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How Ryan Grigson doomed Andrew Luck and the Colts

Vincent Frank
Andrew Luck
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Narratives are a heck of a thing. They send people scrambling to back up claims that never really held any water in the first place.

That’s no more true than during the fall out from Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s abrupt and shocking retirement. He left the Colts hanging late in the preseason, some will say.

Of course, that’s patently absurd. Luck is as tough as they come and has played through some serious injuries. He retired primarily because the former No. 1 pick did not want to find himself crippled in his mid 30s. Who can blame the guy?

Speaking of blame, former Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson is a true wild card. Here’s why.

The backdrop: Grigson oversaw the Colts from 2012-16, earning NFL’s Executive of the Year honors after drafting Mr. Luck and T.Y. Hilton back in 2012. But his failure to provide Luck with pass protection defined a lackluster tenure in Indy.

Keep pounding: Luck took a ton of hits during his career prior to missing the entire 2017 season to a shoulder injury.

  • Luck was sacked 41 times back in 2016. That came one year after he played with a lacerated kidney. His toughness shouldn’t be in question.
  • That very same season saw Luck hit 128 times, the second-most of any quarterback in the NFL.
  • In fact, Luck was hit 118-plus times each season from 2012-16. That lends credence to the idea that Grigson failed in a feeble attempt to protect the franchise quarterback.

The drafts: 2012 might have been an initial smash for Grigson, but his subsequent drafts were absolutely horrendous.

  • Of the nine offensive linemen that Grigson drafted from 2012-16, only three are still active in the NFL. Two remain with the Colts to this day, and only Ryan Kelly is a starter.
  • It’s this failure and unwillingness to exhaust draft capital on the offensive line that doomed Luck’s career in Indianapolis — a career that seemed destined for Canton.
  • Grigson used a total of one first-round pick on the offensive line in the five drafts that he controlled. One. To protect a former No. 1 pick. One.

Free agency: Grigson’s ultimate goal was to build up a defense to help Luck. But that came at the cost of the offense.

  • The Colts’ offense was bottom four in spending back in 2014 and 2015. The cheapest positional group on that side of the ball was the offensive line.
  • From 2012-16, Luck was pressured on north of 36 percent of his drop backs. Back in 2016, that number stood at 44.3 percent, per Pro Football Focus.
  • Correlation and causation. Don’t spend on the offensive line. Don’t exhaust draft capital on pass protection. That all led to Luck’s decision to retire.

The Chris Ballard dynamic: Once Ballard took over for Grigson as Indy’s general manager things took a drastic turn.

  • Looking at the above-mentioned numbers, it’s not a surprise that Luck’s pressure rate dropped to less than 30 percent last season. Ballard made efforts to help protect Luck.
  • This included selecting star guard Quenton Nelson and fellow interior lineman Braden Smith in the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
  • Imagine that. Spending capital on this unit helped keep Luck upright. It’s a novice idea — one that Grigson apparently didn’t grasp.

Still not enough: Despite seeing better pass protection last season, Luck decided to call it a career for rather obvious reasons.

It’s been a continual theme for Luck. Sure last season was better as it relates to his injuries, but the toll of the Grigson era was too much for him to overcome.

The ankle. The calf. The shoulder. Getting hit more times than most of us couldn’t even imagine. This all led to Luck’s abrupt retirement Saturday night.

He won’t sit there and blame Grigson for the injuries. Luck has too much class. But it’s rather obvious that the former GM played a role in the quarterback’s retirement.

At the end of the day, narratives will continue to form surrounding Luck’s retirement. Such is the nature of the beast in this reactionary world we exist in.

However, the one talking point people seem to ignore is Grigson’s role in Luck’s retirement. It can’t be ignored any longer.