Loverro: Five years later, Luck down, Griffin likely out.
They were perhaps the greatest one-two quarterback punch ever to come out of college.
Between them in college, they won every award possible — Heisman Trophy, Davey O’ Brien Award, the (Archie) Manning Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Maxwell Award, Archie Griffin Award, Associated Press College Player of the Year — a trophy case full of honors before either stepped onto the field as an NFL quarterback.
The first one selected in the 2012 NFL draft was so heralded that the team that drafted him — the Indianapolis Colts — let one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history walk in Peyton Manning walk away so the new college superstar would have a place under center in his first professional game.
The second one, picked next in the draft, was so coveted by the Washington Redskins that they traded away not one, not two, but three first round draft picks and a second rounder just for the opportunity to select him with the No. 2 pick.
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were going to be the dynamic duo of the NFL, the future of the game, changing the position and rewriting the record books.
Former Colts team president Bill Polian told owner Jim Irsay that either Luck or Griffin would “lead you to the promised land.”
Before the draft, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said, “Both guys have tremendous intangibles and their
skill sets are outstanding. I don’t see how either of them are not successful in this league.”
But here we are, five years after both made their NFL debuts, and neither has led any team to the promised land. In fact, the promise of Robert Griffin III has all but disappeared, and now it appears that the promise of Andrew Luck may be in jeopardy as well.
Luck’s future is murky because of his health after undergoing shoulder surgery in January. He has opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list, and speculation is Luck won’t be on the field when the Colts open the regular season.
“We want to make sure we handle the process right with Andrew, and continuing to do the things the doctors and trainers have told him to do, and we’re going to follow that process,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard told CBS.com. “And as for everyone saying Andrew is down, well, every season is special in my mind, You don’t ever want to take these for granted. They’re too hard to come by. So we’ll do everything we can to put a team on the field that will compete their butts off and play winning football.
“He’s going through his throwing program right now, making sure he’s got his motion back right and the next step is getting him to practice,” Ballard said. “And once we get him to practice we’ll keep taking steps from there.”
The uncertainty of the process, though, has raised fears that the quarterback’s recovery is not going well.
“Right when the doctors say he’s ready to roll, then that’s the date,” Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano told reporters. “There is no timeline. It was yesterday for all of us, but that’s not really the case. So these things take time, and it’s a process. Our trainers are doing a great job and Andrew is doing a great job. We’re going to listen to those guys, but the last thing we want to do is rush him or any of our players back too soon and have a setback. So we’re going to be diligent in the process.”
The process — not exactly the promise.
Luck appeared to be trying to talk himself back into the promised land.
“I will be better than I was coming into this,” Luck told reporters last week. “I’ll be better coming out of it. I know that. I don’t know what day it’s going to be. I don’t know what week. I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I definitely will be.”
If Luck is better than before, then maybe he will deliver the success that was promised. He has played well to date — a three-time Pro Bowler with 132 career touchdowns, 68 interceptions, 19,078 yards passing. But after making the playoffs his first three years in the league, the Colts missed the last two, with 8-8 records, and Luck missed much of the 2015 season with a shoulder injury.
Still, the Colts invested in Luck’s promise last season with a $140 million contract extension. If his health is good, he has time yet to fulfill his promise.
Griffin? It is so over. After his glorious rookie 2012 season that led the Redskins to the NFC East division title, he suffered a second torn knee ligament and has never quite recovered. Worse, Griffin has proven to be a diva with a misguided sense of being victimized.
After his time with Washington ended in 2015, Griffin signed with the Cleveland Browns, where he performed miserably, appearing in just five games, throwing for 886 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
He has been looking for work this season, and found doors slamming throughout the NFL. Last week, the Los Angeles Chargers brought Griffin in for a workout before ultimately trading for Buffalo’s Cardale Jones. And despite begging for a workout with the Baltimore Ravens, the team publicly said it was not planning on getting in the RGIII business.
Griffin, of course, responded with more victim impact statements, his latest coming via Twitter: “They stabbed you in the back? It’s ok. They lied to you? It’s ok. They used you? It’s ok. Keep working. Keep pushing. Overcome it all.”
While Luck may not be as desperate, the promise of the greatest onetwo quarterback tandem to come out of college and enter the draft together has definitely come back down to earth.
● Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.