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Posted Jan. 7, 2011

Analyzing Andrew Luck's Decision

There are a ton of ways I'm going to analyze Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's decision to return to school for his redshirt junior season - not just why it was another terrible decision by an underclassman quarterback, but what you as a fan or draftnik can learn from it.

Let's talk about why Luck is returning to Stanford. First, he believes nothing bad is going to happen to him. His dad probably told him, "The NFL will always be there" about a hundred billion times. Luck doesn't envision himself regressing next season. He also loves college. I'm sure he loves the college culture - the girls, the partying, the friends, and the overall college environment. Hey, I understand - college is the greatest years of many people's lives.

However, none of us have the chance to be a franchise quarterback in the National Football League. None of us hit the lottery - born into the right family with the right genetics and upbringing to live the dream. And none of us will ever earn enough money to make Scrooge McDuck jealous.

It's a bad decision, and just because you are being a nonconformist in going back to school doesn't make it the right decision.

What does a college diploma mean when you are an NFL quarterback? Why is a degree important if you can make life-changing money and you have a career making millions for the next 15 years? You can always go back to school and get your degree.

I feel like there is a lot to be said for wanting to play against the best competition in the world and own the burden of being a franchise quarterback - it's similar to wanting the ball in your hands in the fourth quarter. You want the pressure because you want the adversity so you can feel the happiness of success.

Is this what Luck wants? Most of us dream of becoming a famous athlete when we are kids - the fame, the money, playing sports for a living. How badly does Luck want to play at the next level? Is he not ready for the pressure of being a franchise quarterback?

If you want to compete against the best in the world and prove yourself - you go pro.

Andrew Luck has nothing left to prove, and the worst part about this decision is his stock inevitably must go down - but he could still go No. 1 next year. Jim Harbaugh is an elite play-caller - one of the best in college football. He was always one or two steps ahead of the defense, and his receivers always seemed to be open due to orchestrating creative route combinations, predicting coverages and creating mismatches. Whoever replaces him will make Luck look less efficient.

Luck is also losing fullback Owen Marecic, receivers Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen, and three starters on the offensive line. I think we can also expect the defense to take a step back.

Lucks' stats certainly won't stay the same, and they can't be any better.

Luck is perceived as this perfect quarterback. Draftniks tend to knock quarterbacks who are big, athlete, and have strong arms - these are very positive qualities individually, but a quarterback like Luck isn't very flashy and Draftniks love this. It's a wrong line of thinking because talent is a positive trait, but Luck's skill set makes him very appealing.

The problem with being perceived as perfect is people expect you to stay perfect, and this is where Jake Locker comes into the discussion. Locker was everybody's No. 1 pick to start the year. Everyone expected Locker to perform better than he did in 2009 because he had another year of experience. However, the expectations were too high, his supporting cast was absolutely pitiful, and it was simply too much for any quarterback to overcome. The higher the expectations are, the more is expected of you. The bar is impractically high, and Luck will enter the 2012 NFL Draft after a year that wasn't as good as 2010, and there will be some questions regarding his makeup. Maybe some will view Luck as a product of Harbaugh if he somehow starts throwing a lot more interceptions and he can't move the sticks as often.

Another factor - what if something really bad happens to Luck? What if he suffers a fatal injury? What if he becomes injury-prone and has to wait until 2013 to declare? Anything can happen. Going back to school is a massive risk.

I'm thinking Luck really doesn't care if he goes No. 1 overall now or No. 12 overall in 2012. It's all the same - and quite frankly, if $10 million can't make you happy, then neither will $50 million.

To me, it's about wanting to be great. It's about pushing yourself and wanting to prove yourself against the best in the world. It's about that dream you have of wanting to become one of the greatest ever to play the game and win championships.

I've got news for Luck - your public perception can be sunny on one day, then four months later it can turn into complete darkness and negativity. Ask Locker. You have no talent around you and a defense that can't stop anyone. You put up some pitiful stats, lose some games, and all of a sudden you go from accurate, productive and a "winner" to inaccurate, inconsistent and a "loser." It can be gone in the blink of an eye.

It's Luck's life; not mine, but I want to see athletes chase greatness. Can you imagine if Michael Jordan had said he wanted to get his degree at North Carolina instead of coming out as a junior, and then he subsequently tore his ACL and never fully recovered? We ALL would have lost something as sports fans.

Don't say it is impossible. A big part of the reason why we love sports is the element of unpredictability. It's why we watch games. Yeah, we think we know, but you have to play the games.

Luck is flirting with fire, and the fire known as the NFL Draft can be as brutal and cruel as anything.





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