Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck is certainly in the conversation for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, but it's time we step back and add him as a serious candidate for the MVP Award as well.
Forget the Offensive Rookie of the Year award for a moment. Luck's individual numbers are stellar, so he's obviously a candidate. Where Luck has thrived this year better than any rookie, and perhaps better than most in the NFL, is elevating his team to victory through his exceptional play.
The most recent example of Luck's ever-growing portfolio came in Week 13 in Detroit against the Lions. With his team down on the road, Luck led a fourth-quarter comeback that was capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery as time expired, which allowed the Colts to prevail 35-33.
The heroics weren't Luck's first rodeo with a last-minute victory. That's now five game-winning drives by Luck, a rookie who has led Indianapolis to eight wins through its first 12 games.
While expectations were high for Luck coming out of Stanford as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, he's somehow managing to exceed what most believed was possible.
Luck has turned a 2-14 team from a year ago into an eight-or-more win team headed for the postseason. He's thrown for 3,596 yards through 12 contests—the most ever by a rookie in that time span. He's thrown for 300 or more yards in six of his 12 appearances.
As of now, Luck only has 17 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, giving him a meager 76 quarterback rating. He's still on pace for 4,794 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions—that's more yards and touchdowns than last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year, Cam Newton.
Not only does Luck will the Colts to victory through the air, he's athletic enough to extend plays with his feet or score on his own. Luck has rushed the ball 44 times for 216 yards and five touchdowns, not to mention the countless times he's scrambled away from pressure to find the open man.
None of this means Luck hasn't played like a rookie at times. His rating is average and he's only completing 55 percent of his passes. Before his breathtaking comeback against the Lions Luck was horrible, tossing three interceptions before turning things around.
Does Luck deserve to be in the MVP discussion
These rookie struggles, combined with some questionable talent around him make Luck's case for the award stronger. He's backed by a low-tier defense that gives up 26 points per game. Luck has some great offensive weapons to throw to, but is also protected by a miserable line that has allowed him to be sacked 28 times—tied for eighth most in the NFL.
There is a massive battle brewing for the MVP Award thanks to the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, and even the man Luck replaced—Peyton Manning. He's a long shot to be sure, but that doesn't make his accomplishments to date any less impressive.
Luck's potential pursuit of the award is catching steam, as evidenced by Rich Eisen via Twitter:
I understand the seasons Peyton/Brady are having, but Andrew Luck must be considered in the MVP voting.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) December 2, 2012
If there were ever a chance for a rookie to win MVP in modern times (Jim Brown did it in '57), it would be Luck this season. He's won more games than any No. 1 overall pick in NFL history, and he isn't done just yet.
The other candidates for MVP, numerous and impressive as they may be, were expected to perform well. The Colts weren't expected to even sniff the playoffs, nor was Luck expected to play at such a high level given the talent around him.
Luck is a 23-year-old rookie running an advanced NFL offense and excelling in the final moments of games better than most in the NFL do.
He's already a top 10 NFL quarterback.
At the end of the day, Luck likely won't come away with the award. That certainly doesn't mean he hasn't earned the right to be considered.
This also won't be the last time we'll see Luck in the MVP race. For now, Luck will just have to settle for Rookie of the Year.