Suck for Luck: Week 7
The “Suck for Luck” craze has soared to new heights and is rapidly spreading. In NFL cities across the country, fans of struggling franchises are coming together and creatively rallying around a common cause. Their squad winning on Sundays? Not quite.
The light at the end of the tunnel for fans of the league’s most downtrodden franchises is the gift of Luck. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, that is.
The talented 6-foot-4 red-shirt junior quarterback from Houston, a player that would have been the top pick in last April’s NFL Draft, will more than likely be the “reward” for the NFL team that finishes the 2011 season with the league’s worst record.
John McClain, a longtime NFL writer in Houston, told me over email last week, “I've known Andrew Luck since he was a child. He's the best prospect since Peyton (Manning), but in 1998, a lot of experts were saying to take Ryan Leaf over Manning. If Andrew stays healthy, he's a can't-miss prospect, almost too good to be true.”
McClain adds, “To be the best he can possibly be, there's nothing Andrew can't do on the field. And there's nothing he won't do off the field."
A high school Valedictorian who’ll graduate from Stanford with a degree in architectural design in the spring, Luck’s got the smarts of his future Silicon Valley entrepreneur classmates, the from-the-crib quarterback skills of a Manning brother, and the quiet confidence and charm of the boy next door.
He’ll someday be the face of a very fortunate NFL franchise. With that possibility floating in the ether, fans of several teams whose playoff dreams have already been shattered are turning to a far more obtainable goal — landing Luck with the first pick in April’s Draft.
The NFL’s never seen anything like this, and if there’s ever been anything comparable, it certainly wasn’t to this multi-city scale so early in the season. When Peyton Manning was flourishing in the fall of his junior season at Tennessee, the New York Jets were limping towards a 1-15 finish. Jets fans were certainly excited by the prospect of seeing Manning in green, but at no point was there a “Tank the Season” feel to that year. Manning, of course, ultimately returned to Tennessee for his senior campaign and Bill Parcells traded the first pick to St, Louis for a combo platter. In 2004, 49ers fans buzzed about the possibility of landing Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart. Ultimately, Leinart, like Manning, returned to school for his senior season. Alex Smith went to San Francisco with the first pick of the ’05 Draft. Neither Leinart or Smith — even, then — were ever viewed in the same light as Luck.
The Internet was ablaze with “Suck For Luck” heat this weekend. During Monday’s brutal-to-watch “Monday Night Football” contest between the Jets and Dolphins, there were roughly three #SuckForLuck tweets per minute from 8 p.m ET to midnight. After a 100-yard Darrelle Revis Jets interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter, popular Miami sports radio host Jorge Sedano tweeted, “Matt Moore! 100 yd pick 6. U delivered Cam Newton & u will bring me #SuckForLuck!!! P.S. Thx ref 4 swallowing the whistle!”
Jon Radler, a 29-year-old Dolphins fan living in Los Angeles, explains the phenomenon of rooting against his beloved Fish: “I’ve been a fan since 1985 — perfect timing to never see the Dolphins play in a Super Bowl. I’ve watched every single game since the mid-80’s and this is the first time I’ve ever actively rooted for them to lose. I’ve never felt the franchise has been this rudderless, though. (Jeff) Ireland is a joker. (Tony) Sparano is outmatched before he wakes up in the morning. Luck might be our only hope.”
When asked if he’d ever actually seen the Stanford quarterback in action, Radler laughs, “I’ve only seen him on TV, but that’s not the point. Listen, I’m not an NFL scout, but I can assure you he’s better than Cleo Lemon, Joey Harrington and Matt Moore.”
Brad Wells, the lead editor of the popular Colts blog Stampede Blue, reasons, “I don't necessarily think it's weird to want your team to lose as a fan if you know your team is done. NFL football is a bottom-line business, and fans have adopted this mentality when rooting for their team. If the team is good, they cheer. If they are out of contention, the general sentiment is 'throw the bums out' and get a better draft position. It mostly speaks to the fans’ collective desire to see their team not just win, but win championships. This is especially true for Colts fans who are not accustomed to losing seasons like this.”
And how does Luck — the man of the hour, himself — feel about all this attention? Asked about the “Suck for Luck” craze by Pete Thamel of the New York Times last weekend, the 22-year-old Heisman hopeful responded, “I am aware of it. A couple of guys told me about it. I think it’s stupid. Simply put.”
