This was supposed to be a quiet weekend in New England, with the Patriots taking a couple days off and getting ready for the final preseason game Thursday and roster cutdowns next weekend.
But Andrew Luck rocked the sports world on Saturday night by announcing his retirement from the Colts after just seven seasons. It’s the most shocking retirement in the NFL, and perhaps all of sports, since Ricky Williams abruptly walked away from the Dolphins in July 2004.
Luck’s retirement has wide-ranging consequences for not just the Colts, but also the Patriots and the rest of the AFC.
Let’s take a closer look at Luck’s decision and what it all means:
■First and foremost, you have to wish Luck the best. For him to be walking away from the NFL at just 29 years old shows just how much pain he has been in — physical and mental.
“I feel quite exhausted, and quite tired,” Luck said Saturday night at his impromptu retirement news conference. “I feel tired, and not just in a physical sense.”
Playing behind a shoddy offensive line for the majority of his career, Luck now walks away from the NFL a beaten and bruised man. He missed 26 games in seven seasons, including the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury. He has suffered torn rib cartilage, a torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney that caused him to pee blood, at least one concussion, and, most recently, a calf/ankle injury that has been bothering him for months and kept him off the field during training camp.
“It’s a shoulder, and an ankle, and this, and this,” Luck said. “I can’t live the life that I want to live moving forward.”
Football takes a terrible toll on the body, and Luck clearly has had enough after seven years. Hopefully he can live a long, productive and pain-free life. The Colts can thank former GM Ryan Grigson for getting Luck crushed early in his career.
■As a football fan, Luck’s retirement is a darn shame. He came into the league as the No. 1 pick in 2012 with the reputation as a football prodigy, and he was every bit as good as advertised. Luck took the Colts to the playoffs as a rookie (on a team that finished 2-14 the year before), went to the playoffs in four of six years, and made one appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
Luck is big, strong, tough, smart, and a gunslinger. The NFL usually doesn’t miss its players when they retire, but it’s a quarterback league, and there are maybe 10-15 people on the planet who can do what Luck does. He could have played at a Pro Bowl level for another decade or more, if injuries had worked out in his favor. He would have been the face of the post-Tom Brady NFL, along with Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes.
Instead, we are denied an opportunity to watch greatness. Luck’s retirement is a sad story for the NFL, and the league will miss him.
■That said, it’s not unfair to question the timing of the decision. A league source said that Luck and a small circle of Colts executives have known this was a possibility since March. The Colts were adamant Saturday night that they only knew about this in the last couple of weeks, but the decision-makers have been aware that Luck has been contemplating retirement for the last six months.
Luck is leaving a lot of people high and dry by walking away just two weeks before the start of the regular season — his coaches, teammates, and Colts fans who spent thousands of dollars on season tickets, expecting to watch Luck play. The Colts are a Super Bowl contender, coming off an 11-win season with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and a stout young defense. But shortly after Saturday’s announcement, their Super Bowl odds dropped from 12-1 to 30-1 and their win total from 9.5 to 6. No wonder owner Jim Irsay said he hopes Luck will reconsider and return to the Colts for 2020 and beyond.
Ricky Williams got absolutely crushed for being selfish when he retired from the Dolphins in 2004 — our attitudes on social anxiety, mental health, and marijuana were much less evolved then. The reaction for Luck, though, has been overwhelmingly positive — particularly from much of the media, which is admonishing Colts fans for booing Luck as he walked off the field Saturday night.
But isn’t there something to be said for seeing your commitments through, especially when so many people are counting on you? The time to retire is in March, or even June -- not two weeks before the season begins. The frustration of the Colts fans is understandable.
■ Luck must really hate football right now, because he is walking away from a staggering amount of money. Luck is foregoing a $9.125 million salary this year, $43 million in 2020-21, and hundreds of millions that he could make over the next decade. Wilson currently is the highest paid quarterback at $35 million per season, and Luck would certainly have eclipsed that in his next contract.
Luck’s retirement also could have cost him nearly $25 million to pay back to the team. The Colts can go after $12 million in roster bonuses paid out in March, and $12.8 million in signing bonus prorations that Luck hasn’t earned. But Luck is, er, lucky that Irsay is forgiving the debt and letting Luck keep the money, per ESPN. Irsay is playing nice in hopes that Luck will one day change his mind and return.
Luck has made over $97 million in his career, so he’ll be fine. But he just walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars
■ Josh McDaniels says “thank you.” Until Saturday night, McDaniels’ surprise decision to spurn the Colts and their head coaching job in February of 2018 was one of the worst moments in franchise history and made him a villain in Indianapolis. Now that incident looks like small potatoes compared to the Colts’ franchise quarterback retiring on the team on the eve of the regular season.
When McDaniels was interviewing with the Colts, there were major questions about Luck’s future after he missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury. Perhaps McDaniels also picked up on some vibes that Luck wasn’t totally committed to football.
I’m told Luck has been contemplating retirement since the spring. His circle knew this was coming. This isn’t something that happened overnight— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 25, 2019
■Luck’s retirement also represents a giant opportunity lost for the Colts. The Colts had 13 years of Peyton Manning, then after one horrible season, landed another Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback in Luck. Most teams would kill to have just one franchise quarterback, let alone two consecutive ones. But in 19 seasons with Manning (not counting 2011) and Luck (not counting 2017), the Colts won just one Super Bowl, and appeared in only two. What a waste of generational talent.
And Luck went 0-for-6 against the Patriots, including two playoff losses. The average score was 43.5- 20.7. Given that the Colts ignited the Deflategate scandal, the Colts won’t be getting any sympathy from the Patriots today.
■Finally, hello, Jacoby Brissett. The former Patriots third-round pick now will be the Colts’ starter this season, marking the second time in three years that he is taking over for Luck.
Brissett’s first stint wasn’t great, with him going 4-11 as a starter in 2017, with 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions and just 193 passing yards per game. But Brissett was acquired in a trade by the Colts just a week before the 2017 season, and he was dropped into the offense with no preparation. This time, Brissett has two-plus years of experience with the Colts, and has basically been their starting quarterback and leader all offseason.
“Jacoby Brissett is a winning football player in this league,” general manager Chris Ballard said Saturday. “Jacoby Brissett is a rare, rare leader. He is. He’s a rare human being, man. That locker room loves Jacoby Brissett. They love him.”
The timing couldn’t be better for Brissett, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal and will be a free agent after this season. The Colts don’t have to commit to Brissett — they can just play out the 2019 season then try to draft another quarterback next year – but Brissett now gets a chance to showcase his skills and play for a big payday.