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The Specialness of Andrew Luck is up for Debate

First and Forever: Is Andrew Luck Really Special?
Gene Clemons

Another year for the Indianapolis Colts begin with questions about their quarterback’s health. This is now the fourth straight year that Andrew Luck has had injury concerns. This is in stark contrast to his predecessor Peyton Manning, who went and incredible 16 consecutive years without missing a start. National media throw up signs for concern when discussing the idea of Luck missing games. They make statements like, “The team has been built around Luck.” 

My question is why?

What is so special about Andrew Luck?

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

When Luck entered the draft in 2012, he was heralded as one of the greatest quarterback prospects ever! His size, speed, arm strength, intelligence, poise under pressure, and leadership ability was supposed to make him a hybrid of Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said that Luck was, “The best player I’ve ever graded. He is expected to win multiple Super Bowls. He is expected to be a Hall of Famer.”

That is high praise for a guy who couldn’t lift his team to a Pac-12 championship.

The truth of the matter is that Luck has not lived up to the hype thrown his way by Kiper or any other scout that heaped unearned adulation on him. In fact, Stanford won PAC-12 championships in three out of the next four post-Luck seasons. Even digging back into his high school career at Stratford High School, his sophomore season was the only one that produced a state championship. And he was not the focal point of that team. The two seasons when he was the focus, they failed to win the chip. 

Is Luck that much different than a QB who faces far more scrutiny in Jameis Winston?

Winston has been scrutinized for being seemingly jittery in the pocket at times; so has Luck. He has been criticized for throwing untimely interceptions; so has Luck. In Luck’s first four seasons, he accounted for 101 passing touchdowns, 12 rushing touchdowns, 55 interceptions, and 32 fumbles on a team that was ready to win immediately. Winston tallied 88 passing touchdowns, nine rushing touchdowns, 58 interceptions and 38 fumbles on a team that was in full rebuild mode. Both seem to be turnover prone, but Luck has always been afforded time and excuses.

If we’re being completely honest and unbiased here, Luck has not even been the best quarterback in the class of 2012. That distinction goes to Russell Wilson, who has not only won a Superbowl, but lead his team to another Super Bowl appearance. He also boasts a higher completion percentage and 20 less interceptions, despite playing a full season more than Luck. WIlson has never enjoyed the shine of Luck, he has been constantly questioned throughout his career, even when it came time to pay him. The Colts just dropped a bag of money in Luck’s lap without giving it a second thought.

Probably the biggest indictment of Luck, is how completely normal he becomes in the games that matter the most.

In eight playoff games, he has only completed 56.4% of his passes and has more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12). Those types of numbers would have many other cities looking for an upgrade at quarterback, not looking to double down.

“Is this your king?” Is this the golden child touched by the football gods? Or is this just another good, not great quarterback compiling regular season stats? What makes him different than Matt Stafford, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, or a slew of other quarterbacks to come through the NFL and do nothing more than be ‘good’ in the regular season, build up their team’s hopes, collect large sums of money, and let them all come crashing down upon
the discovery that he is not enough?

There’s no doubt that Luck has talent, but there are many talented quarterbacks. 
Everyone told us that Luck would be special. When presented with the history, we should have known better than to believe them. How many times have we been fed the same lines about quarterbacks? Forever! You think we would have learned our lesson by now. The Colts will more than likely back the Brinks truck up again and drop another truckload of money on Luck’s doorstep.

And that is what’s special about Luck.

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

 

FBGP’s NFL Week 5 Preview: Colts vs Patriots

Fitzmagic is an Illusion

Don’t Buy Into the Fitz Hype

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been great! There’s no denying that fact!

The Buccaneers are off to a great start behind the former Harvard star, and the passing game has been a primary reason. It has been reported that receiver Desean Jackson has endorsed the long-time veteran QB, to keep him as the starter. It makes sense coming from Jackson, who has five touchdown passes from Fitzpatrick and only one from Jameis Winston. But as much fun as it is watching Fitzpatrick dress up like an inflated Connor McGregor figurine, Jackson and Bucs fans need to pump the brakes on leaving Winston on the bench.

“Fitzmagic” is exactly what it sounds like, magic. It’s an illusion. And the idea that this illusion is somehow real, has been responsible for several other teams stunting their growth, while hoping that Fitzpatrick could bring them to the promised land. After he was barely visible in St. Louis and Cincy, he got his shot in Buffalo, and Fitzmagic was born; resulting in four seasons of personal mediocrity and below average team success.

In his next two stops as a starter, he was Fitztragic in Tennessee and Fitzbland in Houston. At 33 years old the Fitzmagic appeared again in New York and he posted his best statistical season of his career; 3900 yards, 31 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and his team went 10-6. The following season he was Fitzgarbage en route to his worse season as a pro; 2700 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, the second worst total of his career (23 ints in ‘11).

