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Andrew Luck's sudden retirement was badly handled by both Luck and the Indianapolis Colts

JOE HELLER - Andrew Luck Cartoon

I don't generally write about professional sports. It isn't really part of my job description and stating an opinion, especially an unpopular opinion about professional sports is just asking for negative emails.

Today, I'm going to make an exception.

Andrew Luck recently retired as the starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.

Luck was considered by many to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Depending on how you look at statistics, he is either near the top, or in the middle of NFL quarterbacks.

Last year he was second in the league in touchdown passes and fifth in passing yardage; both good numbers.

However, he was just 15th in completion percentage. His QBR rating was sixth in the league, while his passer rating was 12th.

He was also first in the league for the fewest times sacked, but on the negative side, he was also second in the league in interceptions, and 23rd in yards per completion.

Luck finished his career with 171 touchdowns, 83 interceptions, 23,671 yards and a passer rating of 89.5.

Solid numbers to be sure.

His career best 4,761 yards passing, set in 2014, was a Colts' career mark, eclipsing the old record set by Peyton Manning. He has a career record of 53 wins and 33 losses and has 20 game-winning drives.

All numbers that given a longer career would probably have landed him in the hall of fame.

Regardless of how you look at the numbers, Andrew Luck was the face of the franchise.

And it is possible that had he played for even five or six more years, he could have gone down as one of the all-time greats.

But, Luck's career was filled with injuries and when all is said and done, he only played in 86 games.

He missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury. During his six years on the field, Luck suffered a lacerated kidney, a concussion, torn abdominal muscles, ankle ailments, and he had not played a down in preseason this year, while he was rehabing a calf injury.

When he retired, the Colts fans quickly turned on him, booing loudly. At first, I thought that the fans were wrong, after all, Luck had won a lot of games for the team, and he was clearly hurt.

Who am I to judge when someone wants to retire. After all, the day is coming when I may want to retire, and I certainly don't want anyone booing as I head out the door.

Then I listened to Luck's retirement announcement and I changed my mind.

Luck comes across as just one more entitled rich guy, who has no thought for how his actions impact others.

When announcing his retirement, Luck said, "I've been stuck in this process (of rehab). I haven't been able to live the life I want to live. It's taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football."

Not having ever played professional football, it is not up to me to say when a player should or should not retire.

But what I can say is that no matter what job one has, there are days, and yes sometimes even years, that can take the joy out of the job. Yet, most people stick it out and keep on working even when things get tough. In fact, most of us don't really have a choice. After all, we have to earn enough money to put bread on the table. Luck should consider himself fortunate that he is not in the same circumstances as the fans who crassly booed him.

Lon AustinI have no idea how badly injured Luck really is. I also have no idea what all went into his decision to hang it up. Perhaps it really is time for him to call it quits. Perhaps he really is going on to bigger and better things.

However, what I can say is I don't believe the way that Luck retired is appropriate.

It wasn't fair to his team, and it was far from fair when it comes to honoring the terms of his contract.

You see, had Luck retired at the end of last season, the Colts would have had ample time to decide what they wanted to do at quarterback.

Jacoby Brissett has been taking all of the snaps with the Colts starting offense this season. He was the Colt's starter in 2017 when Luck sat out the season following shoulder surgery. So, it's not like the Colts aren't familiar with Brissett. However, it isn't fair to Brissett, or the rest of the offense, to not allow him the necessary time to become the offensive leader prior to the start of the season. I hope Brissett succeeds, but the odds are stacked against him.

Even though I don't like the timing of his announcement, it is the second thing that Luck has done in his retirement that I really find fault with.

Granted, Luck signed his current contract before the price for quarterbacks exploded. Nonetheless, at the time he signed it, he was the highest paid quarterback in the league.

When he signed, he was paid a large bonus. In addition, his contract for this year was guaranteed.

Luck could have sat on the injured reserve list for the entire season and legally collected all the money, knowing that he was going to retire. He didn't do that. However, what he did do is negotiate to keep all of the money that his contract obligated him to pay back.

His signing bonus was prorated, meaning that if he retired before the terms of the contract ended, he is obligated to pay a portion of the bonus back. In addition, his salary for this year is supposed to be paid back as well, since he retired prior to the start of the season.

I know for certain that Luck's decision isn't all about the money. His contract is up following the 2021 season and had he remained estimates are that contract could have been worth $200 million or more.

That means, had he stuck around for just a couple more years, he could have made a huge profit. And that's what puzzles me so much about how luck has handled this.

Since it isn't about the money, I have no idea why he chose to negotiate rather than repay the $24.8 million he owes the Colts.

That seems to me to be the right thing to do. Instead, Luck sent his agent in to negotiate. The agent may have told the Colts that Luck would just sit on injured reserve if he wasn't allowed to keep the money, thus circumventing the terms of the contract and collecting the money anyway. He could have suggested that Luck might come out of retirement if the team allowed him to keep the money. We don't know what was said in the negotiations. What we do know is that the team decided to let Luck keep all $24.8 million.

So, in summary, not only did Luck retire without giving the team sufficient notice to be able to plan for the future. He also stiffed the team for a sizeable share of his salary.

League records indicate that Luck made approximately $97 million over the seven years that he was in the league.

That means that 25 percent of his entire career earnings are salary that he did not earn.

What galls me about the whole thing isn't that Luck retired. It isn't even just that he kept the money. It's that he kept the money after saying that money doesn't matter to him.

And it's not like he needed the money. He has a degree in Architecture from Stanford. He is a talented 29-year-old, who can do virtually whatever he wants with his career. Unlike many of his teammates who came from underprivileged backgrounds, Luck never needed the money. He was always set financially.

So here's a multimillionaire, who can do anything he wants, and is still a young man in his prime, but, at least from the outside looking in, it looks like he doesn't have the class to do what is best for his teammates, or to return the money he owes. As far as I am concerned, that is self-centered and morally wrong.

Now, if it turns out that Luck negotiated keeping the money so that he could in turn donate it all to a charity that he holds dear, I would have a totally different take on the whole thing. If it turns out that there were no renegotiations and the team gave him the money as a parting gift, then more power to him.

However, there is nothing to indicate that is what has happened. Every report indicates that he renegotiated his contract attempting solely to keep the money.

Yes, I know that he was hurt, and I know that rehab stinks. It's not like I haven't had my share of athletic injuries.

Rehab takes countless hours, and sometimes it hurts. But Luck was paid for it, while I went through rehab to get back on the track as soon as possible because I wanted to.

It's truly difficult to have sympathy for someone you can't relate to. To me he comes across as a spoiled rich millennial. That may be harsh, and it may not even be true, but that's how it looks.

Yes, I know that Luck has actually played longer than the average NFL career. And yes, I know that often players play far too long and do permanent damage to their bodies and perhaps even their minds.

Still, I find Luck's decision to be wrong on so many levels, and bad for the game.

Don't be surprised if in the future more superstars decide to have their cake and eat it too. That is, quit at the last second and then take the money and run. Is that what the league really wants?

Luck's decision and the Colts capitulation regarding his salary has set a bad precedent for the NFL. And to put it simply, the day the 29-year-old superstar retired is the day the Colts' Luck ran out.

Lon Austin is the sports editor for the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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