It’s better to be lucky than good, so they say.
For the past two seasons, the Colts have been both behind Andrew Luck.
No quarterback has ever won as many close games during his first two years as the Indianapolis quarterback, who holds a 14-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less.
The law of averages must catch up at some point. Or will it?
Through the first two seasons of Luck’s pro career, the numbers don’t lie. Instead, they scream.
He has been the best young clutch quarterback in the history of the game, at least through the modern era.
The Colts’ .875 two-year winning mark in close games is far and away the best in the league.
Sure, it is a team game. But in this quarterback-dominated league, Luck is the primary reason.
In some cases, that is most obvious, as in his scramble and TD toss to secure a last-second win at Detroit in 2012.
In others, it has been more workman-like, as in Luck’s 2013 systematic comebacks against AFC South Division rivals Houston and Tennessee.
And, on a few occasions, it was transcendent, as in inspired performances last season against AFC champion Denver and playoff opponent Kansas City.
There is no doubt that the league has noticed.
“If you had to select one player to build your team around at the most important position, you would choose Andrew Luck,” one NFL national writer said after polling general managers.
No doubt, Luck is very special.
“He has the stuff that makes legends,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said.
Mathis knows a thing or two about legends, having spent almost a decade playing with Peyton Manning.
Luck simply outplayed his Colts’ predecessor in a six-point win against the Broncos on national TV.
The Chiefs’ game was even more impressive. Down 38-10 in the third quarter Saturday, Andrew Luck capped his first playoff victory with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help beat the Kansas City Chiefs 45-44.
Taken in isolation, these wins are impressive. But the fact that Luck is putting them together better than any young quarterback to ever play the game is simply incredible.
The NFL is a tough league, where hot and cold streaks tend to even out. And no one is hotter than Luck right now. Going 14-2 in clutch games is more than a hot run.
Indeed, only one quarterback has had a better two-year run in the modern NFL. Fans in Indy may remember. That was Peyton Manning, who went 15-1 in close games with the Colts in 2008-09, according to statistics compiled by Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.
That is something that just can’t continue, said statistician Barnwell, who notes that Tom Brady has the best percentage in close games (.711) of those quarterbacks with at least 50 such contests.
“Given the numbers above, it’s safe to say that Luck won’t win 88 percent of the close ones over the remainder of what’s sure to be a long career,” he said. “Even finishing with a win percentage above 60 percent might prove to be difficult.”
Manning’s percentage is .641.
So the luck will run out. No matter the quarterback, as the sample size grows, winning seven of every eight close games defies any sense of long-term probabilities.
Of course, much the same was thought after Luck’s rookie year, when he went 9-1 in close games. He followed that up with a 5-1 performance.
Somehow, despite the flaws — like his three interceptions in that Kansas City game — Luck somehow makes the plays to win, as when he scooped up Donald Brown’s goal-line fumble in that same game and dove into the end zone.
It defies logic, according to some.
“With one of the worst rosters in the NFL around him and a coaching staff and front office that appear to actively put obstacles in his way, Luck has compiled back-to-back 11-5 seasons at the helm of a team that was 2-14 the year before he arrived,” Barnwell said.
That criticism of the supporting cast is unduly harsh.
With Luck at the helm, back-to-back playoff appearances have to be attributed to something more than good fortune.
Sure, it’s better to be lucky than good.
It’s better yet to be both.
Bob Johnson is a correspondent for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.