by Kent Sterling
There are times when distance provides perspective. You know the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” In the case of the Indianapolis Colts that means that if you are staring at Andrew Luck, you can’t see Cassius Vaughn.
In Indianapolis, people pay close enough attention to the actions, attitude, and work product of Luck to know what he means to the Colts. People in Indy know significantly more about the DNA of great quarterbacks than Chicagoans ever will, and as a result people nationally are blathering en masse about how the 11-5 record in 2012 was a fluke.
Why the shot at Bears fans? The Bears have used 20 starting quarterbacks since 1998, which ranks last in the NFL, while the Colts have started five. Starting 20 quarterbacks in 15 seasons means the Bears have actually had 0 starting QBs. In fact, no franchise has gone longer without a franchise QB. While Manning started every game in 13 straight seasons, the Bears have not had the same man start the majority of its games under center for five consecutive seasons since Ed Brown (1955-1960).
Even worse, since 1978, Bears fans have suffered through watching 38 different starting quarterbacks.
Watching Manning develop as one of the best five QBs ever has given Colts fans a unique insight as to what a winner looks like, and Luck is a winner.
Those who see the Colts and Luck, and speak of sophomore jinxes, are judging Luck through metrics that simply aren’t relevant. We’ve heard it a million times – Luck led seven successful fourth quarter comebacks, the Colts went 9-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points, the Colts were outscored by 30 points but won 11 games – an accomplishment no team in NFL history can claim, and finally that Chuck Pagano’s leukemia inspired divine intervention for the Colts fortunes.
Somehow, the experts have ordained that the confluence of those four sets of facts must result in the Colts backpeddling to irrelevance in year two of the Luck Era in Indianapolis. Using a Venn Diagram to predict the events of sporting events turns the games into nothing more than a series of probabilities, and with football that does not work.
Baseball allows for a statistical breakdown that is far more accurate than football because baseball involves a series of one-on-one interactions. The outcome of each play during a football game is determined by a very complex interaction among 11 men attacking a second set of 11 men, and because of that discounting the 11 wins of 2012 because of a -30 point differential is bananas.
Luck is a competitor who was able through his excellence to bring the Colts wins that they otherwise should not have earned, and to argue that is an admission that games in the NFL are best explained through box scores.
The Colts will only regress if Luck does not survive the season intact. He is a special player in much the same way Manning is. The rules of math do not apply for the Colts because Luck’s presence warps them.
So Bill Simmons and those like him view the entirety of the Colts franchise and declare it prime for backslide. Bill Barnwell uses his slide rule and moans that the Colts can’t defy probability over the course of a 32-game sample like they did for 16 (in fairness, Barnwell does acknowledge that Luck is a freak for whom math offers a lacking explanation). Those in Chicago who know a great linebacker when they see one, look at the Colts without understanding that wins and losses are earned by quarterbacks and not men like George, Butkus, Singletary, and Urlacher.
Bringing a team back from the brink of defeat is not a random event like the spin of a roulette wheel; it is a skill, and rather than discussing the illogic of Luck continuing his hot streak, the pundits should spend more time examining the quality of his play.
People who watched the Colts play twice when it was convenient last season are predicting an 8-8 season. Those who took the time to watch all 16 saw Luck conjure ways to win when losses were more likely. They know that Luck’s rookie year wasn’t a creation of a lucky roll. It was about Luck’s ability to compete successfully.