Andrew Luck Returning to Stanford Without Jim Harbaugh Is a Huge Gamble

Adam WaldmanContributor IJanuary 6, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal throws a pass against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With over a week to go until the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft, Andrew Luck shocked the sports world by announcing that he is returning to Stanford for his redshirt junior year.

“I am committed to earning my degree in architectural design from Stanford University, and am on track to accomplish this at the completion of the spring quarter of 2012,” Luck stated.

This announcement must have driven Jerry Jones crazy. 

With Luck out of the draft, the Cowboys will have one less impact player to choose from with the ninth pick.  But more importantly to Jerry Jones, the announcement grabbed the national spotlight away from Jones’ pronouncement of Jason Garrett as the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

It was widely believed that Luck would declare for the draft for a few reasons. 

The success of Luck and Stanford this year made Jim Harbaugh the hottest coaching candidate in recent memory, making the chances of Harbaugh returning to the team extremely remote. 

According to the rumors swirling around today, the Dolphins are willing to make Harbaugh the highest-paid head coach in the NFL, with an estimated annual salary somewhere in the $8 million range.  If this is true, Harbaugh would be guaranteed approximately $30 million if he signs the typical 4-year contract. 

Should this deal come to fruition, Harbaugh would have Luck to thank for making it possible.

With his coach clearly on the way out, the path was clear for Luck to enter the NFL Draft, especially considering that he would have definitely been the first pick in the draft. 

Quarterbacks always generate a premium, and it is believed that Luck stood to make $50 million in guaranteed money.  It is a rare person who can walk away from that much money, regardless of one’s financial standing.

Like others who have come before Luck and returned to school when they stood to cash in on their talent, Luck will take out an insurance policy which gives him some protection against injury.  However, if he should get seriously injured, he will be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Sam Bradford proved last year that even a shoulder injury doesn’t necessarily mean that you will slide down the draft boards.  However, Jake Locker has proven this season that a performance drop-off can hurt your draft value. 

It is possible that Locker would have been drafted ahead of Bradford if he came out last year. 

His performance this year has cost him millions of dollars, although Luck’s decision to stay in school has probably earned some of it back because there are now fewer quarterbacks available.

Andrew Luck might have a great season and remain the top pick in next year’s draft.  While it is noble to want to finish college and earn a degree, it is also a tremendous gamble. 

In Luck’s best-case-scenario, he will retain his current draft position, and earn his money next year. 

However, the worst-case-scenario can literally cost Luck tens of millions of dollars. It is a gamble that most people would not take.  But then again, most people are not named “Luck.”