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Thursday, April 26, 2012
With Luck comes Indianapolis obligations

By Paul Kuharsky


INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Grigson's film study of Andrew Luck took him beyond reads and recognition, mechanics and throws.

“You’re talking about a guy who, when there is a busted play or he throws an interception, he runs down and hits like a linebacker,” the Colts general manager said. “On a trick play, he shows the ball skills of an elite receiver.”

Those are nice clips from Stanford, for sure, and they reveal much about the Indianapolis Colts new quarterback.

But with Luck officially their man, Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano have effectively taken a pledge to add people and craft a scheme to maximize his chances at success -- and not when he turns into a defender or a receiver. If the Colts' new regime stays true to that obligation, it shouldn’t be long before Luck is doing what top NFL quarterbacks do -- completing passes in critical situations and leading his team to wins and playoff appearances.

It’s a familiar storyline for sure. It's the same oath the franchise took with Peyton Manning in 1998.

“I think this thing happened 14 years ago,” Pagano said. “I think it’s all happening again, right before our eyes.”

Pagano went on to rattle off a list of qualities everybody wants in his quarterback and top players: football IQ, character, integrity, work ethic, good family background, worldliness, humility, leadership, passion and competitiveness.

“When you look at clean players across the board, when you talk about height, weight, speed, intelligence -- A to Z, if you want to label him a nine or 10 in everyone of those categories, you probably can,” Pagano said.

The Colts are not slated to pick again until 34th, the second pick of the second round Friday night.

A chorus of analysts say they are duty-bound to add someone who can help Luck, despite the pull Pagano, a former defensive coordinator, may feel for a defender. My opinion is they don’t absolutely have to go offense the next time they are on the clock, but in this draft and until the roster is filled out, they should lean that direction more often than not.

Grigson emphasized “this is a team” and that the Colts will do things with a team mindset, acquiring good players, regardless of position.

But, he also admitted the obvious.

“Of course you want to protect him the best you can, you want to put players around him that are going to make him comfortable, you want to do things to help facilitate him being great,” Grigson said.

Pagano has emphasized running the ball well and stopping the run, elements that are typically regarded as providing aide to a young quarterback, but elements too that have become less and less important to Super Bowl-winning teams in the modern NFL.

Andrew Luck
The Colts will need to surround Andrew Luck with the right players as they rebuild around the young Stanford quarterback.
“You’ve got to protect the kid, you’ve got to put enough pieces and enough playmakers around him,” Pagano said. “… You can add a piece here and you can add a piece there to make sure that everything doesn’t rely on Andrew making plays with his arm and running around making plays with his feet outside the pocket and extending plays and things like that. We’ve got to play great defense too, I’m not going to slight that.”

The Colts want to protect Luck with good blocking, but are also conscious they will have to protect him from himself as he looks to inherit Manning’s mantle, revive a franchise coming off a horrific year that prompted monumental changes, and give the city a new sporting face.

“He’s going to be eager to come in here and think that he’s got to carry this whole thing on his shoulders,” Pagano said. “And that’s the first thing we’re going to tell him. He doesn’t have to do that. He’s just got to do what he does and that’s play quarterback. And he plays it really well.”

As good as he is coming into the league, Luck is not a finished product. What great collegian is?

Pagano hired Bruce Arians as his offensive coordinator because he effectively helped shape Manning here early on as well.

The new quarterback will arrive in town Friday knowing he’s got plenty he can work on as he evolves into a professional. Play calling can be a big help to him as well, Pagano said.

I wrote earlier of traits Luck has that date back to high school, and how they can be contagious for a rebuilding franchise. He said he doesn’t know if his long-time ability to compartmentalize will be needed more or less as he becomes a full-time football player. It’s just another of the many things he will learn in the months and years ahead.

For right now, Luck said the most exciting part of things is becoming part of a new locker room and getting to “meet the guys.” It was a Manning-esque comment, deflecting focus, aiming to share it.

Luck said it’ll be an honor to throw to Reggie Wayne, whom he called a future Hall of Famer, as well as Austin Collie and Donnie Avery. He said it will be big to be able to learn leadership qualities from Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

And he seemed thrilled to hear Grigson and Pagano talk about how they’ll surround him.

“It’s exciting to be part of a team where they are saying that they need playmakers and all of that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. … You don’t want to get too ahead of yourself. You have to realize you have to go through a whole process leading up to a game through a season.

“That being said, I do have high expectations for myself. And I’ll try to do the best I can. I know it’s cliché, but I’ll try to live up to my own expectations and fit in with all the guys and then do the best we can.”