By Dave Wischnowsky–
Andrew Luck is dumb. Andrew Luck left millions on the table. Andrew Luck had the chance of a lifetime handed to him and he went and threw it straight out of bounds.
Or, maybe he isn’t, maybe he didn’t and maybe he hasn’t.
In fact, by turning his back on the NFL (for now) and electing to return to gorgeous Palo Alto for his junior season of college football (there are worse places to spend another year, by the way), maybe the projected No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft instead showed he’s just really, really smart.
You know, exactly like kids from Stanford are supposed to be.
Now, let me tell you why.
Let’s start off by agreeing that playing quarterback in the NFL isn’t exactly your average job. For one thing, it’s abnormally complicated (have you seen an NFL playbook?). And for another thing, it’s abnormally stressful (how often do angry 300-pound men chase you around your office?).
Then, factor in that as a quarterback who’s also the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, you’re expected to pretty much play (well) right away. And that’s pretty much like stepping into an executive-level position for a struggling Fortune 500 company and being expected to instantly start doubling its profits.
Oh, and you’re supposed to handle all of this at the age of 21.
What kind of job were you holding down when you were 21?
(I bet it wasn’t quarterback.)
This Saturday, the divisional round of the NFL playoffs is set to kick off, meaning there are only eight quarterbacks still left standing this season. And seven of them spent at least four years on a college campus (Aaron Rodgers, who left Cal after three seasons, is the lone exception).
When the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs kicked off last weekend, there were 12 quarterbacks still left standing. And 10 of them spent at least four years on a college campus (Michael Vick, who left Virginia Tech after three seasons, including a redshirt, is the other exception).
When ESPN’s John Clayton ranked his “Elite Division” NFL quarterbacks last week, 10 of the 12 had spent at least four years on a college campus (Rodgers and Vick were the only exceptions).
After the 2011 season, Andrew Luck will have spent four years on a college campus.
Still think he made an unwise decision?
Now, here’s the way I look at things with early-entry into the NFL, particularly in regards to quarterbacks (the toughest position). A player needs to ask himself: Do I want to just make the NFL, or do I actually want to succeed in the NFL?
Clearly, there’s a big difference.
And I think both Luck – as well as University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker (who last year turned down the likelihood of being the draft’s No. 1 pick to return for his senior season) – each answered in the latter on that question. They want to succeed as pros, not just cash in.
Plenty of silly people have criticized Locker for not jumping to the NFL last year, because “his stock has dropped” this season and he’s no longer projected to be the top pick this April. So what? He’s still projected to be a first-round pick, and Locker has said that he feels he’s matured as a senior and is now better prepared for the pros.
There’s an excellent chance that Luck’s “stock” will also drop next season and that some new hotshot will be projected as the draft’s top pick a year from now. However, while Lock’s draft status can only go down in 2011 (and, yes, he could get hurt), his preparation for the NFL can only go up.
And again, that’s what it’s all about – making it in the NFL, not just making the NFL.
Or, at least, should be.
Fact is, successful NFL quarterbacks take the time to let themselves marinate in college – they need the experience and maturity. And, if you need one final statistic to convince you of that, well, here it is:
Of the 18 Super Bowl champions since 1993, 17 of them were led by a quarterback who spent at least four years in college.
The lone exception was Baltimore’s Trent Dilfer in 2001. And we all know Dilfer wasn’t the reason (ahem, defense) why the Ravens won that year, anyway.
But a four-year college career from Andrew Luck?
Well, that just might be the exact reason why we watch him hoist a Super Bowl trophy in the future.
Your decision to return was good, Luck. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.