Colts Need Only Look in the Mirror to Find Why Andrew Luck's Season Is over

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 2, 2017

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 01: Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts walks on the sidelines in the second quarter of the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on October 1, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The date was January 19, 2017, and the time was 8:11 a.m. CT. That was when Colts owner Jim Irsay said all would be fine with his quarterback, Andrew Luck.

He wouldn't be ready for the season. Not even close.

Maybe that's what the medical staff and physicians who operated on Luck told Irsay. And yes, complications happen. Things go wrong. The body is unpredictable.

Yet Irsay's proclamation was wildly wrong. In fact, a team announcement that a player is going to be ready for the season, before that player misses the entire year, may be unprecedented. I can't remember such a grossly incorrect prediction from a team, particularly from an owner.

On Thursday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that doctors advised Luck not to throw for several months, maybe as long as three.

In short order, the Colts announced that Luck was placed on injured reserve, ending his season before it ever began. Considering how long Luck's shoulder issues have lingered, there are legitimate questions whether we will ever see the old Luck again. The one who in his first three seasons led the Colts to the playoffs and was one of the most effective offensive weapons in the sport.

The answers to those questions are for another day.

Now, however, we are left trying to figure out just what the hell happened.

The answer is a simple one: It's quarterback homicide by front office.

"The stupidity of the Colts may have killed the career of Andrew Luck," one front office executive texted me after the IR news became official.

If this were a novel, it would be called The Mishandling of Andrew Luck. The first chapter would read: "No Offensive Line."

Few star players have had to deal with offensive line woes like Luck. Russell Wilson might have an argument, but Luck's problems are historic. ESPN.com's Mike Wells put together a staggering chart showing the number of offensive line combinations Luck has played behind. 

Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times last season, second-most in the league.
Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times last season, second-most in the league.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In 2012, Luck's rookie year, he played with 16 different line combinations. The next season, 18. Then 20. Then 17. Then 18 again.

Lots of teams have different combos on that unit, but the Colts also couldn't settle on any one combination. Last season, the most a single Colts offensive line group played together was 225 snaps (out of 1,096 total QB snaps). In contrast, the Cowboys had a group that played 651 together in 2016, writes Wells.

That's why Luck's shoulder has been mush. And while Wilson has also played with poor offensive lines, he's been able to survive because of his mobility, as well as being able to rely on a defense to keep him off the field. In Indy, everything has been on Luck.

Former Colts general manager and Hall of Famer Bill Polian is one of many who put Luck's issues on the team.

"This new staff came in and said, 'We're going to be the toughest guys on the block,'" Polian, now an ESPN analyst, said on the network Thursday. "'We're going to get big road graders, run, stop the run.' In Indianapolis? With Andrew Luck? In a division where you play 10 games in perfect weather every year? The team you have to beat is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots? And you want to come in and play like you're playing in the AFC North? That contributed to it because you didn't have a pass-protecting line."

Polian is biased; Irsay fired him. But Polian is also correct.

That isn't all the Colts fumbled when it comes to Luck.

Indy has been, at best, clueless about Luck publicly. Remember when Chuck Pagano said, with a straight face, he hadn't seen Luck throw in practice? The head coach said he had not seen his franchise QB throw. And do you also remember when Irsay said that Luck needed his labrum repaired?

All of this has been a disservice to Luck. It makes it seem like Luck's shoulder injury is potentially catastrophic. It may be. It may not be. It may be that Luck wants the information muddled. But it's more likely the team has been covering up an injury worse than it let on all along.

Colts owner Jim Irsay and coach Chuck Pagano in happier times.
Colts owner Jim Irsay and coach Chuck Pagano in happier times.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Colts can deny this, but they've played so many stupid games with Luck, and his career, that they're not believable anymore.

And for one of the game's true difference-makers, that is a damn tragedy for which the Colts have only themselves to blame.

    

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