Opening Kickoff: There is no doubt the sudden and unexpected retirement of Andrew Luck is the biggest story in football. It may well be the biggest story of the season and had no trouble dwarfing the start of the college season, training camp holdouts, injuries of the week, and pretty much anything else we can think of.
Luck’s retirement may be the most shocking retirement in NFL history and says a lot about the state of the game as well as the mind set of current NFL players. It will affect future negotiations between teams and star players and must worry league officials. How in the world, in our money driven and fame chasing society, can a 29-year-old quarterback who is among the best in the NFL decide to retire? How does a young man paid to play a game walk away from the potential to earn another two to three hundred million dollars?
And yet, this should not come as a total shock when you consider the recent retirements of other NFL players who had plenty left in the tank. Still, when a player who plays the game’s marquee position retires a mere two weeks after letting people like Peter King know he is still looking forward to the coming season, it makes us wonder what happened.
What happened was the NFL just learned how it can get burned by players who are paid millions of dollars to do what the average fan thinks is playing just a game. The success of the NFL has led to a huge rise in earning power for players, especially quarterbacks who are now paid $30 million dollars a year.
The NFL is not a game. It is a brutal conflict between more than just two teams filled with behemoths. It’s an inner conflict inside the heads and hearts of young men who know they are playing Russian roulette with their heads and bodies, with the hope they will earn enough money to make it worth their time and pain. It’s a struggle inside the hopes of young men who want to play long enough to qualify for an NFL pension, knowing in many cases, to do so means exposing themselves to the type of injuries doctors often describe as normally found only in ER’s among car accident victims.
Clearly, no matter what kind of spin the league tries to put on Luck’s retirement, there is nothing the NFL can do to make the game safer to play. Players are either badly injured and recovering from surgeries or are just dinged up enough to only need round the clock treatment and therapy. Pain is masked by drugs that become highly addictive and made harder to swallow knowing to not take them means to not collect a paycheck. That paycheck may well be counted on by more than just the player as many are pressured to tend to the financial needs of family members who live life on the edge.
As a Stanford graduate, Andrew Luck is no dummy. He actually attended a college that expects its players to be students and to go on and earn real degrees like the one Luck earned in architecture. He chose to remain in school to graduate rather than leave a year early to make money sooner. This should have told any team he was more than just a football player. His passion was reading and not going out clubbing. He does to knowledge what Joey Chestnut does to a platter loaded with hot dogs.
After six seasons in the NFL, much of it filled by playing through and then rehabbing from some gruesome and challenging injuries, Andrew decided he no longer needed to press his luck. Knowing he had yet another season ahead of him either sitting out on the injured reserve list or sucking up pain meds and hobbling through a mysterious lower leg injury with another off season of rehab as his reward, Luck realized he had another option. He could walk away from the game and move on with his next chapter in life.
For those who say he is letting down his team, the Indianapolis Colts, you are wrong. Like anyone else in any profession, Andrew Luck has every right to place his happiness over that of the company. Ask yourself: would you continue doing what you do for a living if you had $100 million dollars in the bank?
Money does not buy passion and not everyone has the good fortune Luck had to have earned as much as he has so we stick around as teachers, engineers, mechanics, welders, longshoremen, office managers, cops, nurses and you name it, longer than we’d like to.
The NFL is not a game and it is no place to stick around any longer than you need to for a life of happiness. The fact Andrew Luck saw this and took advantage of an option many others never have is not letting down a team. Not to do so would be to let himself down.
First and Ten Thoughts
- Colt fans are understandably upset. However, they are not in as bad of shape as they think they are. This team has drafted well, possesses an excellent defense, and has enough offensive weapons to where they should still be a playoff team. You could do a lot worse than Jacoby Brissett as your quarterback.
- Next year’s group of incoming quarterbacks is shaping up to be outstanding. Should Brissett fail as a starting quarterback, the Colts have plenty to offer any team to move up for one of the top three quarterbacks likely to come out: Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagovailoa, or Justin Herbert, any of which would have likely been the first quarterback picked had they come out this year.
- Every year there is a standing argument over the pointlessness of preseason games. Coaches and players hate them because they fear players getting injured. Fans hate them because of the poor quality of play and watching third teamers fight for a roster spot, and the league scratches their heads over the increasing number of empty seats, even if most are bought and paid for. Perhaps the answer is fewer, or no preseason games and a longer regular season.
- Injuries happen all the time. Ending preseason games does not end this problem. Players will still go down in practice from injury. Drop preseason games and replace them with more weeklong dual team practices and watch, the injuries will continue. Add two more higher level played games to the regular season and watch more injuries. The NFL is about roster management and creating enough depth to keep the mind set of “Next Man Up” going. Injuries are part of the game and cannot be avoided.
- I just yawned. Not because I am tired, but because I was thinking of what I wanted to say about the kickoff to the college football season this past weekend. Florida and Miami got things started with the Gators wining 24-20 in what was an ugly game. The scoreboard might have shown a close result, but coaches and players on both sides will cringe when they review the game tape. Either both these teams are horribly overrated, or they have a lot of kinks to work out.
