Without Andrew Luck, the Colts sputtered out to a 2-6 start and now the team will officially be without him for the second half of the season, too.
The Colts announced Thursday that Luck will go to the injured reserve, ending his 2017 season before it ever began.
“I wish I was better and 100 percent this season, but that’s not the case," Luck said. "I know I’ll be better from this. I know I’ll be a better quarterback, teammate, person and player from this, and I’m excited for the future."
Luck missed the offseason while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but recently returned to practice. However, he began feeling pain in his shoulder again and the setback was too much to overcome.
The 28-year-old has had his hot start cooled off by a litany of injuries the past three seasons, ranging from a lacerated kidney to torn abdominal muscles. He missed 10 regular season games in the two seasons prior to 2017 and the Colts have suffered for it — the franchise hasn’t had a winning season since appearing in the 2014 AFC Championship game.
What does this mean for the Colts?
In his place, the Colts have turned to Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett, with limited success. Tolzien’s run lasted just three quarters after throwing a pair of pick-sixes in a 46-9 rout against the Los Angeles Rams. Brissett, acquired late in the preseason for former first-round wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, has been better. The former Patriot is 2-5 as a starter, but his wins came against underwhelming competition, the Browns and 49ers.
Without Luck, the Colts are left with instability on a rebuilding offense. Indianapolis bottomed out under the leadership of former GM Ryan Grigson, who chased bad players with good draft picks. His inability to surround a franchise QB with talent has left the Colts languishing in a winnable AFC South, forced to watch an aimless Texans team hold the division crown despite starting passers like Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler, and Tom Savage.
Can Indianapolis be a playoff threat in 2018?
Luck’s eventual return would boost the Colts’ chances at being a contender again, but he’ll find a much tougher division than the one he left. Deshaun Watson has emerged as a legitimate building block with the Texans, giving Houston an explosive offense to pair with its dominant defense — even if J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are out for the season.
The Titans are another threat, though they’ve had injury issues of their own. A hamstring strain took Marcus Mariota out of a pair of early games for Tennessee, leading to an 0-2 stretch that dropped them to 2-3 on the season. A solid running game and emerging young players could keep them in the playoff hunt.
Finally, there’s a Jaguars team no one’s quite sure what to make of. Jacksonville has trashed AFC North competition, beating the Steelers and Ravens by a combined score of 74-16. The club also beat the Texans in Week 1, though that was a game where Tom Savage and not Watson earned the bulk of Houston’s playing time behind center. However, the Jags have also lost to the Titans and Jets, and are still quarterbacked by Blake Bortles.
All three other teams in the AFC South are competing for the title, while the Colts have become the basement dweller in the division.
With a rising tide in the South, Luck’s long-term health is more important than rushing him back.