We have all heard about the "Suck for Luck" strategy that either will or won't be employed by NFL teams between now and the end of the season. Hell, some of the teams involved in the discussion could use the strategy and nobody would even be able to tell. (Can Miami or Indianapolis play worse?)
As the 2011 season progresses, and the line of...ahem...bad teams forms for the right to draft the Stanford quarterback, it is becoming increasingly clear that Andrew Luck is being set up...to fail?
Think about it.
Right now, he is being called the "perfect quarterback." He is being called the "next Peyton Manning." He is considered a "can't miss prospect." He is in trouble.
Assuming that Luck does nothing between now and next April to diminish his value as the greatest prospect of his generation, he will likely find himself in an uncomfortable position (no, not the backseat of a Volkswagen).
Count me among those who have little reservation putting Andrew Luck under center in the NFL tomorrow. He could start for at least a handful of teams in the league this weekend. I am not at all concerned that his ability, approach, work ethic or desire to win will result in him becoming a bust. What I am concerned about is that he is already facing impossibly high expectations from teams who have not even drafted him yet.
Let's set aside, for a moment, the possibility that Luck could bomb out in the NFL. It absolutely exists, but we can all agree that for this kid, that possibility is a statistical improbability. No...I think he will be a very good pro.
But will "very good" be good enough? That is the problem Luck will face when he gets to the NFL. He won't be coming in as a "project." He won't be coming in as a guy with "lots of upside." He will be coming in as "The Savior."
The Savior. How do you exceed those expectations?
You can't. It is impossible. Your best-case scenario has you maybe meeting those expectations, but depending on how long it takes you to get there, it could already be too late for fans in this league to care.
Do you realize that for Andrew Luck, he might have to be a Super Bowl-winning version of Tom Brady/Peyton Manning relatively quickly just to MEET the expectations that fans will have of him? And he has to do it before suffering ANY injuries, ANY setbacks in his pro development and ANY controversy.
I hear you out there saying, "Yeah, but he will be paid millions of dollars to play the game he loves. His face will be on cereal boxes, Oreo commercials and British cigarette ads. Are you really feeling sorry for him?"
I am not feeling sorry for him, but I am doubtful that many 22-year old dudes are ready to shoulder the kind of burden he will be asked to shoulder. Peyton Manning was not even considered the same kind of no-brainer that Andrew Luck is considered to be--depending on who you believe, there were teams ready to take Ryan Leaf before Manning if given the chance. I don't hear anyone suggesting that there is anyone in college football today that would or should be drafted ahead of Andrew Luck.
This will not scare away teams from drafting Andrew Luck, nor should it. And thanks to the new CBA and the reining in of rookie contracts, the upfront investment a team will have to throw down to get Luck is a fraction of what it once was. So at the very least, Luck won't have to live up to a $100 million contract inked before he ever plays a down in the NFL. That is a HUGE benefit for a player in his situation if you ask me.
Andrew Luck is going to be asked to save a franchise from years of losing, years of playoff absence--years of mediocrity. The truth is he is probably capable of playing at a high enough level to do it. But the pressure he will face from the first second he enters the league to turn his team around will be ludicrously intense. I don't care how mentally tough you are...once you realize you are being graded based on how much better you are than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning--right out of the gate--it has to affect you.
As I said before, this won't stop teams from drafting Andrew Luck, and it won't stop Andrew Luck from attempting to be the best professional quarterback he can be. But I am starting to question if I want this circus coming to my town.
There...I said it. I have serious reservations about Andrew Luck--or any college player--coming to this town and playing for this team under this ownership and for these coaches with that kind of pressure and those kinds of expectations. It could kill us all. Of the million plus possible outcomes, only one would cause us to resemble rational, happy people. All of the rest would force us into "unwashed masses" territory, reducing us to an angry mob with a collective high blood pressure problem that could cause mass cardiac arrest. You saw how bad it was when we were debating issues surrounding John Beck and Rex Grossman?
This is the situation that faces Andrew Luck when he decides to leave Stanford. Perhaps more important than his ability to successfully navigate these pitfalls as a pro will be which team brings him on board for the journey. Luckily for everyone involved, it doesn't appear that the Redskins will be in position to draft the Stanford product. In fact, for us to draft Andrew Luck, we would likely have to trade away our future in exchange...essentially upping the ante and somehow adding even more pressure and expectations to the equation.
Oh God...I just threw up in my mouth a little.