At this point, it doesn’t matter much when Andrew Luck returns for the Colts.
Because barring a miracle run to the Super Bowl, the season is beyond redemption.
Because the Super Bowl is what this season was all about. Period.
Reaching the playoffs was nothing more than a means to an end.
That’s why Luck’s return is somewhat of an irrelevant issue.
Sure, he could be the difference between making and missing the postseason. But if they get there, they aren’t going far. And if they don’t get there, it’s because they don’t belong.
And right now, they look like they don’t belong.
Sunday night’s wretched display in Pittsburgh painted a pretty clear picture.
Matt Hasselbeck, who had been brilliant — and 4-0 — filling in for Luck, couldn’t work magic in an offense that is out of tricks. And the defense couldn’t do anything except embarrass itself during the 45-10 defeat.
Were Pittsburgh a great team (it isn’t), or had Hasselbeck been incompetent in previous starts (he wasn’t), then the result would be understandable, if not predictable. But the flat performance came out of nowhere.
Right when fans were on the cusp (or where maybe already on board) with the notion of going with Hasselbeck the rest of the season, he finally played like the 40-year-old backup he is. A couple of early picks, coupled with no pass protection and no run support, equaled zero offensive traction and, by game’s end, an injured quarterback.
Indy now has two of those.
More on that in a moment.
On the defensive side, each of the Colts’ many flaws were exposed. They have no pass rush; are soft against the run; and get torched for big plays when their shutdown corners don’t play like shutdown corners.
All this against a pedestrian opponent that has had its own share of injury issues and is just outside the playoff picture.
Is that any way to contend for a championship?
Up next is a trip to Jacksonville (4-8), a critical AFC South showdown that could go a long way in determining the division winner. The Colts still lead it, barely, but face the prospect of going in with third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.
Hasselbeck injured his neck and shoulder late in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Whitehurst. Hasselbeck said afterward he wasn’t sure if he would be able to play against Jacksonville.
Either way, the quarterback situation would be a far more pressing issue if the Colts were in the place where they expected to be — at or near the front of the field chasing the Super Bowl. But they are neither.
Regardless who takes the rest of the snaps, they aren’t catching up with the pack. Despite preseason hype to the contrary, they do not have a championship roster and have a long way to go to forge one.
That’s why it doesn’t matter much when Luck returns.
Although he could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs, making the playoffs was never the objective. Running the table, or coming darned close to running the table, once they got there was.
All the Colts are in the running for now is something between disappointment and total collapse.
Just their Luck, it’s one of those seasons.