Franchise Quarterback Is Everything He Was Supposed To Be -- And A Lot More

By Jason Keidel
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We can drop endless platitudes on the Colts’ comeback Saturday, but watching wild card weekend you saw why general managers are hired and fired based on their ability to find a franchise quarterback.

Indianapolis has one.

Andrew Luck is 18-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. He was down 38-10 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, and still won. He’s doing it without Reggie Wayne. He’s doing it with Darrius Heyward-Bey, a Raider retread; Griff Whelen, who wasn’t in the league last summer; Trent Richardson, who fumbled on his first play and never got back in the game; and Da’rick Rogers, whom I’ve never heard of; and one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. (And a defense that makes hemophiliacs blush.)

Sure, the Chiefs had to help. But some guys ruin good things and others make good things out of the ruins.

Andy Dalton throws three picks and you know it’s a wrap. After each one you could see him sink into his insecurities. Dalton is like the confused teen at the prom. He’s not sure if any girls will dance with him and then approaches one, asking with increasing octaves, and she laughs him back to the corner.

Luck walks into the room and grabs the hottest gal and takes her home.

It’s not about looks — as too many people think — but rather confidence. Sure, he’s got the November hairline and neck beard and big nose, but he believes in himself. After Luck throws a pick you know he will learn from it and, most importantly, he will keep firing.

Dalton falls and fumbles without being hit. A Colts runner fumbles, and Luck plucks it and hops across the goal line. Dalton’s teammates sag with him, fumbling and dropping balls they normally catch. Luck’s teammates know if they run their routes, make their blocks, he will find a way. Dalton has far more talent around him, and it doesn’t matter. Luck has far less talent around him, and it doesn’t matter.

The world is waxing romantic over Colin Kaepernick, who had a fine game Sunday. But put Luck with Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, and Frank Gore, and that Dick Butkus defense, and you wouldn’t even have to play the Super Bowl.

When the Mel Kiper clones were fawning over Luck, branding him the best prospect since John Elway, I was naturally cynical. No mas. Trent Dilfer, who turned a decent NFL career into a sprawling gig as an NFL analyst, astutely said that great quarterbacks are more than their mechanics. Their success comes from their soul. It’s inherently indefinable and indefatigable. But you’re quite sure when you see it.

It’s not just the fortunate fumble against the Chiefs. It’s the running shovel pass last season. It’s his gleeful tap on the enemy’s helmet, praising the bone-crunching hit that just put the QB on his back. It’s taking this middling team and beating the three beasts of the NFL — Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver. It’s a thousand little things that make Saturday possible.

It’s not a crime that Dalton doesn’t have it. Most quarterbacks don’t. Maybe it’s just a matter of Luck.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

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