So is a five or six game sample size at almost age 36 is supposed to be proof that the Buccaneers should leave their young prodigy on the bench? Really? Since when?

Even if you argued that Fitzpatrick was better right now, we have seen that meritocracy doesn’t mean much at the quarterback position. Kaepernick is out of a job, but so many horrible quarterbacks are employed. Josh Allen and Sam Darnold are both starting when their teams decided to trade away AJ McCarron and Teddy Bridgewater, the best options for success on their teams. Tyrod Taylor would have the Browns at 2-0 if it wasn’t for field goal kicking so bad, it made Bucs fans cringe. Instead they are chanting for Baker Mayfield. Eli Manning has been terrible for years and his job has never been in jeopardy until he was justifiably benched last season in favor of Geno Smith. The Giants were destroyed for their correct decision and not only went back to the 37-year old Manning, but doubled down on him in the offseason by not adding any competition at the position, and letting Geno Smith end up with the Chargers.

People always bring up the turnovers for WInston as proof that he may not be the answer, but they conveniently forget all of the positives about his game. In his first three seasons, Winston has accounted for more yards (12,149 to 11,814) than Fitzpatrick in his best three seasons. They both complete passes at just above 60% but while Fitzpatrick has more touchdowns (82 to Winston’s 77 total TDs), Winston’s 44 interceptions in his first three years is 10 shy of Fitzpatrick’s best seasons. All of this, and most are willing to admit that Winston has superior arm talent, mobility, and is almost 11 years younger.

The reason that most media members are onboard with benching Winston has nothing to do with his on-field performance, and everything to do with questionable decisions that the quarterback made off the field dating back to college. Many have not, and never will, forgiven him for his bad judgements. This disdain for Winston as a person has skewed their views of him as a quarterback talent, which has led these people to believe that the Buccaneers would be better off cutting ties with him.

Hopefully the Tampa Bay braintrust is smarter than making a business decision based off emotion. The idea that you should not play your most talented players because you have a personal issue with the player is not conducive to winning. I am sure the other teams in the NFC, and especially the East, would love to see Fitzpatrick continue in this role because they know that eventually he will regress to the normal Fitz.

Fitzmagic is just like any other illusion. It is fun to watch for a short amount of time, but at some point you realize that it is not real and you are ready to go home. Winston is almost home Tampa Bay. Don’t stay away too long or you may find yourself trying to find a new home.

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

FBGP’s 2018 NFL Week 3 Preview – Jets vs Browns

Bucs Should Go “Gruden” on Mack

Mack Would Make the Bucs Defense Complete

Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst

From the moment the Oakland Raiders didn’t make perennial defensive All-Pro Khalil Mack the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, the rumors began that this might get ugly. When they made former Bucs and Raiders head man Jon Gruden the highest paid head coach in NFL history, after not coaching for over 10 years, you began to wonder about their ability to sign Mack and the trade rumors began. The idea that the Raiders would trade an asset of the caliber of Mack in his prime, continues the belief that there is something wrong in this organization. Well, one team’s problem is another team’s promise. That promise should once again be given to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs have not made a generational splash move since acquiring Gruden long ago from the Raiders for two first round picks, two second round picks and eight million dollars. Even the Darrelle Revis, six-year 96 million dollar contract, was a low, long-term risk in its structure and didn’t cost the Bucs draft picks. But, the Gruden deal was the last time they gambled, and no matter what anyone thinks about it, the Bucs won their first and only Super Bowl. The time has come to gamble again. This time the acquisition makes more sense. Mack fills a legitimate need, and would be the last piece in what could become one of the most dominant defenses in the league. They should trade two first round picks, two second round picks, Vinny Curry, and 10 million in cash for Khalil Mack.

Gerald McCoy has forever been compared to Warren Sapp. But McCoy has never had what Sapp had, a dominant defensive end to play alongside. While many think Jason Pierre-Paul may be McCoy’s Simeon Rice, there’s no denying that with the addition of Mack, they would have an pair of ends that would rival the Texans JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Now the Vita Vea draft pick makes perfect sense, as he would operate in the middle and suck up two blockers while they turn the other three loose. The pass rush becomes even scarier when you take Vita Vea out and move JPP to the interior with McCoy, and unleash a beefed up Noah Spence off edge.

Detractors would point to cost and tell you the price tag is too high and yes, the price is high. After all, it’s probably going to take QB money or a fully guaranteed contract to get a deal done after you trade for him. But, the Bucs have a discounted quarterback this season and next season in Jameis Winston.  Also, they still hold Winston’s fifth-year option. What better time to use your buying power.

If Mack, a Florida native, gets to come home and helps transform this unit into the ‘Pewter People Eaters’, will anyone care that the Bucs are not active on the first day of the draft?

Some might call it a gamble, some might call it a calculated risk. Bucs fans should call it providence.

Questions? Comments?

Twitter: @geneclemons

Email: gclemons@footballgameplan.com

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