By Jason Keidel
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He doesn’t have Tom Brady’s sculpted cheekbones, Peyton Manning’s quirky charm or Colin Kaepernick’s biceps.READ MORE: Child Tax Credit: When Will Parents Get Their First Monthly Check?
He looks like an overgrown 15-year-old with a neck beard and an IV of Red Bull, Gulliver trapped in shoulder pads. And if any team could pick one player to run its team for the next decade, it would be the goofy pituitary case with a flip phone.
We can kill the Giants for any number of foibles on Monday night. But the truth is they ran into the NFL’s next monolith, the Jolly Green Giant in cleats; a man with the size, talent and temerity to dissect any defense, the rather rare QB who actually likes being belted as he throws the ball.
Only Andrew Luck can make a fan base forget about Peyton Manning. Luck has already tied Johnny Unitas for most wins (27) after his first 40 games. And he’s only the second QB in NFL history with over 3,000 passing yards in nine games.
But this is the stat that either defines the Giants’ incompetence or Luck’s eminence. New York blitzed Luck 29 times and he completed 17 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Nearly all quarterbacks abhor being hit. What’s to like? While you’re glaring downfield for a receiver, some frothing, 350-pound behemoth drives you into the turf; your tailbone feeling like it’s been clubbed with a polo mallet, your head banging on the frosty dirt, your shoulder crunched between the earth and the comically large man who drove you into it.
Yet Luck hangs in the tornadic mayhem of the collapsing pocket like Forrest Gump, unaware of any danger, and chucks the ball to a crossing receiver, the pigskin landing softly in stride. And as we watch T.Y. Hilton dart downfield we don’t see the other side, Luck gleefully slapping the helmet of the man who just assaulted him.
With all the exhausted platitudes like “throwback” it’s hard to find new ways to characterize Luck, who has wins and wisdom well beyond his years. While most quarterbacks are still adapting to the whiplash speed of the pro game, Luck seems to slow it down with a chess master’s aplomb.
Sure, my beloved black & gold hung 51 on the Colts, but Luck still scorched us for 400 yards, and if not for that bizarre safety in the fourth quarter he may have made an epic comeback.
And he’s not exactly playing with a conga line of luminaries. Reggie Wayne is the only perennial Pro Bowler, and at 35 he plays with just a fraction of his former brilliance. Luck is a one-man talent show, a comet of a QB who is leaving quite a colorful trail in just three years.READ MORE: 80-Year-Old Man Struck By Stray Bullet In South Bronx
Some people are parsing his game, trying to find shadows in his ebullient skill set. Some folks are just threatened by greatness. They’re the same people who think Hendrix was overrated, who are the handful to give a thumb down to a YouTube video with 2 million thumbs up.
Just enjoy this kid. He’s the reason we watch football. For his preteen glee. For his toughness. For his willingness to surrender his limbs and ligaments to convert a third down. For his lack of celebrity hubris. With the pass-happy NFL in full stride, Luck could make a mockery out of the sport for the next 15 years.
Unfortunately, the new Alpha Male of football left his scent all over MetLife, in a game the Giants had to have. At 3-5, the Giants can only afford to lose one of their last eight to have a reasonable crack at the playoffs.
And that won’t happen. The Giants still have to play at Seattle, and at home against the 49ers, Cowboys and Eagles. The dream of going 7-1 through that thorny portal is the province of Fan Guy, who never sees reality in three dimensions.
Eli Manning, a graybeard by comparison, was once where Luck is now. He wasn’t ever quite as singularly gifted, but the younger brother has had more than his share of legendary moments. Monday night just felt like the younger, stronger cat took over the pack.
More than most, New Yorkers should appreciate someone like Luck, who — like Manning — has the mansion and the millions yet none of the narcissism that often comes with stardom.
You could say — should say, in fact — that we’re lucky to have Andrew Luck.
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