Top 10 quarterbacks going into 2016: No. 8

Nov 2, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) drops back to pass prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 2, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) drops back to pass prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

This weekly series analyzes the top quarterbacks in the NFL from a Chargers fan’s perspective.

I don’t think there is a more polarizing quarterback nowadays than Andrew Luck.

Fans of Luck, who now find themselves in the minority, will still put him as a Top 5 QB in the league. The everlasting stream of critics say Luck should not be placed in any Top 10 list.

Jan 3, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) watches from the sidelines during a game against the Tennesee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

That he’s too injury-prone. That he’s too turnover-prone. That his neck-beard is ugly.

Those critics are dumb, stupid, and blind. There is nothing more glorious than Luck’s neck-beard.

In truth, Luck falls somewhere in the middle between his haters’ and fanboys’ differing views of the talented quarterback.

No. 8: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

2015 Stats: 162 CMP/293 ATT, 55.3% CMP%, 1,881 YDS, 15 TD, 12 INT, 74.9 Passer Rating

Nov 8, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) makes hand signals at the line of scrimmage during a game against the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Denver 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

You know what ‘NFL’ really stands for? Not For Long. The NFLPA states that the average length of an NFL playing career is 3.3 years. When you compare that number to the NBA (6 seasons) and the MLB (5.6 years), you realize how the league acquired its name.

Football is truly a brutal sport–each season produces countless injuries, some minor, some major. That’s why we only get 16 games per season. Now, you could argue that this short schedule factors into the sport’s mystique, as every Sunday generates hype unseen in any competing sport. I, for one, wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. Purchasing ‘Red Zone’ this year made it impossible to get any homework done from 1-4 pm on Sundays.

As a result of this short schedule, however, we fans have only a small sample space in which to judge our superstars, which usually means we judge our superstars by their most recent work. In Luck’s case, his horrendous 2015 season seems to have left a bad taste in most NFL fans’ collective mouths.

And horrendous it was: in only seven games, Luck averaged just two touchdowns to a 1.7 interception mark, along with completing just 55.3 percent of his passes. Luck’s 2015 season, further marred by multiple injuries, was easily the worst of his short career.

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The key word in the previous sentence, a word that many of Luck’s critics seem to have forgotten, is short. Luck is just entering his fifth year in the league–the 2012 No.1 Overall Pick is only 26, one of only three quarterbacks on this list who has yet to reach the wrong side of 30. Before his season to forget, Luck dragged a Colts team–sapped of the diverse talent from the Manning days–to the playoffs in the first three years of his career. Though 2014 ended with an embarrassing loss to the Patriots, Luck was a legitimate MVP candidate, tossing 40 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions.

Luck needs to recapture the magic that caused many to proclaim him the heir to Peyton’s throne to warrant his spot on this list. Nonetheless, to say he’s no longer a top quarterback because of one dud out of four is quite asinine. Ryan Grigson, the Colts’ GM, has performed some moves that deserve to be questioned, but there’s no denying a solid group of talent around Luck could lead to a rebound season in 2016.

Jan 3, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano salutes the fans as he walks off the field after the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Tennessee 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Whether Chuck Pagano is the right man for the job is up for debate. Personally, I think he’s just average, which some people agree with and some vehemently disagree with. However, there’s something to be said for continuity in a league where cutthroat fans want a scapegoat after every little mistake. Hell, that has to be the reason Mike McCoy still has his job, because I don’t see how a coach with no personality and no control of game flow still remains the head honcho of a football club.

(It’s okay to bash McCoy for the second week in a row. After all, this is a Chargers website.)

Pagano is neither hurting nor helping Luck. The same goes for Luck’s semi-remodeled offensive line, a unit that’s given more flack than it deserves after finishing 2015 as the 17th-best congregation of large men. The running game could use some work, as 33-year-old Frank Gore resides as the feature back. The defense touts some young talent such as Henry Anderson, the second-year defensive lineman recovering from injury. This roster, Luck’s supporting cast, just screams average.

Dec 6, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief (10) runs after a catch past Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Brandon Boykin (25) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 45-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one thing that Grigson has clearly focused on, it’s the wide receivers group. T.Y. Hilton is a legitimate WR1 in this league, a guy largely glossed over when talking top receivers. Hilton, the prototypical small-guy-deep-threat, has built a great rapport with Luck in the four seasons since they were drafted, and there’s no reason that one shaky season will forever eliminate the Hilton-Luck connection. Don’t sleep on Donte Moncrief or Phillip Dorsett either; the former is a true up-and-coming star, the latter is one season removed from being drafted 29th overall. The real telling numbers between this corps: 26, 22, and 23, as in the respective ages of all three receivers. There’s still quite a lot of time for a talented QB such as Luck and his young receivers to develop the kind of chemistry that wins championships.

In essence, the cast surrounding Luck is just mediocre, maybe even sub-par. Nevertheless, while some might question his football intelligence, Luck is as talented as any quarterback in this league, including my No. 1 overall quarterback in 2016. For him to skyrocket up this list and prove worthy of the girthiest contract in the league, his team needs to lend the kind of support the Brady’s and Manning’s of the world always seem to have.

Otherwise, a put-up-or-shut-up year could leave Luck shut up, his billing as a top quarterback lasting…well, Not For Long.

I’ll be returning next week to reveal my No. 7 QB heading into the 2016 NFL Season!