Andrew Luck has officially retired. One 20-minute press conference on Saturday night radically changed the NFL landscape for the entire 2019-20 season. Luck’s decision not only shook the Colts organization and fans to their core but also dramatically impacted Super Bowl odds. The Indianapolis Colts are turning to backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett and planning on bringing in another veteran quarterback to the roster.
Luck’s announcement has received mixed reactions. Angry fans called him a quitter. However, some ex-players have applauded Luck for courageously stepping away because his mind and body could no longer endure the perils of the NFL. Fans at Lucas Oil Stadium booed Luck as he walked off the field. The fans’ anger is misdirected. If anyone is to blame for the abrupt end to Luck’s career, it’s Bruce Arians. So don’t hate Andrew Luck for retiring, hate his first offensive coordinator.
Why Bruce Arians Is a Culprit in Andrew Luck’s Retirement
The No Risk It, No Biscuit Philosophy by Offensive Coordinator Arians
Bruce Arians’ aggressive play-calling helped him become one of the most respected coaches in all of the NFL. His offensive scheme centers on deep post routes, fly routes and other routes that take time to develop. Truthfully, Arians’ offense is far from perfect. In 14 seasons, Arians-coached quarterbacks ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in interceptions thrown. Plus waiting for receivers to come open can lead to sacks. In 2012, Luck was sacked 41 times and threw 18 interceptions as a rookie. He was under pressure so much, he ran for an additional 255 yards and five touchdowns thrown on the run.
If you believe NFL rumor mills, Arians’ aggressive play-calling cost him his job with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers concluded his offensive scheme was putting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at greater injury risk. So the Steelers decided not to extend Arians’ contract and hired Todd Haley instead.
Where’s The Balance?
Colts ownership and general managers have also gotten their fair share of the blame for the end of the Luck career. Luck never played behind a stout offensive line. But, a more balanced offensive scheme could have helped his longevity too. Look at how Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has used several different running backs to protect Tom Brady from pass rushers over the years.
True, runners like Rashard Mendenhall and David Johnson have succeeded in Arians-led offenses. But Arians is a pass-first play-caller and prefers running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield. He doesn’t run a balanced offense that matriculates the ball down the field methodically. He wants to throw the ball deep and get chunk yardage.
The Colts’ running backs during Luck’s rookie season were Vick Ballard and Donald Brown. They’re not exactly Hall of Fame-caliber runners. We will never know how much damage was done to Luck’s health as a result of his rookie campaign under Bruce Arians.
The Colts Odds Are Out of Luck
Prior to Luck’s surprise retirement announcement, the Colts were a top 10 pick to win Super Bowl LIV at 16-1. After his shocking decision, sportsbooks adjusted their championship lines instantaneously. The Colts’ odds nosedived to 60-1 pick to be world champions. Only 10 teams in the league have worse odds at winning it all. The Miami Dolphins are the biggest longshots in the league at 170-1.
The Colts also saw their projected win total for the 2019 season fall from 9.5 to 6.5. They were the odds-on favorite to win the AFC South, but now have the worst odds of any team in the division. Unsurprisingly their chances at claiming a conference title are also in the dumps, shifting all the way from 8-1 down to 25-1.
The Colts organization probably has mixed emotions about the Luck decision. For every supportive public statement, there’s some fans and executives in Indianapolis who’d agree with Doug Gottlieb of Fox Sports Radio who bashed Luck’s decision in a tweet. He wrote, “Retiring cause rehabbing is ‘too hard’ is the most millennial thing ever #Andrew Luck.” A lost season leads to frustration and anger. But as it relates to Luck, it’s where the anger should be directed. Hate the offensive coordinator, not the player.
Bruce Arians did not intend to hurt Andrew Luck or shorten his career. But Arians’ myopic winning formula got Luck beat up. As fans, we’ll never know if he ever recovered from the pounding he received during his rookie year.