The NBA is lauded in internet circling for its drama, interpersonal conflicts, and zany little things. The Clippers and Rockets tunneling from one locker room to another like an Arcade Fire Funeral, LeBron James hating his entire team, DeAndre Jordan locked in a mansion and waterboarded until agreeing not to bolt for Dallas. The future is always more interesting in the NBA. The present is already decided. The Warriors are going to win every title for the next five years. When the end result is already set, the journey has to be the focus.
The NFL now has their own NBAish conspiracy going on. There’s a Markelle Fultz situation brewing in Indianapolis. For those that don’t know, Fultz is a number one pick who got injured and now can’t shoot. He’s lost his mind. So far his career has been resigned to pregame shootaround clips of him criss-crossing athletic trainers and refusing to shoot a jump shot in front of the public.
A similar thing is occurring in Indianapolis. Former first round pick and transcendent when healthy Andrew Luck missed all of last season. Nobody knows when he will play next. The Colts put him behind a biohazard offensive line for his career. With a dangerous style of play that includes holding the ball until the last second and unleashing it fifty yards down the field, coupled with an offensive line made of straw, Luck has been the most hit quarterback during his time in the NFL. More than Russell Wilson. More than Ryan Tannehill. Luck was the most shellacked quarterback, and it finally caught up to him.
Luck injured his shoulder early in the 2015 season, and the Colts had him play through it. He didn’t look right the entire season and threw a Bortlesian number of interceptions. Luck played with an injured shoulder, but it took suffering a lacerated kidney in an upset of the Broncos to knock him out for the rest of the season.
Indianapolis rushed him back from his injury in 2016. They signed him to a contract extension after he missed one game. Then the Colts put him under the knife to repair the labrum he hurt two years before. Then Luck sat out all of 2017. With the power of hindsight, it now looks like the Colts exacerbated an already bad thing when Luck carried a pitiful defense in a scratching and clawing playoff chase.
While Jacoby Brissett spun through the season in 2017, there was weird speculation regarding Luck’s shoulder before and during that campaign. Was Luck going to start Week One? No. He started the season on the PUP list. Would he return? No. He sat the rest of the year. After his lost season was announced, Luck was in Europe getting blood therapy. Then he was in Panama shooting up stem cells. He was rotating around the Earth at high speeds to try and rearrange his cells. He was on a new throwing program, maybe? Nothing indicated that he could even throw a football.
Luck not playing last season was the best thing that could happen for Indy. He was able to get a year of rest. He could hang out and read Dune. Most importantly, he avoided getting smashed around for a team that would have maybe won seven games with him in the lineup. After all, you only get to play the Houston Texans twice. It was expected he’d play again in 2018, refreshed, and with a brand new roster reloaded with a haul of resources.
But now Luck’s availability in 2018 is already in question. The Colts made arrangements for Josh McDaniels to be their head coach during the postseason. The Colts sent out several tweets announcing McDaniels as their head coach after the Super Bowl and were preparing for the press conference to make it official. But then, after visiting the facility in Foxborough to pack up his things, McDaniels had a change of heart and mind, opting to stay in New England.
The public reasons why McDaniels stayed didn’t have to do with Indy itself. It was because McDaniels liked the stability there, his family likes it there, he gets to continue to coach an offense led by the greatest quarterback of all time, and it seems like there is a handshake deal in place to name him the next coach of New England once Bill Belichick zaps into a bat and flies away five years from now.
I don’t think this is the whole story. The other variable in this equation is Luck’s shoulder. I imagine McDaniels’s meeting with Luck went like this: Jim Irsay led him into a white columned house to a locked cellar door in the floor. Bolt cutters snip the lock. Irsay handed McDaniels a candle. The door opens. That unholy stench! He crawls down the ladder, looking up at Irsay’s goatee, angelic in this setting. He reaches the bottom. A gurgling sound. A hint of brown paper page books. The glow of the candle brings to light a slobbering monster. A swamp beast. Neck bearded. Crazed. His right arm is lopped off, black and singed at the nub. A spectacle of the deranged. There’s a detached arm holding a brown oblong object that’s sticking out among a pile of bright pastel covered young adult fiction. Nails scratch against the metal of the ladder, making the sounds of scurrying rats.
I 100% believe that the Patriots made it difficult for McDaniels to leave. They pulled at his coat hard enough. But I think the underlying reason why McDaniels stayed is that Luck’s shoulder is gnarled and mangled. If it wasn’t, why wouldn’t McDaniels have bolted? He would have a top ten quarterback, the third pick in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, $77 million in cap space before roster cuts, and he’d get to coach in the new coolest and hottest division in football, the AFC South, all while working with Chris Ballard, who has done a great job there so far. It should take more than pathos to keep McDaniels away from the head coaching position in Indianapolis f Luck was healthy.
The Colts are a despicable franchise. Peyton Manning is one of the Four Horsemen and destroyed Houston twice a year during my formative years. They could only beat New England in the postseason once. They lucked out and were able to bridge the one-year gap from Manning to another generational quarterback prospect. And now, in a quarterback starved world, they may have ruined that QB. They placed Andrew Luck behind a terrible offensive line, put him in a power run scheme offense after Bruce Arians left, surrounded him with geriatric skill players, had the oldest defense in football, built their roster by paying old, mediocre players way too much money, missed on the majority of their early round draft picks, and they hhave botched a shoulder injury as badly as you possibly could.
This entire thing is such a distorted mess. The most sure thing is now speculation. A generational star is now an afterthought. If you see Luck in Madagascar studying the slight differences in lemurs, finding mindfulness at the community center, or sitting with one leg over the other on a terrace somewhere, let it be known if he’s holding a football. The truth has to be out there.