Andrew Luck is Collateral Damage in Chuck Pagano vs. Ryan Grigson


The Colts are 0-2 and understandably, there’s panic in Indianapolis. People are losing their minds, forgetting for a moment that they started 0-2 last season and reached the AFC Championship. After three straight overachieving 11-5 seasons in a bad division, the Colts opened this season with two games against the AFC East, and in the process, they’ve looked awful. Unable to protect the franchise QB and unable to mount a running game despite the addition of Frank Gore, coach Chuck Pagano was so pissed, he said this last night:

The narrative is set: Andrew Luck has regressed! Knee-jerk twitter is melting down over Luck, almost with glee, over his ugly stats in the first two games. Luck is the lowest-rated passer in the NFL after two games!

Exhale, Indianpolis.

Let’s go back to last season with the San Francisco 49ers. Led by a young star QB in Colin Kaepernick – an ESPN analyst famously said Kapernick “can be the best QB arguably in the history of the NFL” – the 49ers nearly won a Super Bowl in 2013 and then lost in the NFC title game in January 2014.

But behind the scenes, the situation with his coach, Jim Harbaugh, and the team’s GM, Trent Baalke, was unraveling. The friction lasted all season. Harbaugh received the credit and adulation; Baalke didn’t like that. These sorts of power struggles and ego battles are common in the NFL.

The impact that internal battle had on the 49ers was undeniable. The uncertain future of their coach had a trickle-down effect onto the field: Kaepernick struggled mightily. His yards-per-attempt went down. He threw more interceptions than he ever had, had fewer rushing touchdowns than he ever had and this last one is most important: He took 52 sacks, by far the most of his career (only 39 in 2013).

Kapernick had just received a hefty contract, and he certainly knew that if anyone was going to save his coach, it would be him. Kapernick folded under immense pressure. You know how this story ended.

I see the same situation unfolding in Indianapolis. Pagano has had success as a first-time head coach – but Luck deserves the bulk of the credit for carrying this team on his back – and felt slighted that he didn’t get multi-year extension offer in the offseason (I discussed this with Ian Rapoport on my radio show Saturday).

Grigson wants some credit for … I’m not sure for what, exactly, since he hasn’t accomplished much as a GM in free agency or the draft (outside of Ty Hilton in the 3rd round). Would owner Jim Irsay really let Grigson pick the next coach when he can’t even pick the right players?

When you’ve got the best young QB in football, how do you not focus on the offensive line and get Luck a defense? Neither has been accomplished in the last three years, yet the team has still made three straight playoff appearances.

You can see why Andrew Luck is pressing through the first two games. Also, it should be noted that it has been two games against two of the best defensive coaches in the NFL – Rex Ryan and Todd Bowles. The Bills and the Jets are considered Top 10 defenses this season.

Andrew Luck will be fine, he’s definitely not the problem. But if the coach and GM don’t sort things out, the season will get worse.