on the sidelines after multiple neck surgeries and Luck still at Stanford, Indianapolis was 30th in the league with 286.8 ypg.
"We've got a lot of good kids in this locker room," said Indianapolis interim head coach Bruce Arians, who is 5-1 since taking over for the leukemia- stricken Chuck Pagano. "Everyone played their tails off. It wasn't one of our better efforts, but they played the entire time and made some great plays."
Luck and his teammates certainly have been better and the Jags may be the NFL's worst team right now but you can only vanquish the opponent put in front of you and Luck has done that 67 percent of the time so far.
At the end of the day, however, throw out all the numbers -- forget the passing yards and touchdowns. Toss out passer rating and ESPN's contrived total quarterback rating. In fact do me a favor and kick the next sabermetrician you see in the shin.
Wins are how starting quarterbacks are ultimately judged and always will be. Luck is already lapping a guy who some have labeled as the best regular season signal-caller of all-time.
You can temper all of that by understanding this is a pass-happy era and some of the all-time greats weren't operating under these rules. That said, Luck has more than lived up to his billing as the best pure quarterback prospect since Manning or perhaps John Elway. His 6-3 record as a starter is the best a No. 1 overall pick has ever put together through nine games.
"The kid, he continues to amaze," said star receiver Reggie Wayne. "Hopefully I can help add on to his legacy that he's about to build."
Maybe it's cliche but leadership could be the most important aspect of the quarterback position. When talking football all the war comparisons can be overdone but players do need someone to follow when times are tough.
Luck, unlike most young quarterbacks, leads like its his second nature, a fact exemplified by his attempt to make a tackle after throwing an interception to Dawan Landry in the second quarter on Thursday.
"If I'm going to be the one who turns the ball over, I'm damn sure going to at least try and stop the guy," Luck said.
You better believe teammates appreciate that kind of sentiment from a position often placed above the fray not only by coaches but by the league itself.
"Man, that was nice, that show of toughness," Colts backup linebacker Moise Fokou told YAHOO! Sports. "You see the quarterback do that, take one for the team like that, it gets you fired up, knowing he's going to be just like the rest of us."
A lot of quarterbacks have the arm strength or the athleticism to succeed in the NFL. Few have the intangibles, the things that are quickly recognized by most but not easily quantified by the Texas Instruments crowd.
When asked to grade himself last week at the midpoint of the season Luck gave himself a C and he remained on more than a even keel after Thursday's win.
"No one looks back at the fact that you were 6-3 in the middle of the season," said Luck. "It's what we do at the end of the season."
Talk about hitting the lottery.
Just like Manning, the new Colts quarterback has it all both on and off the field, and nothing Luck does moving forward will ever be defined by a horseshoe.