The preseason acquisition of Jacoby Brissett has quietly turned out to be a sound and prescient move by freshman Colts general manager, Chris Ballard. Brissett offers the team a capable starter and quality backup for when Andrew Luck returns -- whether this season, or next. But some have taken Brissett’s arrival as more than a stop-gap for when Luck returns.
On Friday, NFL.com analyst and TV personality, Bucky Brooks, suggested the presence of Brissett offers more than assurance as the team waits for the return of their franchise signal caller. In the piece, Brooks, who played in the NFL and spent time as a scout, more than just floats the idea of the Colts moving on from Luck, he endorses it.
“If the Indianapolis Colts are serious about building a title contender, they should trade away Andrew Luck in the coming offseason,” writes Brooks.
This is the hottest of hot takes, but instead of offering compelling evidence to support his fireball of a claim, he goes down the much beaten path of contextless macro stats and flimsy arguments. Brooks’ argument revolves around four major contentions: Luck is oft-injured, he’s simply not that good, the aforementioned presence of Jacoby Brissett, and the haul the Colts could get if they part ways.
The Hurt Luck-er
"real-time quarterback injuries aren’t totally debilitating to team’s long-term success."
While Brooks isn’t technically wrong about Luck being injured a lot lately -- and his point rings especially true as Colts fans opine for videos of Luck throwing in practice -- quarterback injuries aren’t totally debilitating to team’s long-term success.
Matthew Stafford missed 19 games before starting every snap for the Lions since 2011, Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t played a full season in back to back years since 2013-2014, and Aaron Rodgers has bookended his last five seasons with season ending injuries at the 9-game and 6-game mark, respectively.
Brooks also paints the picture Luck hasn’t put together healthy seasons in the past. Luck started every game from 2012 to 2014 before missing over half the season in 2015 with a lacerated kidney. In 2016, he missed one game. Fact is, Luck has been more healthy than he’s been injured and it’s not really close. Brooks may be imagining a Sam Bradford-like dystopia for the Colts if they hold on to Luck but history says that is unlikely, and logic says Luck is worth it.
The Natural vs. The Insurance
Brooks’ second contention raises questions about Luck’s reputation as an elite quarterback and suggests he’s “merely a top-15 player.” While there’s plenty of conjecture and subjective rhetoric to make, there are also cold hard numbers that suggests Brooks is wrong.
"Andrew Luck is a special player beyond what stats over the course of his young career can say."
Pro Football Focus graded Luck as at a 91.9 on their 100 point scale which was good enough for second on their metric. 2016 was no anomaly, either. Luck graded out at 81.4 in 2012, 84.8 in 2014, and 86.7 in 2015. Luck had an off year while playing injured and only half the season in 2016 when he graded at 52.2.
Further, Brooks uses faulty reasoning putting Luck in “unsavory” company. The players below represent quarterbacks he considers in the same “class” as Luck.
Anyone with an ounce of sense can see this isn’t really a 1:1 comparison. All three of Dalton, Smith, and Bradford have played more games and seasons than Luck and the cherry-picked comparison doesn’t tell the story of how good each player is. Most would (and should), without hesitation, take Luck over all those players. Further, Brooks’ data dive argument certainly comes up short when these names are tossed in:
Cam Newton: 58.8 percent completion rate, 145:86 TD-to-INT, 86.1 passer rating
Derek Carr: 61.3 percent completion rate, 92:35 TD-to-INT, 88.7 passer rating
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com
Casting a wide net then picking the stats supporting your argument isn’t going to hold up even under the slightest scrutiny.
Looking at results over the course of a half decade doesn’t really speak to Luck (or Dalton, or Smith, or Newton, etc.) as a player. It doesn’t speak to his ability to overcome rushers in the pocket, or his 4th quarter comebacks, or his off platform throws, or anything of any nuance or consequence. Andrew Luck is a special player beyond what stats over the course of his young career can say.
While Brooks argues Luck isn't as good as the hype suggests, he feels much higher than the market on Brissett. Brissett has taken on folk hero lore since his arrival in Indianapolis, but people seem to hear of him more than they’ve actually seen him. The former Patriot by way of NC State quarterback is a nice player, but he’s no Andrew Luck -- he’s not even Andy Dalton or Alex Smith. Pro Football Focus rates Brissett at a 76.4 through week six.
If Luck is going to miss games here and there because of his play style (as do Rodgers, Roethlisberger, and Newton), Brissett offers the type of safety net needed in a pinch.
A Pauper's Ransom
"...there’s no replacement for a franchise quarterback and there are none on the horizon the same caliber as Andrew Luck."
Brooks makes the comparison to the 1989 Herschel Walker trade which changed the complexion of the early 90s Cowboys for the better. This analogy falls short in many ways -- think about how much the world, let alone the league, has changed since 1989 -- but in no way is it more faulty than the fact Luck is a quarterback and Walker was not.
As we’ve seen with teams like the Browns and Rams -- who effectively traded franchise quarterbacks (albeit prospects) for draft picks with little to show for it -- there’s no replacement for a franchise quarterback and there are none on the horizon the same caliber as Andrew Luck. The best the Colts could hope for is a team with a legitimate franchise QB and a strong roster around him (something they could feasibly have with Luck), and the worst is being the Browns for 10 years.
Ultimately, the argument Brooks makes can virtually be made with any team with a franchise quarterback with holes on the roster: Sell your asset at the highest price to the highest bidder and rinse and repeat until holes are filled. When a team has a franchise quarterback, even one who vaguely resembles one, the team should do everything it can to not lose that asset.
Brooks makes the case Luck’s value via trade would make the team better than he ever could -- but it’s clear his proposition is faulty. Luck propelled a one-win team to the playoffs his rookie year, then took his team to the conference championship two seasons later. Last year, he put in an MVP caliber season. Brooks contends he’s not a prisoner of the moment, but that warning falls on deaf ears.