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Is Luck Really The Best QB In College Football?
It's no secret that Bill Polian and the Indianapolis Colts are looking ahead to the NFL draft after dropping their first ten games of the season, and everyone has already anointed them first overall pick and taking Andrew Luck with that pick next April. I've been pretty vocal in my opinion of Luck and the Colts using the first pick on him, and after watching him play in the last two games against legitimate competition, I'm less sold on this QB. Don't get me wrong, he's a great QB, but he's on a team that is stacked with talented players. He has the luxury of playing behind an outstanding offensive line, as well as having an exceptional running game. He will not have either of these luxuries in Indianapolis. I think the Colts are trying to duplicate what they did with Peyton Manning. The odds of this happening are about 1 out of a million. It's tough for a rookie QB to come to a team that has nothing and excel, usually because he's listed as a bust before they can build the team around him. Let me explain.
QB's With Potential Have Been Left For Dead Every Year
Nearly every season, a quarterback is drafted to a team that is absolutely awful, and fails to produce in their first few seasons. They are then exiled out of the league, or become life time back-ups. I'll start with Tim Couch. Highly touted from the University of Kentucky, he had the unfortunate pleasure of being the first overall pick to the expansion Cleveland Browns. In his last two years at Kentucky, he threw for over 8,500 yards and 75 TD's, similar numbers to Luck. He came into an expansion Browns team and took over the starting spot in the second game of the season and threw for 2,500 yards, 15 TD's, and 13 INT's. These are pretty decent numbers for a rookie QB, especially on an expansion team. Three seasons later, he took the Browns to the playoffs with a 9-7 record, throwing for 3,000 yards and 18 TD's. During the course of these four years though, Couch suffered many injuries behind an expansion, make-shift offensive line, and never had a solid running game, or great receivers to throw to. He's listed as possibly THE biggest bust ever for a first overall pick (at least before JeMarcus Russell came along), but I don't agree with this. In 59 starts, Couch threw for over 11,000 yards, 64 touchdowns, and a 60% completion percentage. All of this on an expansion team. What do you think this guy could have done if we were put on a decent team? My guess is he would have had a pretty good career and possibly won a Super Bowl, or at least the six playoff games they predicted he'd win in Cleveland.
There are a number of other quarterbacks that fit this mold. David Carr is another good example. I still think this guy is a good QB. His senior year at Fresno State he threw for over 4,800 yards and 46 touchdowns, which earned him the honors of being the first overall pick to the expansion Houston Texans. Carr was placed on a team worse than Couch's Browns team. This expansion team had virtually no offensive line the entire five years that Carr was there. In fact, he was sacked a record 76 times his rookie season, and was sacked on average over 50 times a season in this span. Despite all this, Carr only missed four games during this five year term. The team got better nearly every year under Carr, and finished 6-10 in his fourth season, but the team just wasn't good enough to support Carr's talents. Carr left in 2006, and now five years later, the Texans look to make their first playoff appearance ever. This tells me it wasn't David Carr alone. This team has just been bad for a decade. It looks like they finally have the talent to make a playoff run in their 10th season.
I could go on with this list. Jeff George was a huge "mistake" the Colts made over 20 years ago with the first overall pick. Look at Alex Smith this year, finally playing under a coach that is utilizing his ability. He played for a horrible team for a long time, had a different offensive coordinator every season, and would have been left for dead if it weren't for Jim Harbaugh. My point with all of this is you can't win championships with just a quarterback. You have to have a full team effort. I've seen teams win without a great quarterback (Buccaneers, Ravens to name a few) but I've never seen a team win a Super Bowl with an amazing quarterback, but have no running game, no offensive line, and no defense. That's where the Colts fall right now. My worry is that they will draft Luck and throw him into the fire and the guy will be out of the league in three years. Now if he sits behind Peyton for three years, learns from a hall of fame quarterback, and allows the team to build talent around him like Aaron Rodgers did in Green Bay, he'll succeed.
I'm not saying the guys listed above (Couch, Carr, George) would have been the next Peyton Manning. I'm simply stating they could have been better players if they were put in a different situation, like Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, and Eli Manning. My point is there aren't many Peyton Manning's out there.
But back to the point of this article, I don't believe that Luck is the best quarterback in college football. He's very good, the numbers show that. 3,000 yards, 31 TD's, and 8 INT's are all very good numbers. But there is a quarterback that plays in a pro style offense that has better numbers, has beaten the teams that Luck has failed to beat, and looks like he'd be a great fit for the Indianapolis Colts. Who am I talking about? USC's Matt Barkley. I watched Barkley's impressive performance against Notre Dame a few weeks ago, and then watched him shine against a very good Oregon defense last night. This is the same defense that Andrew Luck struggled against a week ago. Barkley has a fluid throwing motion, he stands tall in the pocket, and doesn't make a lot of mistakes. On the season, Barkley has thrown for over 3,100 yards, 33 TD's and only 7 interceptions. He also has a completion percentage of 68%. I think the Colts could make a trade with a team like Washington or Seattle that has a need for Luck, gather some extra picks, take Matt Barkley, and possibly get a running back, offensive lineman, or a defensive lineman in the second round.