Andrew Luck a Carolina Panther, Guaranteed?
Andrew Luck threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns in his 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
I heard that after the game, a guy came up to Luck and asked, “What’s the next step?” Luck replied, “I’m going to Carolina!”
Yeah, I was shocked to hear this, too. Luck will be a Carolina Panther, and now Jerry Richardson has confirmed he will take Luck if he declares.
The Panthers have a few needs including wide receiver, defensive tackle, corner and quarterback, but the quarterback position is the most important. It’s true that Jimmy Clausen was a rookie this year and cannot be expected to take the team to the Super Bowl his first year. He also had protection problems, a very young receiving corps and a horrible offensive coordinator. The thing is that he looks more and more like David Carr.
Carr had a rough time in Houston as he was sacked about 50 times a year, but as the years passed it turned out that the bad protection just hid how bad Carr really was. Of course, he did do one thing right: He threw an interception to Richard Marshall and allowed the Panthers to get their first win, but that is pretty much it.
It has become a quarterback-driven league and the 2000 Ravens might be an 8-8 team in today’s NFL. Every playoff team this year, minus the Seahawks, is led by a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, while every bad team this year was led by a rookie or an average quarterback. Luck may be Carolina’s Pro Bowler while Clausen is just the Average Joe.
In the end, Luck is coming to Carolina, and here’s why…
10. Last Year for Big Money
Reports have talked about how Luck comes from a well-off family and how money is not a big factor. This is possible, but the loss in money between this year and after the new rookie cap is in place is not $1 million or even $5 million. Luck could lose $10-20 million by staying an extra year and getting his degree.
9. Jim Harbaugh Will Be Gone
Harbaugh has turned a one-win program into a BCS bowl champion. Now, he may stay in college and coach at Michigan, or he may head to the NFL. Unless he will be satisfied with losing to Ohio State every year, I think he’ll head to the NFL.
In the NFL, there are three teams in consideration for Harbaugh’s services. First, there is Denver, which is in desperate need of an head coach after firing Josh McDaniels during his first season. Harbaugh has a connection with John Elway, so the Broncos think they can get him.
The second team is San Francisco. They are on the West Coast and are the heavy favorite to land Harbaugh because they feel they are only a quarterback away from the playoffs and the 49ers are in the NFC West.
The final team is Carolina. Many feel Richardson will not hire a college coach, but Harbaugh was with the Panthers while still a quarterback. He knows the culture and it might be time for him to add to that culture. Speculation of a package deal has grown because Carolina has the No.1 pick. If Harbaugh likes Luck so much, maybe he should continue to coach him in the NFL.
With Harbaugh gone, Luck will be more open to declaring for the draft and falling into the open arms of the Panthers.
8. An Extra Year Hurts More Than It Helps
Luck is a smart guy. He surely knows that Matt Leinart went from top of the college world to the 10th pick in the draft behind Vince Young. What if a new quarterback comes out of nowhere and dominates like Luck?
He also probably knows that Sam Bradford stayed an extra year and was injured for most of it. What if he gets injured seriously—will he have the same luck as Bradford?
And look at Jake Locker now. He could have been the top pick in last year’s draft. Now, he might go mid-first round. Does Luck want to risk having a down year?
Luck is a hot commodity and it would be unwise to expect that value to last.
7. A Lockout May Be a Good Thing
Some speculate Luck may be afraid to enter the draft because of the uncertainty of the CBA. A lockout may actually be a good thing. Here are the benefits of a lockout:
Luck will have plenty of time to finish up his degree.
Luck will have more time to get acquainted with his head coach (maybe Ron Rivera?) and his teammates. He will learn to throw to Steve Smith, David Gettis and Brandon LaFell.
He will have more time to learn the offense.
He will have more time to get physically ready for the NFL.
A lockout may not be a bad thing for Luck.
6. Benefits of a New Head Coach and Cap Space
The Panthers will have a new head coach. He will be learning the offense with everyone else. He won’t have to worry about a new coach coming in after a few years to teach him a new system. He will start with a new coach, learn his system, and grow with the team.
The Panthers also have an unprecedented amount of salary cap room. They can bring in veteran receivers, a veteran quarterback to teach Luck, and they will be talented veterans. The Panthers can sign the help Luck will need to get him started in the NFL.
5. Benefits of a Young Team
The Panthers are the youngest team in the NFL. Luck will not have to worry about trying to fit in. This is a team with few veterans and the atmosphere should be very comfortable for Luck.
Luck will be able to grow with his young skill players. He will be able to have a quicker connection with his receivers in Gettis and LaFell. The situation is becoming like what the Lions have with their young quarterbacks and receivers. The offense can grow as one; it will be a beautiful thing.
Most importantly, due to the lack of a veteran quarterback right now, Luck only has to compete with Jimmy Clausen. He will have a great opportunity to start early.
4. Good Receiving Corps
People have questioned the Panthers receivers all year. When analyzed, this is actually a talented group of receivers.
Steve Smith speaks for himself. Luck can have a great year as long as he learns to throw it to Smith.
Gettis has shown great potential. He has the size and clearly has the speed. With a little more work at catching, he could turn into the future No.1.
Then there’s LaFell, who also has good size. He has shown he can make big plays down field, but he needs more consistency.
Now bring in a couple veteran receivers or one veteran and a talented draftee like Jonathan Baldwin. With these two plus a more experienced LaFell and Gettis, Luck will feel like it is Christmas.
3. Healthy Offensive Line
A big problem the Panthers had this season was the offensive line.
Jeff Otah was out all year. Don’t say he doesn’t make a difference, because compared to Gary Williams he’s a Hall of Famer. Ryan Kalil is in the last year of his contract and had a subpar year. Travelle Wharton has been injured. Jordan Gross looked lost after being out so long due to a broken leg. The right guard position is a bigger question mark than how to solve the economy. Clausen just did not stand a chance.
Next season, Otah will be healthy and Kalil will be back and focused again. Geoff Schwartz has done a decent job at right guard and his size could make him a favorite for the position. If not, the Panthers can just sign a quality guard.
Wharton will be healthy and Gross will be ready to earn his Pro Bowl selection. Not to mention the fact Luck has a big arm, so the line will not be facing eight or nine in the box every play. Better protection happens with less guys coming.
2. Great Running Game
I don’t remember any team with the first pick ever having the running game Carolina has. The Panthers breed great running backs. Mike Goodson is the fourth-string back and he rushed for 120 yards against the Ravens. Luck’s job will be easier than most first overall quarterbacks because of the Panthers run game, which will only be better with Otah back.
Sam Bradford took the Rams to 7-9 with no main receivers, an average defense and only one good running back. The Panthers have Smith, a good defense and a pride of running backs. Luck can ease his way into the NFL. He just needs to be a little more accurate than Clausen and not take 30 completions to get to 200 yards passing.
1. By 2012, Luck Will Be a Panther
In reality, Luck will be a Panther no matter what his decision is. If he comes out, he’s a Panther. If he stays, the Panthers give Clausen another chance. If Clausen sucks, we’ll be drafting Luck next year, and if he doesn’t then we won’t need Luck because we’ll already have it.
Then, there’s the fact that if he doesn’t come out and there’s a lockout, Carolina will have the first pick in the next draft.
Luck can mean a world of difference to the Panthers if he comes here. This is the best worst team in many years and a quarterback like Luck can restore this franchise and make them the future of the NFL for years to come.