When the Ravens take the field against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, they do so against an offensive rookie of the year candidate in the first overall pick from this year’s draft, Andrew Luck. That he’s a candidate for the award however, doesn’t mean that he’s actually a worthy winner and, while he may become a great NFL quarterback in time, his play just now has enough flaws that the Ravens can capitalize on this Sunday.
There are plenty of stats that people point to when looking to highlight Luck’s positives this season. My three personal favorites are: his breaking of the rookie passing yardage record, his ability to bring the Colts back with game winning drives, and how many wins the Colts have this season compared with a year ago. Let’s start with the first one.
Most Passing Yards by a Rookie
Yes, Luck has thrown for more yards than any rookie quarterback ever has. And yes, this is impressive. However, there’s a couple of things which help inflate this stat. Firstly, only four quarterbacks in the league have attempted more passes than Luck and, obviously, the more passes you attempt, the more yards you’re going to throw for.
Secondly, nobody in the league has attempted more passes 20 yards or more downfield than the 101 by Luck. Throwing for over 4,000 yards is impressive, but in a pass heavy offense that attacks downfield it’s to be expected.
If you really want to look at his play as a passer, look at what he does on those attempts, rather than the inflated numbers. For example, taking a look at his Adjusted Accuracy from Pro Football Focus (which takes drops, throwaways and batted passes out of the equation), Luck ranks 25th amongst all QBs. How many yards could he have thrown for if he was as accurate as his rookie counterparts RGIII and Russell Wilson, who rank second and fourth respectively in the same category?
The other side to his passing problems has been the fact that he has made just too many mistakes in his rookie season. Now, I’m well aware rookies have teething problems, and I expect his decision making to get better with time, but in a season where he’s been talked about as the best rookie quarterback and even as an MVP candidate by some, he simply hasn’t been good enough in this area. The best example of this is the controversial interception returned for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans. Did the officials get this one wrong? Was his knee down? Absolutely. But go back and watch that play again. Ignore the fact that his knee was down, Luck certainly was when he let go of the ball. Why was he throwing that pass? It’s a terrible decision and up there with the worst decisions and throws by a quarterback I’ve seen all year.
When it comes to his game winning drives, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t been impressive in those situations. And that’s probably what makes me think he’ll still turn out to be a top quarterback in the league. However, in stating the greatness of those comebacks, we’re missing a vital point. He helped get the team into that hole with some shoddy, some bad and some downright awful quarterback play. He’s good enough to get them back out of that hole against some teams, but quality teams have the ability to absolutely crush you if you let them get on top of you. Take a look at the New England game where the Colts were blown away with little resistance.
Finally we come to my least favorite stat in all of football. The quarterback wins stat. I’ll never understand why we don’t challenge the logic that a quarterbacks record defines how good he has played. Want proof? How about Joe Flacco’s two playoff games against the New England Patriots?
Game one, awful. Thanks to a great performance by the team all round however, Flacco gets a “win” in that one.
Game two, last year’s AFC Championship Game. Anybody want to tell me Joe Flacco didn’t play well enough to win that game? He threw the game-winning pass to Lee Evans only for Sterling Moore to rip it away.
And yet that’s a “loss” for Flacco?
I hate the quarterback win stat. It tells me nothing about the quarterback. So when you tell me that “Luck raised the Colts from two wins to 11!” all you’re really telling me is that the Colts won 11 games.
I think Andrew Luck is going to be a very good quarterback in the NFL, but he hasn’t been close to the level of his fellow rookie quarterbacks and, personally, I think you’ll see that between the two games played in the state of Maryland on Sunday.
Kris Jones had an article out earlier this week about how Ed Reed ups his game come playoff time. With that in mind, don’t be surprised to see number 20 with that ball in his hands if Luck makes some of the poor decisions his rookie season has been plagued by.