Any doubts on Andrew Luck should be silenced.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback and former first overall pick has lived up to any possible billing since matriculating from Stanford to the pros. Luck had a big set of shoes to fill, succeeding now-Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who will likely go down as the best quarterback in Indianapolis history...regardless of what Luck does. Yet, Luck is finding ways to do it with poise and aplomb.
In the Colts' Week 6 victory over the Houston Texans, Luck was electric even with a superb performance by defensive end J.J. Watt on the other side. Luck finished at 25-of-44 passing for 370 yards and three touchdowns.
In a prime-time Thursday Night Football performance, Luck stepped up his game, but it isn't the first time this season he's done so.
Luck entered the week leading the NFL in passing yardage and passing touchdowns. The Colts offense was No. 2 in total yardage and No. 1 in passing, and they are now 4-2. Their only losses were by a combined 10 points to the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos.
There's simply no reason to doubt Luck.
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This isn't about "elite" or "not elite." We can leave that discussion for those who need to shout to back up their otherwise unsupported points. No, instead this is about a young quarterback having checked off all the boxes for what it means to be a franchise quarterback.
Starting back in college, Luck was picked apart as a top prospect. When Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III started lighting things up at Baylor, some even believed Luck was the inferior prospect.
Some, like CBS analyst Phil Simms, even believed that Luck hadn't done enough to prove himself, saying on SiriusXM radio (via Pro Football Talk):
But the one thing I don’t see, I just don’t see big time NFL throws. I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve watched a lot of him. He never takes it and rips it in there. And you can say what you want but, man, you’ve got to be able to crease that ball every once in a while.
Coming into the league in 2012, Luck was able to learn under now-Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians for his first season. The downside, of course, was that as a No. 1 overall pick, the team around him was terrible. Since then, general manager Ryan Grigson has done an OK job (albeit with plenty of missteps and mixed reviews) turning that around.
Luck's total numbers went down in year two with his former college coordinator Pep Hamilton at the offensive helm. However, his passing percentage went up (from 54.1 percent to 60.2) outside of Arians' high-risk/high-reward offensive system. His interception numbers went way down (18 to nine) as well.
Yet—somehow—the story after the first year was that he made too many mistakes, and when that was rectified, the story in his sophomore season was that the offense wasn't powerful enough and wasn't taking enough chances.
Maybe it's a tad too early to completely let Hamilton off the hook, but Luck has earned more than that. I was a cynic after the Colts started 0-2 and then only exploded offensively against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, but a gutsy effort against the Baltimore Ravens and a trouncing of the Texans makes things look a little different.
With games coming up against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the New York Giants, things aren't going to be easy for Luck moving forward, but he's shown more than enough for us to believe he can handle himself.
As we barrel down toward the midway point of the season, it's never too early to start looking at MVP candidates. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Watt are all potential candidates, but Luck has played well enough to insert himself as a worthy candidate among them.
The Colts are in good hands.
Michael Schottey is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff on his archive page and follow him on Twitter.