Analysis: No Need For Andrew Luck To Return To Colts This Season

Franchise quarterback has been ruled out for Sunday at Miami, but why risk another injury by bringing him back in a lost NFL season?

A day after the Indianapolis Colts were written off as a playoff team, we learn quarterback Andrew Luck won’t play Sunday at Miami.

Perhaps it was to be expected. How fast can a lacerated kidney heal?

But when head coach Chuck Pagano was up front Monday about how Luck wouldn’t return, it was a bit of an eyebrow raise. Luck had said all along he expected to return before the end of the season.

Colts owner Jim Irsay had said recently the team hoped Luck would be OK to play against Houston last Sunday. If not against the Texans, then against the Dolphins this week.

That, evidently, was wishful thinking.

And now it certainly seems as if other reports that suggested Luck wouldn’t be back this season will prove to be accurate.

So be it. 

When Luck said last week that his lacerated kidney wasn’t yet 100 percent and he was cleared for just some drills and not team work in practice, I came home and told the Mrs. that it sure didn’t seem like No. 12 was going to play this season.

“Good,” she said. “There’s no reason to risk it.”

And that seems to be a popular opinion with fans. As the family was visiting with neighbors to give Christmas presents, the iPhone informed of Pagano’s announcement. Coach didn’t have much else to say about it, either. I shared the news with one of my neighbors, a diehard Colts fan, and he had the same response as the Mrs. He didn’t want to see Luck out there with this O-line, either.

While a few optimists might cling to the unlikely scenario that the Colts could win out and still claim the AFC South Division title from the Houston Texans, seriously, that’s probably not going to happen. Houston visits Tennessee, which lost quarterback Marcus Mariota for the rest of the season, then hosts Jacksonville, which checked out of the race with a bad home loss to Atlanta. The Texans’ defense should be strong enough to win both of those games.

The Colts know that, too. It’s not to suggest the decision on Luck is influenced in any way by the team’s chances. But Luck’s steady but slow progress, being cleared to just jog a bit and throw a few passes in drills last week, didn’t sound like he was close to being ready. And given the team’s situation, with a three-game losing streak and the prospects for making the playoffs seemingly lost, it wouldn’t make sense to put Luck back out there even if he were 100 percent.

He would want to play, sure. That’s how he is. Luck doesn’t want to let his teammates down. But at some point, common sense has to prevail.

And on a related subject, shut down backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, too. He’s done what he could with four wins in seven starts, but also taken far too much punishment. As Pagano said, “He’s beat up from the feet up.” The 40-year-old Hasselbeck is probably ready for retirement, the way he feels. Everyone was grateful for the 17th-year pro’s efforts in trying to save this season. But that was too much to expect.

Let Charlie Whitehurst play. “Clipboard Jesus” is healthy, and he's been around the league for a decade. You never know.

I’m actually glad Luck isn’t playing. And I don’t want to see him in the regular-season finale against the Titans in two weeks at Lucas Oil Stadium. Even if the Texans stumble and open a door for the Colts to still be in contention that final week, again, let’s be realistic. This team is too flawed to go far in the playoffs. Anybody who thinks otherwise hasn’t been paying enough attention to how the team has played in the past three weeks.

Given how everything else has gone this season, a supposed Super Bowl contender being reduced by so many factors to a disappointment, the last thing we want to see is the future of the franchise going down a third time.

The risk isn’t worth any kind of reward the Colts could earn.

I’m also glad this ongoing storyline appears to have a resolution. It’s worth this headline and one more, when he’s ruled out next week, then we all put this season to bed.

I hope Luck takes a nice, long vacation somewhere nice and warm. Enjoy the time off and rest up. We’ll all look forward to seeing him again during offseason training activities this spring. We look forward to seeing him healthy again, and hopefully wiser from the experience (more slides, take fewer hits, know when it’s smart to survive for the next play).

At this point, Luck’s health matters more than anything else, for his future and that of the franchise, regardless of who is coaching or who is the general manager. Irsay will decide on Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson soon enough.

As long as Irsay has a healthy Andrew Luck, he has the most important piece to rebuilding his team.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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