The Luck Conundrum

 

(Photo: Thomas J. Russo, US PRESSWIRE)
Andrew Luck should be a shoe-in as Rookie of the Year. He's led a 2-14 2011 squad to a 11-5 season and a playoff berth. He lead the 7th ranked passing offense and just broke Peyton Manning's franchise rookie passing record and Cam Newton's NFL rookie passing record. He's clearly mastered the huddle, gained the respect and trust of his team and has become a playmaker for which defensive coordinators must account. Sounds like a guaranteed Rookie of the Year campaign right?
 
 
The knock is that Luck, while lighting up opponents, also kind of sucked. To be more specific he's 54th in the league in passer rating and 62nd in completion percentage. That list includes non-starters and others who've thrown passes, but still it's clear in those areas he's not been great. He's also thrown the third highest number of interceptions. If you temper that with the knowledge he also had the 5th highest number of attempts it's not so bad. Overall the argument against Luck is that he made too many rookie mistakes.
 
Paul Kuharsky of ESPN has a nice defense of Luck however, looking at his game against Houston this past week. Specifically, Kuharsky makes note that pass protection has been suspect and when combined with the inordinate number of attempts Luck has made explains much of Luck's perceived struggles:
 
Given a second chance on third-and-23, Luck got quality protection again, stepped into a throw again and connected deep to T.Y. Hilton for a 70-yard touchdown.
 
Back-to-back throws. With good protection both times (aided by a hold on the first), Luck was able to really step into them, and they were excellent.
 
How many of his 14 incomplete passes resulted from an inability to step into a throw?
 
There is a degree of subjectivity in assessing what happened on a play. Here is my breakdown of the
incomplete passes:
  • Hurried or hit — 5

  • Drops — 3

  • Thrown away — 2

  • Defended by DB — 2

  • No issue — 1

  • Batted — 1

Those five hurries or hits certainly affected Luck’s ability to be accurate. He overthrew Donnie Avery; he bounced a ball to Wayne.
 
Is Kuharsky right? Is it all about the offensive line? Football Outsiders has the answer: the Colts have the 7th highest sack rate in the NFL and feature the 26th overall offensive line in pass protection.
 
Other Rookie of the Year candidates are playing behind significantly better offensive lines. In Seattle, Russell Wilson is playing behind the 3rd best offensive line in pass protection while Robert Griffin III and Washington feature the 7th best. Neither team gave up more than 26 sacks while Indianapolis left Luck on the ground 58 times! In short, those guys were playing behind prime rib while Andrew Luck was
served up as dinner.
 
That's not to say that Wilson and Griffin haven't had stellar seasons in their own right. In fact, this may be finest rookie class in NFL history according to some. Wilson's eye-popping 26 touchdowns stand out and both lead their teams to the playoffs. Both deserve to be in the discussion obviously.
 
When considering the body of work and the offensive lines they played behind it's clear that Andrew Luck should win the award.
 
The question remains: will AP writers see it the same way?

 

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