I told you he was smart.
Every Tuesday for the remainder of the 2011 NFL season, we’ll continue to track which NFL teams are in the “lead” in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes. Here’s how we’re looking this week:
Suck for Luck, Week 7
Andrew Luck’s Weekend:
23-for-36, 336 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 INT in a 44-14 win over Washington State
Luck had just 89 passing yards in the first half, on 10-of-16 passing, and the Cardinal had just 165 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes of football. In the second half, Luck threw four touchdown passes.
1. Indianapolis Colts: 0-6
Week 6 performance: Lost 27-17 to Cincinnati: The Colts were in good position to steal their first win of the season, but Bengals cornerback Nate Clements blocked a late field goal that would have tied the game and defensive end Carlos Dunlap returned a game-sealing 35-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
The Guy: Curtis Painter: 23-34, 188 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
On the Shelf: Peyton Manning (injured), Kerry Collins (injured), Dan Orlovsky
Would they take Luck? Absolutely. There’s no question, here. Somehow, owner Jim Irsay indicating that Indianapolis would consider taking Luck if they had the top pick made national news last week. Umm, if Irsay wasn’t interested in Luck I’d be concerned. Now, that would merit national media attention.
2. Miami Dolphins: 0-5
Week 6 performance: Despite a mighty effort from the defense, the offense struggled on Monday night, scoring just six points. Moore struggled, to the great delight of several Dolphins “fans.”
The Guy: Matt Moore, 16-34, 204 yards, 2 INTs
On the Shelf: Chad Henne (injured), Sage Rosenfels
Would they take Luck? Yes.
3. St. Louis Rams: 0-5
Week 5 performance: This one got out of hand awfully early, with the Packers scoring 21 second-quarter points and jumping out to a commanding lead. The St. Louis offense took some steps forward in this one, but still lost by three touchdowns.
The Guy: Sam Bradford: 28-44, 321 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
On the Shelf: A.J. Feeley
Would they take Luck? I don’t see it. Bradford, regardless of the team’s record, has the goods to be a star NFL quarterback. Bradford was Offensive Rookie of the Year last season and the Rams have too much money and faith invested in him to draft Luck with the first pick. Instead, look for them to give Bradford an elite playmaker (Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, perhaps) or a defensive line (Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy) or offensive line (USC’s Matt Kalil) prospect. Another possibility? A megadeal, swapping the top pick for two to three first-round selections. Luck is that good.
4. Denver Broncos: 1-4
Week 5 performance: Bye week
The Guy: Tim Tebow: 4-10, 79 yards, 1 TD, 38 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
On the Shelf: Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn
Would they take Luck? Yes. Tebow’s going to get a shot this season, but in the long-term, there’s no way John Elway — a Stanford guy, himself — would ever pass on the opportunity to draft Luck, the best pro prospect since Peyton Manning left Tennessee in 1998.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-5
Week 6 performance: Lost 17-13 to Pittsburgh: The Jags, who have the lowest-ranked offense in the league, rallied for 13 straight points, but couldn’t get by a banged-up Steelers squad at Heinz Field.
The Guy: Blaine Gabbert: 12-26, 109 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, sacked 5 times
On the Shelf: Luke McCown
Would they take Luck? This would make for another interesting decision. The Jaguars traded up several spots in last April’s Draft to grab Gabbert and handed him the reins of the offense in Week 2 of his rookie year. He has shown flashes, but still has yet to lead the Jaguars to more than 13 points in a game. The offensive line’s shaky and he doesn’t have an elite wide receiver, so the blame for Jacksonville’s offensive woes can’t be put solely on Gabbert’s arm. With attendance down and a move out of town always a threat, could Jacksonville really pass on a talent like Luck? I don’t see it. They’d have to trade Gabbert, a guy they loved back in April.
Also in the Running
6. Minnesota Vikings: 1-5
7. Carolina Panthers: 1-5
8. Arizona Cardinals: 1-4
The Other Guys
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th ranked quarterbacks on my “Big Board”:
2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: 29-for-48, 363 yards, 3 TDs in a 47-17 win over Kansas
3. Matt Barkley, USC: 19-for-35, 195 yards, 2 TDs in a 30-9 win over Cal
4. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: 23-for-41, 218 yards, 1 TD in a 38-26 win over Texas