ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — Andrew Luck’s impressive resume already includes 33 wins, two division titles and an AFC championship game appearance.
Pretty good for a 25-year-old quarterback.
Luck, of course, views things through a different lens. As he pours through game tapes, he sees too many turnovers, not enough touchdowns and too many blown chances on third down.
So the Colts’ quarterback enters his fourth season committed to getting even better.
“The goal is just improve,” Luck said after reporting to training camp Saturday. “It’s a pretty broad, all-encompassing term, but we’ve got to get better as a team.”
Luck has already been pretty darn good.
Three years ago, he walked into one of the most daunting challenges imaginable — replacing Peyton Manning on a team that went 2-14 and was widely expected to be the worst in the league.
Some even questioned if first-time general manager Ryan Grigson and first-time head coach Chuck Pagano made the right call by taking Luck No. 1 overall in 2012 ahead of eventual Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III.
Nobody’s debating it now.
As a rookie, Luck engineered the third-greatest turnaround in league history and led a completely rebuilt team back to the playoffs with an 11-5 mark.
When Luck lost his favorite receiver, Reggie Wayne, with a season-ending knee injury in October 2013, he led the Colts to 11 more wins, a division crown and a huge comeback in a playoff win over Kansas City.
Last year, with Wayne slowing, a makeshift offensive line and a sub-par ground game, Luck still managed to win 11 games, a division title and playoff games at home and on the road.
The next step in this steady progression might force Luck to do even more.
The Stanford alum with the architectural degree understands that the blueprint for a Super Bowl title begins with minimizing mistakes — something Luck has not been especially good at.
He has thrown 43 interceptions and lost 13 fumbles over the past three seasons. The 56 total giveaways rank No. 5 in the NFL, according to STATS, seven short of two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning’s dubious lead.
But finding solutions to the turnover problem can be tricky for a player such as Luck, who thrives at improvising and making plays on the run.
“That’s always the greatest challenge because you’re working against one of your huge strengths, taking chances and making plays,” quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said. “But you have to think about the situation, the time of the game. We want it to be under control and that’s why we’re using terms like self-control and discipline.”
To Colts fans, all this looks and sounds awfully familiar.
Manning set an NFL rookie record for interceptions with 28 in 1998 and never threw fewer than 15 picks in his first five seasons. When he threw a career-low nine picks in 2006, Indy won the Super Bowl.
Could it happen again with Luck starting to enter the prime years of his career?
Like Manning, Luck has been remarkably successful early in his record-setting career.
Like Manning, Luck has proven wrong the doubters who thought he’d already peaked.
And like Manning, the best young quarterback in football has become a key attraction for veteran free agents.
“He throws a great ball and is probably the best quarterback I ever played with,” Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson said after leaving Houston in free agency. “I’m excited about the opportunity. I just can’t wait to continue to keep working with him.””
The Colts believe a stronger supporting cast, a better running game and more experience will help Luck achieve even greater success.
All Luck has to do now is execute the new game plan in 2015.
“I would love to get that touchdown-to-interception ratio very good in the touchdown sense then work on red zone and third-down stuff,” he said. “Got to be better in those areas if we want to be an elite offense in the NFL.”
Notes: Before the Colts held their first training camp walkthrough Sunday morning, outside linebacker Robert Mathis and guard Donald Thomas were both placed on the physically unable to perform list. Mathis (left Achilles tendon) and Thomas (right quadriceps) both missed all of last season with injuries. … Cornerback Jalil Brown and offensive lineman David Arkin both were helped off the field during the afternoon workout. Team spokesman Avis Roper said both players were suffering from cramps on a warm, sunny day at Anderson University.