Indianapolis Colts: What Andrew Luck Must Do to Make Good on Monster Contract
The terms of Luck's deal?
Monster, in relation to the rookie wage scale put into place with last summer's collective bargaining agreement. Luck got four years and $22.1 million, all guaranteed.
Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, got four years and $22 million (plus a club option for a fifth year) from the Washington Redskins this week. Last year, No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton signed a fully guaranteed, four-year, $22.025 million deal.
Now, it's up to Luck to make good on both the draft selection and contract.
How can he do it?
Through a step-by-step process.
1. Show signs that the right decision was made
The Colts are not going to win the Super Bowl next season, and even competing for the playoffs would be a monumental achievement for Luck in his first season.
Luck's rookie year should be concentrated on giving enough to comfort everyone involved that dumping Peyton Manning and drafting Luck was the right choice. In reality, it's the same boat Aaron Rodgers was in in 2008.
Rodgers struggled with that process in '08, but his Packers were in a much different boat. Fresh off a 13-3 season that had the Packers within one boneheaded decision from Brett Favre away from a potential Super Bowl appearance, Rodgers' first year ended in a 6-10 disappointment.
Going 6-10 in Indianapolis next season would be a wonderful first step for Luck and the Colts. I have little doubt that the talent Luck shows in 2012 will be more than enough to calm any fears of Indy making the wrong choice, but winning helps.
2. Compete for the playoffs within two to three years
A year after finishing 6-10, Rodgers and the Packers won 11 games and were heavily favored to beat the Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card Round of the 2009-10 playoffs. The Packers would lose that game, but the foundation had been laid for the future success Green Bay would have.
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Luck should be thinking along that same timeline, too.
The Texans are a well-stocked team currently, but there's no reason that the Colts can't start competing for a playoff spot as early as 2013. By 2014, a playoff appearance should be expected.
Of course, a lot of that is out of Luck's hands. Coaching, management decisions and luck—no pun intended—will play a role in the Colts' potential playoff contention down the road.
But when you take a decorated quarterback like Luck No. 1 overall, you're expecting results sooner rather than later.
3. Be in Super Bowl contention in three to five years
Again, we're following Rodgers' career path here.
Rodgers and the Packers were considered an early Super Bowl favorite in the third year of his starting reign, and despite winning just 10 regular-season games, Rodgers made good on those predictions.
After becoming Superman during the playoffs, Green Bay cruised through the NFC playoffs and eventually beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
Luck may not get there in three years, but the window of three to five years from now should be plenty of time for Luck to help get the Colts into Super Bowl contention.
These expectations obviously are not the norm for rookie quarterbacks, but Luck isn't a normal rookie quarterback. Considering his skill set, there's no reason why the Colts shouldn't be an AFC favorite in four or five years.
4. Be individually great
The Colts didn't draft Luck to be a game manager. Maybe in his first year, but the chains come off after 2012.
Sometime soon, Luck is going to need to produce individually great numbers at the quarterback position.
Rodgers did it early in his starting reign, but he also had three years sitting behind Favre in Green Bay. Luck can be very good early in his career without sitting behind a veteran, however.
By his second or third year, Luck should be in or near the top five in quarterback rating. I expect him to be completing his passes at a rate that ranks among the NFL's best, including Rodgers. The yards and touchdowns will come, too.
If we're in 2014 and Luck is throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions, the Colts are going to have a problem on their hands.
Some may call it unfair to pit Rodgers' early starting career in Green Bay against Luck's start in Indy. I don't. Luck is the most decorated college quarterback since Manning, the man he's replacing with the Colts.
There's a reason so many draftniks got down on their knees and praised Luck the past 12 months. He's good. Very good. And he's going to translate well to the NFL game.
The step-by-step plan is fairly simple: Prove your franchise made the right choice in the first year, compete for the playoffs in the second year and then be a perennial Super Bowl contender four or five years in.
If Luck can put check marks by all three by the time his rookie contract expires, that $22 million will be the easiest and smartest $22 million owner Jim Irsay has ever spent.
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