Two photos. That’s it.
The day was April 27, 2012. I was on an elliptical at a 24 Hour Fitness in Carson, California, trying my darndest to get in shape for the dozenth or so time in my life. It was also day two of that year’s NFL draft and I figured I could squeeze in that commitment to myself with my commitment to the Seahawks. I don’t even remember the military man announcing the selection on ESPN, only the reaction and highlight videos from analysts after the pick.
At best I thought the selection of Russell Wilson would give me something interesting to write about during the 2012 season on Field Gulls, at worst, I would never be in shape. In the context of football, the worst case scenario was of course that Wilson was a wasted pick in the third round. At 5’10 and with virtually no examples of a successful quarterback at that height at my repertoire, I spent the next six months or so writing about how the only logical choice at quarterback for Seattle was Matt Flynn.
Of course, by the end of that season, we were debating if Wilson was a better quarterback than the first name mentioned on April 26, 2012.
And by “we” I mean Seahawks fans. Nobody else was debating that with us at the end of 2012. There was Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III ... then yeah, that Wilson kid could be a fun flash in the pan story for a hopeless franchise. Good for them for getting their “‘95 Mariners story” out of the way in 2012.
Six more seasons after that I still don’t know how many people are actually willing to debate with us that Wilson was better than Luck. And the debate doesn’t matter any more than it did for any of the last seven years: it never really mattered. We passed the time that way, starting Twitter beefs that way, set off countless blocks and mutes that way, and let it be known that if Wilson was going to overcompensate for his height and play the part of underdog, so too would his fans never give up the fight.
This week, Luck announced that he would be giving up his own fight, not against football or Russell Wilson (of course, Luck and Wilson probably do not understand the debate and wouldn’t get involved even if they could) but against his own body’s lack of commitment to not hurting. For the second time in three years, Luck has gone through an entire offseason and been ruled out just on the cusp of Week 1. This time he was the one who said he could no longer go on like this, and he also says that he won’t be coming back in 2020 or ever again.
I believe him when he says that, though I don’t know that anyone, including Luck, can say how he’ll feel in six months.
If this is the end for Andrew Luck though, then it’s worth one last examination of comparing his seven-year career to the seven years that Russell Wilson has endured himself since those long draft days in late April, 2012. When “Suck for Luck” ruled the conversation and “Hustle a lil sum’, for Russell Wilson” was never uttered by anyone. Nobody was guessing that Wilson would end up superior in nearly every statistical category ...
Especially given that Luck gets to wrap his career with a pretty nice bow.
This is not dancing on the grave of a quarterback’s career gone too soon. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Luck both on the way he played the game and how good he was at it. The way he treated everyone around him, including opponents. He would congratulate defensive players who sacked him, and I’m sure he’d happily be one of the first people to point out that the career of Wilson far surpassed not only that of a 75th overall pick, but was comparable to some of the best quarterbacks ever drafted.
It’s a shame that more than seven years after that fateful day for me in a 24 Hour Fitness that I only have two photos of these two quarterbacks together and they’re both within seconds of each other after the only game these two ever played in together.
The Colts won 34-28. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl four months later. We figured at that point that even in different conferences, this would be far from the last time we’d ever see Luck v Wilson. It was the first time. It was probably the last time. And I just think that’s a damn shame for two of the best quarterbacks to enter the NFL in the last 20 years.
Because of injuries, Luck played in 26 fewer games than Wilson. Despite this, Wilson threw 20 fewer interceptions than Luck but he did take 125 more sacks. Wilson also rushed the ball 313 more times than Luck, but Luck only had two fewer rushing touchdowns. Luck averaged two touchdown throws per game compared to 1.75 for Wilson, another advantage for the Colts QB.
Luck finishes with exactly 2,000 career completions. The averages and rate stats fall short of Wilson across the board, but his net yards per pass attempt is fairly close.
But Luck’s numbers improved as he went on, culminating in Indianapolis having a great offensive line in 2018 and Luck only being sacked 18 times in 16 starts. If you run it back from 2016-2018, Luck of course misses all of 2017, but his rate stats comp much more nicely to Wilson’s:
Since 2016, Luck has a higher completion percentage, higher NY/A, and higher adjusted NY/A. Their passer ratings are only separated by 1.1 points now and Luck is only a shade behind Wilson in yards per attempt. Wilson had to play in 17 more contests, making his rate stats a little bit more impressive, but when you consider an expected trajectory for Luck, especially as the team around him got better, it wouldn’t be hard to see how this was potentially trending in favor of the Colts QB over the next decade.
At the very least, it could have been a lot closer than it was for the first few years. Luck was getting better on the field, and unfortunately much worse off of it.
I’m sorry that we never got to see where this “rivalry” that the fans invented (myself included and somewhere near the top of the guilty list) was going. And I’m bummed that we only got to see one game and two photos. The league could have used a lot more of that.
And Andrew Luck deserved a lot better.