Andrew Luck Overrated

Is Andrew Luck overrated? His feeble stats scream yes, but there's a Sunday Night catch

Is Andrew Luck overrated? Colts quarterback's feeble stats scream yes

Andrew Luck Texans
Andrew Luck does not wow with stats. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Andrew Luck Colts sacked
Andrew Luck has already taken his fair of sacks from the Houston Texans defense. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Russell Wilson Texans short
Russell Wilson might seem to stand taller in achievement than Andrew Luck. But there is something about the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Andrew Luck Texans
Andrew Luck Colts sacked
Russell Wilson Texans short

This is the part of the discussion where identifying the sublimeness of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck becomes a strained exercise.

A quick perusal of traditional statistics reveals little supporting the notion that Luck is on the fast track to elite status. In fact, Luck is nowhere to be found among league leaders at his position. Football fans are conditioned to believe that superb quarterback play is identifiable via raw counting numbers like passing yards or touchdowns, with recent shifts in analysis swinging weight to yards per pass attempt.

Luck ranks outside of the Top 10 in all three categories, and advanced passing statistics define Luck as below average in yards per attempt and completion percentage.

Haphazard reasoning allows for citing intangibles as rationale for celebrating Luck, but there are statistical merits supporting that label. As heir to Peyton Manning, Luck delivered the Colts to the postseason in 2012 despite a slew of metrics discrediting their resume. His rookie performance was understandably uneven, with Luck tossing a whopping 18 interceptions and completing just 54.1 percent of his attempts while amassing 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns.

 Savvy and moxie are difficult to quantify, but there is no denying Luck features both in bolstering his undeniably prodigious talent. 

Of course Luck famously engineered seven game-winning, fourth-quarter drives, feeding the clutch narrative.

In some sense, history has repeated itself. Luck is tied for fourth with two game-winning drives this season, and his performances against the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos were largely responsible for the Colts securing three of the most impressive victories by any team in the NFL. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Luck has converted all seven of his third-down rushing attempts into first downs.

Savvy and moxie are difficult to quantify, but there is no denying Luck features both in bolstering his undeniably prodigious talent.

"Obviously we feel like he is trending in the right direction," Colts coach Chuck Pagano says. "The talent and all that stuff is there and his intangibles are off the chart and the way he's managing the game and managing the ball by taking care of the football this year compared to last.

"I know the numbers are a little bit different as far as passing yards and things like that, but he's doing a great job of managing the offense."

Game Manager Andrew Luck?

Lauding quarterbacks for "managing an offense" usually comes across as faint or damning praise, but in this case it doesn't sublimate what Luck has accomplished thus far this season. By stubborn insistence on running the football the Colts have stripped Luck of the chore of having to make every play in order for the offense to function. The result has been a sharp decline in individual counting statistics like passing yards (Luck is averaging 224.9 passing yards compared to 273.4 passing yards as a rookie), but an increase in offensive efficiency and productivity.

Luck singularly deserves credit for decreasing his interception rate to a league-leading 1.32 percent and, by association, stewarding an offense that has produced an NFL-low six turnovers. The Colts rank sixth in third-down conversion rate (42.7 percent) and are tied for ninth in red-zone efficiency at 61.9 percent. Subsequently, they rank eighth in scoring averaging 26.7 points, and Luck deserves significant credit for orchestrating an offense that rarely makes mistakes and frequently capitalizes on every opportunity presented.

 They are 3-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer this season, so perhaps Luck has mastered this specific skill. 

This is where Luck, showered with praise upon entering the league following his brilliant career at Stanford, is justifiably lionized. His intelligence, leadership and discretion are crucial assets that complement his physical gifts.

"I'd like to think I've improved situationally," Luck says when discussing his maturation behind center. "Understanding it's OK maybe to throw it away or avoid a hit. When you really need to force it in there. I'm definitely not perfect at it by any means.

"I've made some bonehead errors, but in that area, I think I've done better."

His improvement is irrefutable. One season after guiding the Colts to an 11-5 finish, nearly four wins over their Pythagorean approximation, against the easiest schedule in the league, Luck has Indianapolis (5-2) poised to run away with the AFC South should it manage a victory over the two-time division champion Houston Texans (2-5) in the NBC Sunday Night Football showcase at Reliant Stadium.

In 2012 the Colts finished 9-1 in one-score games, a record decried as unsustainable. They are 3-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer this season, so perhaps Luck has mastered this specific skill.

One thing appears certain: Luck is masterful at remaining understated. Regression has the natives restless in D.C., where Robert Griffin III is under attack for his poor performances and an apparently galling lack of modesty. Russell Wilson has his Seahawks atop the heap in the NFC West, but a slew of injuries on offense have stalled his individual progress. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the fourth member of the Gang of Four, is performing efficiently and San Francisco has won five consecutive games, but his dynamic play from a year ago has subsided.

Luck somehow remains both consistent and ascendant, a reflection of his talent and his understanding of his place in the grand scheme of things. His deflection of praise is as sincere as his embracing of responsibility. With each display of acumen, Luck moves closer toward fulfilling potential that seemed impossibly vast when he was selected first overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

If Luck is inching in the direction of his inevitable greatness, it is due to the Colts' desire to protect him. But when he has been unleashed, the full account of his ability cannot be disregarded.

"We're trying to take some weight off his shoulders in that regard," Pagano says. "But when we do need to drop back and throw it, certainly we know he's more than capable."