Four days after Colts quarterback Andrew Luck retired, people are already discussing the possibility of his return to the Colts. No one can blame fans for indulging in that kind of hope.
Jacoby Brissett might be a solid starter in the NFL, but he is lacking the extraordinary physical tools that made Luck the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Colts will simply not be as good as they might have been with Luck at quarterback.
It sucks for fans. On the doorstep of what could have been a championship season, Luck’s retirement has turned fans surly and angry. They pine for what might have been, and hope for what could be if Luck pivots back to the Colts.
But the talk of Luck returning defies logic, and logic is always integral to Luck’s decision making.
When Luck announced he was retiring, he said “For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab — injury, pain, rehab — and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in season and off season… I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away.”
Two outcomes are possible as Luck rests to try to live a pain-free life. One is the pain that has dogged him and stripped football of its joy lingers. The other is the pain vanishes one day and Luck feels like a new man.
With every day the pain persists, it reinforces the danger of football to Luck in a most unpleasant way. If the pain fades and then evaporates, it reinforces Luck’s decision to leave because he no longer wakes up in discomfort. Both roads lead to the same place, and both validate his decision to leave the Colts and football behind.
Unless Luck develops amnesia, he will always believe football and pain are related. Football and pain are inexorably tethered in his brain. One cannot exist without the other.
Luck is a process-oriented decision maker. He engages friends and family as resources in determining a course of action. He processes the data, deliberates, and acts. He’s a smart guy, and an elite level student. Retirement was not a reflexive choice for Luck. He knew what he was doing, and waited until the last possible moment to confirm what he had known for some time because he wanted to be certain that another year in the NFL was not for him or his family.
It’s likely that getting married and having a child on the way has broadened Luck’s perspective on what’s truly important, and getting the hell kicked out of him every Sunday is not it. Neither is spending 16 hours a day in the Colts practice facility to prepare for 16 Sundays every fall.
It’s also important to remember that Luck’s dad Oliver played for the Houston Oilers for five seasons, and then graduated into a very successful professional career as an athletic administrator. He is currently the commissioner of the XFL.
Luck is not some dolt who would be incapable of making a good living if not for the great game of football. Whatever money he has in the bank this moment, today will be the least wealthy Luck is during his life.
As his dad did, Luck will embark on a second career that will leave time for his family and friends. He will heal to the extent it’s possible, and move forward with his second act rather than remain in a pain-ridden suspended adolescence playing a young man’s game.
There is no room for a u-turn in Luck’s decision because none of the reasons for the decision he made public Saturday will change.
Luck has permanently turned the page. Fans should too.