NFL Draft Analysis: Five Reasons Andrew Luck Will Be A Bust
by Robert Ferringo - 4/25/2012
For about eight months now we, the football-loving public, have had the idea that Andrew Luck is an absolute can’t miss stud prospect and the Next Big Thing crammed down our throats.
Well, I’m not buying it.
There are plenty of reasons to think that Luck will be an excellent pro quarterback. Hell, with the rule changes and pussification of the sport under Herr Goodell it’s almost difficult NOT to put up enough big passing numbers to be considered a good NFL signal caller.
Luck was exceptionally efficient over the course of his three-year career. He’s been a very good college quarterback. And he made a lot of people a disgusting amount of money with Stanford’s legendary run against the spread over the last two years. He throws a good ball, is a good decision maker and leader, and he has a lot of tools.
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But while draft analysts and the rest of the bobblehead media have been fawning all over Luck heading into Thursday’s NFL Draft – where Luck will be the No. 1 overall pick – I have been thinking of reasons why he is closer to becoming the next Tim Couch than he is to become the next Peyton Manning. And they aren’t all that unreasonable or that difficult to come up with.
Here are five reasons why I think that Andrew Luck will be a disappointment in the NFL:
1. The numbers are stacked against any quarterback.
There have been dozens of highly touted, can’t miss quarterback prospects that have fallen on their faces in the NFL. And you don’t even have to dig that deep to find all the ones that missed. The reality is that there are only 32 open quarterback positions available and there has been an average of five quarterbacks taken in the first three rounds over the last 14 drafts. That is attrition and only the very best guys hold their jobs. And that means that it is very much an uphill climb for every quarterback coming out of college simply because they enter a logjam at the position.
Also, there have been 15 quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall over the last 25 years. Each of the last three seasons has seen a QB go NO. 1 overall and it is way to early to make any judgments on Cam Newton, Sam Bradford and Matt Stafford. That leaves 12. Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning are Hall-of-Fame guys. But the other nine have been a mixed back of very good (Drew Bledsoe), kind of good (Vinny Testaverde, Carson Palmer, Mike Vick) and total bust (Couch, David Carr, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith and Jeff George).
So, again, the NFL odds are that any quarterback taken in the first three rounds has a better chance of not making it than they do of becoming a star. And even if you are the No. 1 overall pick the odds are greater that you are going to be somewhere between mediocre and a total bust than they are that you will be a franchise quarterback. Nothing against Luck. But the odds are the odds. And right now they are telling me that it would be much more surprising if he did work out than if he didn’t.
2. West Coast quarterbacks have been flops.
I can’t expect Luck to answer for the failings of his West Coast brothers over the past 15 years. But the facts are the facts. And the fact is that quarterbacks taken from the Pac-12, Mountain West and other obvious West Coast conferences have been duds over the last 15 years.
If you consider only quarterbacks taken in the first four rounds (any QB taken after that is a total gamble and you can’t take their odds of making an NFL team very seriously) the roster of dudes from the West Coast that have tried to play quarterback in the NFL recently is, well, unimpressive:
Mark Sanchez, Kevin O’Connell, John Beck, Trent Edwards, Matt Leinart, Kellen Clemens, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Walter, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Marques Tuiasosopo, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Brock Huard, Ryan Leaf and Jake Plummer. Would you really want anyone other than Rodgers and Plummer on your team? As an NFL handicapper, I can say I certainly wouldn’t lay money down on any of them.
Listen, I’m not saying that other conferences haven’t had their share of busts. Louisville alone has produced a comical list of failures. And I can’t say why guys from the Left Coast consistently don’t pan out. But if you really look at the West Coast guys that have come out over the last 15 years it is pretty uninspiring.
2. He had Jim Harbaugh and some excellent teammates to make him look good.
Have you ever considered that Luck was a rousing success because he had a lot to work with at Stanford?
Harbaugh is an incredible coach. He proved it in his time with the Cardinal and then re-affirmed it with his amazing rookie season in San Francisco. And if there were any questions about his ability to nurture quarterbacks you just have to look at what he was able to accomplish in just one season with Alex Smith. Luck won’t have that benefit once he enters The League.
Also, there could be three other Stanford offensive players taken in the first round of this weekend’s draft. Two of them – guard David DeCastro and tackle Jonathan Martin – are likely Top 20 picks and tight end Coby Fleener is considered the best player at his position. In Luck’s first season he also had Heisman finalist Toby Gerhardt to lean on and has had two other NFL picks from his team taken the last two years. Those Stanford teams, from top to bottom, were legit.
Again, I’m not saying that Luck didn’t play great in his college career. But let’s not pretend that he didn’t have a brilliant coach and other NFL-caliber talent surrounding him. And it’s not like he was facing many top-tier defenses during his time in the Pac-12.
4. He’s going to be expected to start right away.
This is the same thing that is working against Robert Griffin III and why I think they both have strong bust potential:
“The odds overwhelmingly favor rookie quarterbacks sitting on the bench and learning in their first season behind a veteran signal caller. The best quarterbacks in football – Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, etc. – all either sat the bench completely or started for less than half a season their rookie seasons. Sure, there are outliers like Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. But for everyone one of those guys there are a bunch of Alex Smith’s, David Carr’s, Kyle Boller’s and Blaine Gabbert’s.
I firmly believe that a rookie quarterback should be on the bench just trying to figure out which end is up. They need to learn the system, mature physically and emotionally, and learn to process the strategic elements of the NFL. History favors quarterbacks who don’t make their 25th start until their third season. But I don’t think that Luck will be given the option and if he develops bad habits early they could haunt him his entire career.”
5. The Indianapolis Colts are going to be awful for a long time.
Luck isn’t entering into some tailor-made situation that is set up for success. I know that people might not want to hear it, but Cam Newton was successful last year because he was put into the perfect situation. Carolina had one of the five best receivers in football (Steve Smith), two good tight ends (Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen), two former 1,000-yard running backs (DeAngelo Williams, Jon Stewart) and an offensive line dotted with Pro Bowlers. That’s a hell of a lot of talent to work with.
Luck isn’t so lucky. The Colts are in shambles. They had built their team and their offense around Peyton Manning and now he is gone. The expectations are that Luck can be the next Manning. But Peyton Manning is on the short list of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. There is absolutely no way that Luck is going to find his way into that discussion. And if he does I will be the first one to admit that I’m wrong.
But if Luck is a bust five years from now and the media bobbleheads are prattling on about how “EVERYONE thought he was a can’t miss prospect” I want you to remember that obscure article that you read on that NFL picks and predictions website that called it.
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