I mentioned how Andrew Luck’s retirement will have a ripple effect on player contract negotiations. Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon III are in prolonged holdouts that may well carry over into the regular season. As running backs, they are asked to take a pounding and they tend to have short careers. Not only do both want to be paid what they feel they are worth (think Todd Gurley money), but they want as much as they can in the form of guaranteed money. NFL contracts are not guaranteed. A player may sign a five-year deal, but unlike basketball or baseball, NFL teams are not on the hook for all the money. It’s not unreasonable for any player in the league to want a guarantee they will get all the money they signed for given their careers are so short. At the same time, it is not unreasonable for owners to want to see salaries decrease if they are to fully guarantee them.
- For the life of me, I do not see the fascination of fantasy football or any other fantasy sport for that matter. Don’t expect me to cover this topic. I prefer to fantasize about other things.
- Antonio Brown lost another helmet grievance which should be no surprise. Here is what I do not understand. Why would any player not want a helmet that is safer than one they have worn for ten years? A new car has more safety features than one that is ten years old. Does Brown rely on ten-year-old phones to send out his nonsensical tweets? He may act like a ten-year-old who has not gotten his way — which is why the NFL has to act like a parent and tell him what they are asking of him is for his own good.
- How long before the conspiracy theories begin about Andrew Luck orchestrating his retirement as a ploy to not get injured while waiting to replace Tom Brady or Drew Brees? If Luck returns to the NFL, I think he will come back to the Colts unless they are in position to no longer need him.
- Last week, Carli Lloyd of the USWNT kicked a 55-yard field goal at the end of an Eagles practice. Don’t get excited. I do not think the NFL is looking to add a woman as its team’s kicker. A few things need to be remembered. Lloyd was not being rushed nor was she wearing pads when she made her kick. If you look at the tape again, you will see she also relies on more steps leading up to her kick, something NFL kickers do not have time for in a game. Finally, ask yourself how many teams can afford to carry a female kicker who might weigh all of 155 pounds on its roster, knowing full well she can’t handle kickoff duties without getting killed by some special team nut weighing 100 pounds more than her? Her kick was a nice way to end a summer practice and nothing more.
Sorry, but more on the Colts. I told you Luck’s retirement was huge. No coach in the NFL may be better suited to handle the retirement of Andrew Luck than Frank Reich. Remember, he was the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles when they won the Super Bowl after losing Carson Wentz to a season ending injury. Reich was instrumental in preparing the Eagles offense to continue to produce when Brian Hoyer stepped in and led the team to their title. If Brissett remains healthy, Reich will not let the team’s bad luck keep them from a successful season.
Player of the Week
Given the poor play between Florida and Miami, I cannot see awarding this to anyone from either team. No, it must go to Andrew Luck simply because of the shock value his retirement announcement carries. Maybe someone else will earn it next week.
Antonio Brown Award:
This week, I give the nod to former Browns head coach Hue Jackson. While I can sympathize with how he fell into a deep depression after getting canned halfway through last season, for him to hold out hope for a return as a head coach in the NFL is delusional. Imagine the player reactions after their owner sacks their head coach, does an in-depth search for a new one, and then announces he his hiring Jackson because he believes he is the best coach for the job.
Perhaps if your goal is securing the number one draft pick in the following year’s draft; however, if you want to win, you do not even look at his resume. Hue Jackson has coached his way out of NFL head coaching gigs. He has probably coached his way out of any NCAA head coaching gig. There might be a juco (junior college) out there willing to take a chance on the guy, otherwise, he needs to rethink his future.
Non-Football Observation: Okay, this time it is a partial non-football observation. The Lakers recently signed Dwight Howard to fill the void left by the injury to DeMarcus Cousins. Howard belongs on the short list of all time under achievers and is set to play his 15thseason. If Howard played in the NFL, he would have been gone a long time ago.
This past weekend, I purchased a new suit. Normally, this might not seem like a big deal, but it was the first suit I purchased in 35 years. To say I dislike dressing up is an understatement. As a classroom teacher, I had no problem wearing a tie early on in my career. However, when I moved on to Physical Education my wardrobe became one of shorts and tee shirts. I simply had no use for pants. Even late in my teaching career, after I moved back into the classroom, I saw no use for pants given I worked in sunny southern California.
However, since my daughter is getting married soon and I am set to walk her down the aisle, shorts just don’t cut it, so off my wife and I went in search of a suit. I figured I would rent one since I do not even plan to get buried in a suit.
However, the cost of renting a suit, not a tux, just a suit, is more than it cost to purchase a new one. It not only might be the last suit I buy; it might also be the only time I open a credit card at a place of purchase. My thirty-five percent discount on top of the already markdown price actually made buying a suit an enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to wear it.
Top photo: YouTube screenshot of Andrew Luck announcing his retirement
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.