Andrew Luck's Decision to Stay in School a Tough One That Might Be Correct

Josh McCainSenior Writer IJanuary 12, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  Orange Bowl MVP Andrew Luck of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates with fans after Stanford won 40-14 against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I purposefully waited until the dust settled on Andrew Luck's decision to return to school instead of entering the NFL draft this year before I wrote this article.

I did this mainly because of all the gut reactions from people all over the Internet. Be they sportswriters, fans or radio personalities, everyone had an instant opinion on Luck's decision.

However, I did not.

I could see reasons for staying in school, and I could see reasons for bolting to the NFL. Most people, though, or at least the most vocal ones, could only see one side of the coin.

I read or heard people saying, "good for him, he'll get his degree," or "he's dumb, look what happened to Jake Locker," to "he's afraid of the NFL."

Before I went jumping to conclusion after conclusion, I took a look at Luck's situation.

Right off the bat, one has to realize the boy goes to Stanford. He's not at Miami or Michigan; he's at Stanford. They're not known for their sports; they're an academic school first, kind of the Harvard of the west.

So right there I assume anyone attending, even the athletes, hold education in a high honor.

A lot of people have said that he can always go back and get his degree. After all, Barry Sanders took night classes while playing for the Detroit Lions to finish up his degree.

Luck could do that, but ask anyone who has left school early for whatever reason, and they'll tell you how tough it is to get back.

When I graduated from college, I had every intention of getting a job and then after a year beginning work on my master's degree. Three years out of school, and I haven't done that yet.

Once you're out in the real world and working full-time, it's hard to find the time for school, even 12 credits' worth to finish a bachelor's degree.

Even with the NFL's offseason, I think the last thing a player wants to do is schoolwork, especially a quarterback. Most of their days are spent watching film and studying game plans. I'm willing to bet in the offseason all they want to do is relax and spend time with their families.

However, going back for another year of football means he can risk injury.

This is true, and it's something that has affected players' draft value. Once thought of as a top 10 pick, Colt McCoy went back to school for one last run at a national title. He hurt his shoulder and fell to the third round of the 2010 draft.

However, this year of all years would probably be the best for staying in school one more year.

In the past, when a quarterback was drafted in the NFL, he usually sat on the bench for two to three seasons before becoming the starter.

This gave him time to learn the system, and once he got his shot, he was more than comfortable and came in as an instant leader.

Now, however, if a quarterback is taken within the first 10 picks, he is almost always a starter before Week 8.

With a possible lockout looming, Andrew Luck, who would be drafted by Carolina and probably expected to start sooner rather than later, probably wouldn't get to see a playbook until September and would basically be thrown to the wolves.

With the lack of a training camp to even have a chance to get used to his new system, it would almost certainly set Luck up to fail.

This isn't to say that as the shortened season progressed he wouldn't pick it up and get better, but when you're the No. 1 pick at quarterback for a team, fans look at you as a messiah, and if you don't deliver right off the bat, they'll turn on you.

A perfect example with Carolina is Kerry Collins. He had a rough start and was basically run out of town. When he resurfaced with the Giants without the first-round pick pressure, he led the G-Men to the Super Bowl. 

He then later went on to have a respectable career with Tennessee.

Luck would definitely have the deck stacked against him because of the lockout.

Some people might say he's afraid; I'd say he's smart. 

Also, with Luck passing on this year's draft, maybe he's hoping a better team might trade up to get him next year.

After all, we have no idea where teams will be picking in 2012, and by Week 6 of the 2011 season good teams might make some deals with bad teams who will be picking in the top five in order to position themselves for Luck.

I know if I were a general manager in need of a young quarterback, I'd look to swap some picks with a team that I know is going to be picking close to the top.

Also—and this is a stretch—there might be a lot of overhaul in San Francisco this season, and maybe Luck is hoping that his former college coach, Jim Harbaugh, will be near the top to draft him.

All in all, I think Luck was in a win-win situation here. He's rated so highly by everyone that even if he sustains an injury in his last season, he'll more than likely bounce back and play just as well so a team in 2012 will roll the dice with him, and this way he avoids the lockout and can still play football.