After signing the largest contract extension in NFL history, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will look to carry his team back to the playoffs in 2016. The contract signed is a five-year extension that averages $24.59M in new money annually. At signing, Luck received $47M in fully guaranteed money and $87M in injury guarantees. Additionally, his contract carries heavy vesting guarantees that make the quarterback virtually uncuttable through 2019/2020.
When news of the extension hit the media, Colts fans everywhere celebrated. When considering Luck’s recent play and the numbers he signed for, was celebration too optimistic? With Andrew’s new extension comes incredibly high expectations from both coaches, management, and the rest of the NFL. In 2015, he completed only 55% of his passes with a 6.4 Y/A and a 74.9 passer rating. That doesn’t necessarily scream “franchise saver.” The quarterback has impressed in previous years but his play in 2015 took a sudden turn for the worse. Fans will point to his injuries as cause for his poor play, but the quarterback excused that notion:
"Injuries aside, I was not playing very good football -- before they happened," Luck told ESPN, according to Pro Football Talk. "I've got to be better. Toward my last couple games I felt like I was playing much better, trending in the right direction."
Other excuses include pointing fingers at the offensive line. Sure, his offensive line has never been great. But Russell Wilson has consistently thrived under an even poorer offensive line with the Seattle Seahawks. Some journalists pointed fingers right at Andrew:
“It's the truth that no one wants to speak. Luck's tendency to look deep, miss opportunities and fail on third downs are stifling the Colts' offense. He needs to improve if Indianapolis is to be a legitimate playoff team…..But overall, it’s time to stop giving Luck a pass. He’s not hurt. He has adequate receivers. His defense has done enough to keep him in most games this season. There’s room for optimism and improvement, but there’s no indication we should expect it.”
Wilson and Luck have both struggled at times. However, when statistically comparing the two quarterbacks, it tells a different story.
Furthermore, their performances in crunch time don’t compare either.
Nobody is doubting that Luck is a good quarterback. He is. But is he great? Did he deserve the extension he signed? Probably not, considering his recent career trajectory. Wilson currently makes around $3-4M less per year than him. And it’s pretty clear that Luck isn’t in the same quarterback class as Wilson. This contract comparison is another testament to the brilliance of Seahawks general manager John Schneider. Extending Wilson before Luck ended up saving Seattle quite a bit of future salary cap dollars. However, with the scarce talent at the quarterback position and the rising salary cap, one could argue the Colts didn’t really have a choice. Luck is currently overpaid -- but not by much. Overpaying a good quarterback is better than paying a small salary to a bad quarterback.
Andrew is currently being paid based on his potential as a quarterback and the fact that the Colts could not afford to lose him, not on his proven production. I’m readily willing to admit that he might have the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the NFL. But four years in and Luck has a long way to go. If he doesn’t bounce back in 2016 — whether that’s going back to his 2014 numbers or a deep playoff run — a complete firestorm of media and fan criticism could finally be headed his way.