Is Andrew Luck XFL Bound?

Just over a week ago, the most stunning news in many years dramatically changed the landscape of the NFL, as Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, with two weeks to go until the opening kickoff of the 2019 season, had abruptly decided to retire from football. Years of injuries, pain, and rehabilitation had taken their toll on Luck, both physically and mentally, and he decided that he just had enough of the vicious cycle at the young age of 29. With tears in his eyes, he took to the podium at Lucas Oil Stadium and made his decision public.

Immediately upon hearing this news, there was a small, yet vocal, contingent of fans who believed this was a conspiratorial act by Luck to make his way to the XFL, debuting in February of 2020. These fans made the frankly lazy correlation that Oliver Luck, Andrew’s father, is the commissioner of the new league and that Andrew was headed there to help good ole’ Dad get the new league off the ground.

Could Andrew Luck be under center for an XFL team in February?

No.

Really, no.

Let’s break this down together.

Money

First off, Andrew Luck is walking away from a ridiculous amount of money. Luck signed a 5-year, $123M contract in the summer of 2016. In retiring now, with 2 seasons remaining on that deal, Luck foregoes the over $58M in compensation remaining on the current deal alone. As Luck would have been age 31 during the summer of 2021, the quarterback was poised to sign a massive contract extension of at least another 4-5 years at over $35M per season.

Projecting out past that potential contract of over $175M would have been yet another contract that Luck could have signed at age 36. It’s not out of the realm to believe Luck would have received another contract of either 4 or 5 seasons, paying in the vicinity of $43M a year. Tacking on another $215M to the total earnings, it’s conceivable that Luck walked away from over $450M in earnings to take his proverbial ball and go home. That’s not exactly a small chunk of change. You would have to be an exceptionally stupid person to walk away from that sort of money. Andrew Luck went to Stanford.

Would Andrew Luck forego potentially almost half a billion dollars to go play in the XFL?

Probably not.

Optics

Andrew Luck had to choke back tears at his press conference announcing that he was walking away from the NFL at least a decade before anyone thought he would. He said this was “the hardest decision” of his life. He talked about the relationships he cherished with his teammates and how much these people meant to him. He discussed how much support he had from Colts owner Jim Irsay, General Manager Chris Ballard, Coach Frank Reich, and everyone in the locker room. He detailed how worn down he was mentally and physically, and how he wasn’t living the life he wanted to live as a result of this cycle of injury and rehabilitation. He laid it all out there for Colts fans, despite those in attendance at the Week 3 preseason game showering him with boos as he walked off the field. Luck went as far as to take out a full-page ad in the Indianapolis Star where he thanked the Colts fans and said how proud he was to have been a part of the organization and how happy he was to be a Colt.

What kind of a horrible human being would go through this very public dog-and-pony show, appear to have laid his heart out for anyone who would listen, only to go play football in a start-up league not even 6 months later? Luck would immediately become one of the most hated players in NFL history if this was the course of action he decided to take. He would be forever tagged as nothing more than a liar, and these relationships he values so deeply with players he played with and the Colts organization would be destroyed. His legacy would be forever tainted as an NFL quarterback.

Would Andrew Luck obliterate his legacy to go play in the XFL?

Probably not.

Contracts

Luck retired with two seasons remaining on his current contract. Despite the fact that Luck has retired, that doesn’t mean the terms of the contract now no longer can be enforced. For Luck to play in the XFL, prior to the start of the league year 2021, he would need the Colts to expressly permit him to do so. “Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for Club or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury,” the contract language says. Additionally, the Colts came to a settlement with Luck that they would not attempt to claw back over $24M in dollars they had every right to go after, due to Luck’s retirement.

Would the Colts really let Luck keep all that money as a glorified parting gift and then give their blessing to the former face of the franchise to go suit up in the XFL?

Probably not.

Public Perception

The original XFL lasted just one season back in 2001. Public interest in the league fell off a cliff after the first two weeks. At the time, the original XFL had a heavy connection with Vince McMahon’s first love, World Wrestling Entertainment. WWE personalities could be seen all over XFL programming, mostly in an attempt to stem plummeting ratings. Because of this connection, there was a public perception that the XFL was predetermined and staged, similarly to professional wrestling.

The new XFL, just like the predecessor, is the brainchild of Vince McMahon. The XFL will again be fighting an uphill battle against similar public perceptions this time around. Having Oliver Luck as league commissioner and his son under center for an XFL team would not be received well publicly. What would you think if Roger Goodell’s son were to be the new quarterback for an NFL team? Common sense tells you that it’s a pretty public conflict of interest, and nobody is going to take the XFL remotely seriously if the commissioner’s son is the starting quarterback for one of the teams. People are going to think that one team is set up to win.

Would it really be prudent for the XFL to have the commissioner’s son become the face of the league?

Probably not.

Luck’s Health

“I’m in pain, I’m still in pain. It’s been four years of this pain, rehab cycle,” Luck said. “It’s a myriad of issues — calf strain, posterior ankle impingement, high ankle sprain. Part of my journey going forward will be figuring out how to feel better.” The NFL has many rules in place to protect their quarterbacks from physicality. The league knows where its bread is buttered. Because of these protections, quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers are playing at a high level well into their late 30’s and early 40’s. There’s never been a better time to be an NFL quarterback. It was in this world that Luck still found his way into injury after injury.

The XFL is marketing itself as looking to fix all the things that fans find wrong with the NFL. One such way is the complicated rule system that, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t allow the quarterbacks to get hit. There are going to be fewer protections for quarterbacks in the XFL than there are for quarterbacks in the NFL.

Would Andrew Luck give up playing in the NFL, with rules that explicitly protect the quarterback, to go play in a league where there would be significantly fewer similar protections, and open himself up to serious injury?

Probably not.

Conclusion

I hate to burst the bubble of all the conspiracy theorists out there, but Andrew Luck is not going to be throwing passes in the XFL this February. Could Luck find his way onto an XFL sideline as a coach or an XFL front office as a General Manager? Very possibly. But on the field as a player? Not a chance. And if that’s what you really believe, I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Brian Attard (Twitter @SportsBox_BA)

Catch me every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm EST on The Highly Opinionated Show on The Sports Box (Facebook @sportsboxshow)

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