Can Andrew Luck become a top-5 quarterback next season?

The Colts are now set to pay QB Andrew Luck for what he could be—not what's he's shown thus far. Mike Renner explains.

| 4 months ago
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Can Andrew Luck become a top-5 quarterback next season?

Extension details: According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Indianapolis Colts have signed QB Andrew Luck to a five-year extension (six-year deal) worth more than $139 million, with $87 million guaranteed.

It was inevitable. Andrew Luck has re-signed with the Colts through the 2021 season. The only thing up for debate was whether or not Luck was going to get paid like the top quarterback in the NFL, even if he realistically hasn’t even been a top-five QB in any single season up to this point in his career. The answer was a resounding “Yes,” with Luck eclipsing the Aaron Rodgers’ cap ($22 million per year) that no one has yet to lay legitimate claim in surpassing.

With the deal done, the new debate is whether or not Luck will ever live up to those lofty expectations. As a rookie out of Stanford in 2012, Luck had more hype following him around than any quarterback this millennium. That season, he had a modicum of early success, but as the Colts had a worst-to-first turnaround, people were quick to crown him. Issues with inaccuracy, holding onto the ball, and decision-making were conveniently glossed over because Indianapolis was winning games. Those problems came to a head in 2015 in what can only be described as a disaster of a season for Indy. Luck managed only two positively-graded games in seven starts, earning below-average passing grades in the five other games. To make matters even worse, it was reported after the season that he may have come back too soon from his shoulder injury, and that the damage was worse than originally believed.

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In the NFL, though, it’s important to remember that you don’t pay for past performance—only what you expect in the future. Luck’s sky-high potential hasn’t changed, and at 26 years old, he’s still mastering the nuances of the professional quarterback position. Tom Brady was 30 when he made his first All-Pro team. Rich Gannon made his first Pro Bowl at age 34, and then went to four straight, culminating in an MVP award. The same things Luck has struggled with—getting the ball out quickly and turnover-worthy throws—are two areas in which we’ve seen QBs consistently improve as they age. In Luck’s last full healthy season of 2014, he made turnover-worthy throws at the seventh-highest rate in the league; however, he made up for it by making big-time throws at the fourth-highest rate in the league. You can’t teach someone to throw as well downfield as he can (he was top-10 in deep-accuracy percentage in two of his first three years). With what figures to be an improved offensive line and a healthy stable of weapons on the outside, the Colts are hoping they can teach Luck to avoid the mistakes that have haunted him in the past.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • zinn21 zinn21

    Andrew Luck is a huge talent. I’m just not sold on their coach and his management. Let’s see how they run the ball and protect Luck..

    • crosseyedlemon

      I would tend to agree. The Colts have made changes in the coaching ranks which last season seemed to be at odds with itself too often. Re-signing Luck long term was a no brainer, since without him, the Colts would be chasing a championship in vain for at least the next decade.

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  • crosseyedlemon

    “In the NFL, though, it’s important to remember that you don’t pay for past performance—only what you expect in the future.”…..but future expectations are based on past performance – not wishful thinking, in most cases.

    • AJ

      Not exactly. Past performance is more or less just a tool to use when trying to predict future performance. A lot more needs to be considered beyond just past performance.

      • crosseyedlemon

        I didn’t mean to imply that stats are the only thing considered. Obviously other things gets discussed when sides meet to negotiate a contract. A players ability to stay healthy is clearly something management want to be confident in before they offer a rich long term deal.

        • eYeDEF

          Some future expectations are based on past performance. Obviously that doesn’t mean those expectations are going to be a mirror of past stats. Age obviously plays a big role, and tied into that is the estimation of the player’s projected ceiling and the chances he’ll meet it in the next contract.

  • Adam Fogarty

    People talk bad about this guy but he’s only missed the playoffs 1 year which was this past season and he didn’t even play the whole year, the fact that he usually makes the playoffs is a testament to how good he really is, the fact that he can make up for a lack of a running game, a terrible offensive line and a terrible defense and still make the playoffs give the man some help and watch him go to super bowls

    • crosseyedlemon

      Being in the league’s worst division reduces the shine on reaching the playoffs somewhat but Luck is clearly a quality starter who can win plenty of games for you when he has talent surrounding him.

      • Adam Fogarty

        Except the fact that other than receiver he hasn’t had anything around him and he’s always in the playoffs

        • tai

          Because they play in an absolute horrid AFC South. Under a microscope the Colts making the playoffs is not really that impressive when every division winner gets a shot at the playoffs and the AFC South has basically been 6 free wins for the last 3 or 4 years. It’d be something to tout if it was the NFC North, NFC West, or AFC East.

  • Christian

    off topic but PFF please change your dates to the actual date/time the article was published. i just read an article and had to stop to think what 8 months ago was

  • Jason

    Andrew Luck isn’t a better QB than Eli Manning in 2016. That’s just reality.