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Philosoraptor’s Corner: Processing the Andrew Luck situation

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What does Andrew Luck’s retirement mean for the NFL, and what could it mean for the Giants?

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but this morning I think we need to step back into the PhilosoRaptor’s Corner and process the news that has the NFL world in a state of shock.

Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts‘ 29-year old franchise quarterback, coming off a season in which he went to the Pro Bowl and was voted the NFL’s comeback player of the year, has retired.

The NFL’s history is long and colorful, and it isn’t often that we encounter a situation that has never happened, but as far as I can tell, these are uncharted waters. Career-ending injuries are always possible and do cut promising careers short all too often — they’re a terrible reality of life in the NFL. But players like Luck, who was comfortably situated as the Colts’ franchise quarterback for at least the next eight years, on a team with a roster ready to “Win Now,” and playing on a 5-year, 123million contract don’t just up and walk away after six years.

Except that’s exactly what he did Saturday night.

Let me be clear, I feel terrible for Colts’ fans. The last year has been a roller coaster from them. They went from thinking they had one the coaching lottery in getting Josh McDaniels to be their new head coach to seeing a last-ditch effort from Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick convince him to leave Indy at the altar and stay with the New England Patriots, to striking gold with Frank Reich.

Now they go from a division title and play-off berth being expectations, and a conference championship and Super Bowl trip being realistic, to having no certainty whatsoever about what the future holds.

But from Luck’s perspective, I get it.

Just take a look at the list of Luck’s injuries since being drafted six years ago.

Yes, Luck was making a lot of money and probably would have gotten another $100-million dollar extension next year.

Luck was newly married and set for life, but what good is being set for life if your body is too broken for you to really live and enjoy that life? How does an expectant father balance love of the game against potentially not being able to remember his child’s name due to brain injury?

Strangely, if anything, Luck’s injuries might have been a blessing in disguise. Speaking with Albert Breer earlier this summer, Luck said, “I shudder to think of not having that. I don’t think I’m married if that had not happened. I think I eff that up. I truly do.”

“That” being the shoulder saga which ultimately saw him go to Europe for treatment unavailable in the United States in hopes of playing again. Ultimately the year away from the NFL seems to have given Luck a view of the bigger picture, of how his decisions would impact those around him, not to mention Future Andrew.

I don’t blame Luck for taking the off ramp, and if anything it took a great deal of courage to make the choice he did.

While Luck’s decision is shocking, there are more and more players who are cashing out at a younger age. Players like Calvin Johnson and Chris Borland, great players who walked away from football at relatively young ages (Borland in particular). Players are thinking about life after football sooner and sooner now and paying attention to what that life is like for the players who came before them. And more players are deciding that they don’t want to give the game everything they have, only to be discarded like a broken toy when ownership doesn’t have any use for them anymore.

But still, it’s shocking decision made even more shocking by the timing.

So, what about The New York Giants?

This is, of course, a site dedicated to the Giants.

The first thing that springs to mind is that Luck’s decision brings into focus just how lucky the Giants are to have had Eli Manning. While Eli has played through injuries over his (franchise record) 16 seasons as the Giants’ starting quarterback, he hasn’t had to deal with anything like what Luck has had to deal with. Eli has, of course, been consistently inconsistent as the Giants’ quarterback, but that his Iron Man availability and dependability has been the Giants’ greatest asset for a decade and a half.

Few franchises, teams, and fanbases ever get to enjoy that kind of security. More often quarterbacks come and go, some expected to be place holders, some with high expectations that bust, some start out great and fade, and most are just ... there for a while.

Just ask the Cleveland Browns.

That’s 29 quarterbacks in 20 years (only four more than Eli has been in the NFL), and the fourth name on the list won the Super Bowl two years ago coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.

Eli has been maddening at times, but it could have been oh so much worse.

There’s also the fact that Luck’s decision to walk away from football is an Earthquake for the Colts’ franchise, it could (and will) have aftershocks that will be felt across the League.

This has the potential to upset the power balance in the AFC South in particular, and the AFC in general, and now the Colts have gone from being a lock to select in the bottom third of the 2020 NFL draft to potentially having a Top 10 selection.

And while there might be a lot of support in the building for Jacoby Brissett — and the Colts’ brass is certainly saying all the right things in public — they are a twisted ankle away from staring down the barrel of Chad Kelly starting for them.

Just as an aside, it is absolutely insane that if Brissett isn’t the answer, the Colts could still see a line of succession that goes from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck to Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, or (with a one year break) Trevor Lawrence. There are franchises that have never had one quarterback at that level, let alone three in a row.

For a team built to contend for championships (multiple) right now, that has to be a sobering thought. Speculation pieces have sprung up like mushrooms after the rain around the League, wondering which team will trade their quarterback to the Colts.

A whole slew of them wondering if the Giants would trade Eli to the Colts popped up almost immediately. And it does make a certain amount of sense. The Manning family is obviously close to Indianapolis and the Colts — perhaps close enough that Eli would waive his no-trade clause. The Colts are built to win now, and considering Frank Reich has a similar lineage and coaching tree as Pat Shurmur, Eli would likely be able to pick up the Colts’ offense quickly. For the Giants it would solve the problem of when Daniel Jones would succeed Eli Manning quite handily. It would even make a certain amount of sense for Eli himself. He has always been a good “Dome” quarterback, and playing in the AFC South, he would have ideal conditions for almost the entire season — the coldest game he would play would be the Colts’ November third trip to Pittsburgh. And it would be nice for Eli to finish his career on a team that truly expects to be competitive.

It is, frankly, too neat, too tidy, and pretty unlikely to happen. Especially since Manning has a no-trade clause and has shown no inclination to waive it.

It is more likely that the Giants could work out a deal to move one of Kyle Lauletta or Alex Tanney to Indy to back up Brissett. Despite Lauletta’s NFL debut being very not-good, he still inspires more faith than Kelly. Tanney could provide a veteran presence and some stability behind Brissett as he takes the mantle of “Starting Quarterback” in one of the most unconventional situations we’ve seen.

Neither Lauletta nor Tanney would fetch a high price — likely a late-round pick — but it would be something for a player who might just get cut otherwise.

We don’t know yet if the Colts will follow a shocking revelation up with a shocking move or if they’ll just want to steady the ship and reinforce the position behind a young player thrust into a starting role. But the larger consequences of Andrew Luck’s decision to retire at age 29, two weeks before the start of the regular season, are going to be felt across the league and for years to come.