Yes, I’m late on this. Yes, it has faded from popular memory. It’s hard to remember in week seven, but not too long ago the National Football League (NFL) was shaken to its core. Andrew Luck, a cornerstone of the Colts franchise and undisputed top tier quarterback in the league, abruptly retired at age 29. The heat of the NFL season can make us forget the shock we all felt. One could argue he walked away from a hall of fame career only half written. It is inarguable that he left millions of dollars, a massive legacy and most importantly, the game he loved, all behind for the sake of his physical and mental health.
The on-field impact is happening before our eyes in the midst of this 2019 season, but it’s less consequential than imagined. The Colts exit their bye week content with new starter Jacoby Brissett who rides a 3–2 record and a recent win over the usually dominant Kansas City Chiefs. Would Luck have raised the ceiling of the offense and bought them an extra win or two? Sure. But ultimately, franchises change trajectory constantly, and this sudden change in fortune is nothing new from a football perspective.
So what does it mean for the NFL? What does it mean for the league’s future? First and foremost, this highlights a massive failure from the Colts franchise. The impressive performance from the offensive line in 2018 may serve as a distraction from this, but prior to 2018 the Colts consistently put together horrible offensive lines that failed to protect Luck.
It ultimately culminated in him missing the entirety of the 2017 season with a mysterious shoulder injury. The team hired a new coaching staff, drafted an all-pro in offensive guard Quenton Nelson, and transformed the unit into one of the league’s best. But ultimately it was too late, and Luck’s injury frustrations played a huge role in his decision to retire.
From a league-wide perspective, a lot of people wondered if Luck was setting a new precedent. Football at this level is a grueling ordeal that takes a toll mentally and physically, and no one should ever feel shame when their body and mind demand they step down. Early retirements have happened in the past and they won’t stop in the future.
But Luck’s exit should be a wake-up call for the NFL and its owners, who consistently put their players through hell and back to squeeze out a little more profit. Luck’s situation is a sad reminder that while the sport we love can bring immense joy, it often comes at a solemn cost, and we as fans should never demand anything less than complete devotion from the owners to a healthier, safer sport.