INDIANAPOLIS – You had players in disbelief at what fans were telling them in the 4th quarter of a preseason game.
It was crazy talk, the players thought, but they were about to hear the shocking news right from Andrew Luck.
“It was definitely shocking,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni now says about the Luck retirement news breaking during the Colts and Bears preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I haven’t thought about it in a while. Been a lot of days and a lot of things have happened since then, but that sure was a crazy day. It felt like when it started to come out, you just saw it in the stands like (audible clicking noise). Everybody was kind of talking about it. I just remember thinking that was a little bit crazy. I think we were on defense then too. We definitely were on defense at that point, but once we went back to offense I had to obviously focus on the task at hand. But definitely a crazy night. Man, that’s hard to think that that was a year ago. Time goes fast.”
What-ifs galore have filled the minds of Colts fans over the past year thinking if Luck had kept on playing.
Let’s explore some of those possibilities:
1. MVP Caliber Quarterback
Andrew Luck was heading towards his prime years upon retirement.
In Frank Reich’s offense, Luck had just completed the most efficient season of his career (the highest completion percentage of his career) in winning Comeback Player of the year.
Luck was playing behind by far the best offensive line he had ever had in his career.
So many QBs have their prime years in their 30s and it seemed like Luck was approaching that, with the right pieces in place around him (head coach + offensive line).
Instead of the Colts hoping that 38-year-old Philip Rivers can be a significant upgrade from Jacoby Brissett, Indy would have a quarterback under center that would be the best player at his position in nearly every game.
Would having one of the best quarterbacks in the league place the Colts among the Chiefs and Ravens atop the AFC?
2. No DeForest Buckner?
Let’s remember, just because the Colts have DeForest Buckner now doesn’t mean that would have been the case with Luck still in Indy.
Luck quarterbacking the 2019 Colts would not have led to a 7-9 season, thus not drafting No. 13 overall. Another double-digit win season, plus a little more playoff success, would have had them picking more in the mid-20s of Round 1.
Would the 49ers have received a more enticing trade offer than what the Colts could have offered for Buckner?
Of course, the Colts could have sweetened the deal a bit with a couple of second-round picks to play with as well.
Still, no Buckner in the fold might have the Colts still needing more defensively to get over the hump in January.
3. Another Mega QB Contract Coming
One aspect of Luck still being the Colts franchise quarterback would lead to another massive contract coming his way, likely next offseason.
Luck’s original second contract (signed in the summer of 2016) had him hitting free agency in 2022.
Well, the Colts would have probably liked to get that new deal done in the 2021 offseason.
Having such a contract on the books would force a little more number crunching, knowing that new long-term deals are coming for Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson, among others.
With the trend of quarterback contracts in the NFL it would be fascinating to see what type of deal Luck (who turns 31 years old in a few weeks) would have received from Jim Irsay.
Currently, the Colts have only Jacob Eason under contract at quarterback past this season.
4. Different Looking 2020 Draft
The trickle down from seemingly having a better 2019 season would have meant the Colts would likely be drafting more in the 20s this past April, with still having that precious No. 34 overall pick from the Jets.
If the 49ers would have nixed a Buckner trade, would that have led to a defensive tackle selection by the Colts in Round One?
Or maybe the Colts would have flipped and taken a wideout (Tee Higgins or Michael Pittman) in the first round and then a defensive tackle in the second (Ross Blacklock?).
Unless the backup quarterback situation was really dire, Jacob Eason probably would not have been the choice in Round Four.
Could that have allowed Chris Ballard to tap into prior Round Four success at other positions (Marlon Mack, Grover Stewart, Nyheim Hines, Khari Willis)?
5. Who Is The Backup Quarterback?
Remember, the 2019 season was supposed to be a contract year for Jacoby Brissett.
But his contract situation changed when Luck retired. The Colts handed Brissett a two-year deal, keeping him in Indy through the 2020 season.
So, what if Brissett had walked in free agency this past spring? Who would be the backup for Luck now?
That’s a decision the Colts would have had to make.
Would they have enough confidence in Chad Kelly to promote him to being a backup again in the NFL?
Would we have seen a veteran QB signed this past offseason (Jameis Winston? Marcus Mariota? Andy Dalton?)
Or maybe Jacob Eason in Round Four would have still been something the Colts wanted to explore.