As you probably already know, star quarterback Andrew Luck is returning to school for in all likelihood his last hurrah with Stanford Football. If the school wasn’t already practically buzzing with that Orange Bowl high, it sure will be now. That loud party this weekend? Andrew Luck’s coming back. Those three guys passed out in that hedge? Andrew Luck’s coming back. Your roommate getting lucky and you getting sexiled? Andrew Luck’s coming back to Stanford.
However, a moment of silence as this decision amounts to a punch in the gut for Carolina Panther fans looking for a silver lining to an otherwise abysmal season. It’s their own fault for not being raucous and obnoxiously drunk at home games like proper fans (irony). Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to get him next year.
This decision is part of an older argument about the dangers of underclassmen passing up guaranteed money for more school. Did Andrew Luck make a good decision? So far, everyone at Stanford seems to think that Andrew Luck’s return is unquestionably good. Is it really? This post will analyze these burning questions, as well as touch on the Harbaugh situation. First off…
Could Andrew Luck returning for the 2011-2012 season be bad for Stanford?
Short Answer: No.
Long Answer: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Will this make Jim Harbaugh stay?
How the hell should I know? I suppose I could ask him but…
(a) Michelle Tafoya and plenty of other reporters have already asked that question, much to everyone’s chagrin
(b) I’m not a dick
(c) I find the prospect of facing down an angry Harbaugh slightly less appealing than being drowned in a bucket of old bong water. If you really can’t wait a week to hear his decision, feel free to go ask him yourself.
Did Andrew Luck make the right move?
Sam Bradford, the #1 overall pick last year, received a $78 million dollar contract, $50 million of that guaranteed. Critics of Luck’s decision point to this, as they have done in the past when players return to school, as the primary reason that he should have gone. Carolina publicly announced that they would select Luck with their pick, most likely in a desperate attempt to seduce him into leaving. By returning to school Luck is risking his draft position by giving scouts more time to over-analyze his games and opposing linebackers more chances to end his career prematurely. Brian Brohm and Matt Leinart are two of the most recent examples of quarterbacks projected to go in the top 5 but instead returned to school, and then the following year were drafted substantially lower than the past prediction. As such, they both received a rookie contract worth a fraction of what they would’ve made the year before. By returning, so the argument goes, Luck risks receiving a much smaller paycheck. And, of course, he could always suffer a career ending injury.
Point #1: Andrew Luck is not Matt Leinart
After the 05 and 07 seasons, Matt Leinart and Brian Brohm were labeled the top quarterback prospects in their class. Leinart is particuarly important because he was widely regarded as the top prospect in the draft that year. Both decided to return for their senior years, and both underwhelmed NFL Scouts. Andrew Luck is also labeled the top quarterback in this class. But, obviously, Andrew Luck is not Matt Leinart.
Matt Leinart and Brian Brohm were good quarterback prospects, with solid measurable, great production, and good pedigrees. Andrew Luck, though not a tool, is an elite quarterback prospect. Like, “best quarterback prospect in the past decade” good, or “best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning” good. Andrew Luck has demonstrated the kind of arm strength and athleticism that most NFL quarterbacks don’t have. More importantly, he shows the accuracy, intelligence, and awareness that all great quarterbacks must have. Oh, and I guess there is all that stuff about his humility, work ethic, and him being a good human being.
If anything, Andrew should look to Sam Bradford and be relieved. Critics are quick to use Sam Bradford as a cautionary tale about the risk of injuries. Why? The man had the worst season of any #1 overall pick of all time, perhaps for any professional sport. He didn’t even play 3 full games, and he still was the number one pick and got $50 million guaranteed. If Andrew Luck thinks he is durable enough to avoid getting his spine broken, all the power to him.
Point #2: Andrew Luck is the best quarterback prospect next year too
Sure, Andrew could hypothetically regress in terms of accuracy and pocket presence next year. Also, hypothetically, your car could accidentally explode and Dean Hennessy could suddenly be less incredibly sexy. In all serious, I find it asinine that people deride Luck’s decision because they are essentially discrediting his talent. In the end, only Andrew himself is in control of his performance. Pete Prisco of CBS.com writes that Luck has “nowhere to go but down” . He’s right in that Andrew Luck has been about as good as physically possible this past year (sure he sometimes puts a little too much air under some throws, but that’s just nitpicking). Still, just because he has nowhere to go but down doesn’t mean he will actually go down. Rather than regressing to the mean, he might already be there. In all likelihood, Luck will continue to perform at the high level that is representative of his immense overall talent.
Granted, this is all a moot point because even if he regresses substantially next year, he will remain the top quarterback prospect because of the mass exodus of talented underclassmen this year (Ryan Mallet, Blaine Gabbert). The main competition next year, barring an unknown dark horse, will be from underclassmen Matt Barkley of USC and Landry Jones (RS SO) of OU. Again, anything is possible, but neither have the type of physical tools or have shown the same brilliance that Luck has.
Point #3: The Lockout
Staying in school and getting that architectural design degree might actually prove to be the financially sound decision if the NFL suffers through a lockout next year. Players only get that phat paycheck if they are on the field. If divide between the owners and the players association is not mended during this off-season, there won’t be a regular season. This has lead some coaches like Alabama’s Nick Saban, who aren’t afraid to encourage their players to leave school early, to warn their underclassmen against declaring. If a lockout does happen, many lulz will be generated at the expense of quarterbacks such as Terrelle Pryor and Cam Newton if they jump ship only to find that they have no place to land.
Really, the only significant risk for Andrew is if the new collective bargaining agreement institutes a rookie pay scale. This would reduce that $50 million to about $10 million. However, it is definitely worth mentioning that if Luck plays well during his contract, which he should, he can easily ask for a substantial raise. Wide receiver Andre Johnson was only one year into a five year contract when he signed a new, juicier contract making him the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.
Point #4: It’s his ******* decision
We can’t know Luck’s mindset, and at the end of the day the only opinion that really matters is the one Luck comes up with. The most likely scenario is that in five years, the sporting world will be completely focused on the analysis of his professional exploits, abandoning this question entirely. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, go celebrate.