A Mess Grows in Indy: With Luck Concerned, NFL Execs Say He Should Demand Trade

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 15, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 13: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on during a preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 13, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Lions won 24-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Around the NFL, when teams look at the Indianapolis Colts, they see one thing.

A waste.

A waste of fan support. A waste of potential. A waste of talented receivers. And mostly, a waste of a quarterback in Andrew Luck.

Ask a handful of front office personnel around the league, and they'll tell you what has happened in Indianapolis is one of the greatest wastes of quarterback talents they've ever seen. 

This week was an interesting one for the Colts. After getting shellacked in Los Angeles on Sunday, the team announced Luck would sit out Week 2 after he missed the opener with a shoulder injury. Then came a rumor from Mike Greenberg of ESPN's Mike and Mike (h/t Indiana Sports Coverage) that talk is circulating about Luck and his unhappiness with the Colts and that the "end of the Andrew Luck era" may be near.

I can't find anyone who says that's accurate either inside or outside of the Colts, and longtime Indianapolis sports columnist Bob Kravitz, now at WTHR.com, said Will Wilson, Luck's agent, explained his client isn't disgruntled and doesn't want out.

Further, Luck's contract makes him fairly impossible to trade, anyway. The deal carries $87 million in guarantees and a 2017 salary-cap hit of $19.4 million. The team also just signed Luck to a five-year extension in June 2016. He's not going anywhere unless he really wants to.

But it is true that Luck is concerned about his future in Indianapolis. He's concerned—and that's the key word here—about whether the franchise will ever put the proper pieces around him, according to a teammate.

Luck would undoubtedly deny this because he would never say anything publicly to denigrate the franchise, but in talking to people near the situation, I'm certain he feels this way. And let's be honest: This isn't shocking news (or meant to be). If Luck wasn't concerned, he wouldn't be human. The Colts, of late, have been a dumpster fire wrapped inside a garbage scow surrounded by a radioactive pile of dung.

In many ways, the franchise's inability to build a winner is less understandable than that of the Browns or Jaguars. Those teams have spent decades searching for a franchise quarterback; the Colts have one and haven't protected him with the right components.

Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times in 15 games last season.
Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times in 15 games last season.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Indy has committed one of the greatest sins in professional football. It took a good quarterback for granted, supporting him with a JV offensive line and a front office that still doesn't seem to know what it's doing.

And while it may be false that Luck wants a trade, three NFL front office executives—all from the NFC—believe Luck should demand one. Few people in the NFL believe the Colts, right now, are competent enough to put a winning team around their franchise quarterback. One executive said he fears Luck will become the next Vinny Testaverde.

This isn't an awful projection. Testaverde was talented, but for the most part, played on awful teams, leaving his body beat up and his chances of winning wrecked. While Testaverde ranks 15th in NFL history with 275 career touchdown passes—two ahead of Joe Montana and 15 behind Johnny Unitas—he left the game with a 90-123-1 record as a starter, according to Pro Football Reference.

Another example cited was Archie Manning, who became a punching bag in New Orleans while getting sacked 340 times in 134 games with the Saints, but this Colts franchise, as bad as it is now, isn't quite that bad.

The executives interviewed expect that, barring a quick turnaround, new general manager Chris Ballard will fire head coach Chuck Pagano if the team starts winless in its first three or four games. That wouldn't exactly be shocking, either.

Some NFL executives believe coach Chuck Pagano could be fired if the Colts get off to a 0-4 start this season.
Some NFL executives believe coach Chuck Pagano could be fired if the Colts get off to a 0-4 start this season.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The chances the Colts go 0-3 or worse are high, even if Luck plays. They just lost to the Rams, 46-9, and Indianapolis plays Arizona this week—followed by a feisty Browns team and a Seahawks club many expect to reach the Super Bowl.

With no clues as to the status of Luck's surgically repaired shoulder, there's no telling when he'll be back.

Luck might be throwing, but he might not be. No one has seen it. And, yes, there is the possibility he'll be ready to go immediately, but it seems unlikely.

And still, the fact remains that the Colts have Luck, a rare commodity at the most important position in perhaps all of sports. A trade for Luck wouldn't be easy, but it wouldn't be hard to find takers, even with a price that, at minimum, likely would cost two first-round picks and perhaps players, too. The only thing that might stop teams is Luck's injury history, and the fact that the Colts don't have to deal him anytime soon.

Consider the list of quarterbacks SB Nation put together of passers the Texans and Browns have started since 2014. The names are cringe-worthy: Austin Davis, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Case Keenum, Cody Kessler, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler, to name just a few.

The Colts have Luck.

And they're blowing it.

         

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL. 

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