Given the circumstances, it’s remarkable Andrew Luck wasn’t playing for the Detroit Lions. The Colts franchise QB is retiring less than two weeks before the NFL season is slated to begin. There’s already a host of people, namely idiot Colts fans, ready to castigate Luck for his timing, but Luck is hardly the first NFL player to bow out of the sport in what ought to be his prime, nor will he be the last. The list keeps growing: Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Jason Worilds, Pat Tillman, Tiki Barber, Robert Smith, Vontae Davis, Lynn Swann, Gale Sayers, Jim Brown, and now Luck. Luck accomplished so much in his brief career—including the second-greatest comeback in playoff history—but his legacy will forever feel incomplete now.
Luck was always a prime candidate to cut his own career short, given both his injury history and—GASP!—his open affection for outside interests, namely architecture. Those outside interests weren’t enough to prevent the Colts from drafting Luck, perhaps because they weren’t too political or demonstrative in nature, or perhaps because Luck’s father Oliver was also a Respected Football Man, or perhaps because Luck was, physically speaking, as well-built to withstand the rigors of football as anyone could possibly be.
But I assume the Colts banked on Luck being a lifer in the sport mostly because he was supremely talented and because he was, himself, a voracious football lover. You don’t have to go too far to find evidence of that love. Luck was the guy who WANTED to get hit by opposing pass rushers, because it helped him get his sea legs for game action. That’s how insane he was for the sport. That he felt as if he had no choice but to finally abandon it NOW, right when his team and the general football public would resent his decision the most, suggests he had little hope in being able to change his own mind. This was not a choice. This had to be done.
And while the NFL will handle Luck’s retirement with its usual false graciousness, the collective silent scream of GMs and scouts in the face of a draining talent pool is growing by the second. Luck is the largest domino to fall, by far. If he can walk away from the game (and from untold millions earnings in future earnings in a league in which good QBs play for quite a while) right before the season begins, anyone can. That means, going forward, teams are gonna be too scared shitless to draft ANYONE.