When Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler ruled the Weekend Update desk on “Saturday Night Live,” they used to do a fun, little segment called “Really!?! with Seth and Amy”
When Chuck Pagano took to the podium Monday and was forced to explain that Andrew Luck would remain the Indianapolis Colts’ starting quarterback when he’s recovered from a lacerated kidney and abdominal tear, I couldn’t help channeling Seth and Amy and saying “Really, Chuck Pagano?
“Really? The franchise quarterback who has led this organization to 33 regular-season wins during his first three NFL seasons and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game a year ago would get his job back from the 40-year-old backup?”
Thanks for clarifying that.
But, it wasn’t Pagano who should have been the target of the sarcasm, it’s the pundits who think it’s a legitimate question because Matt Hasselbeck has been brilliant in his job as the emergency option, leading Indianapolis to a 4-0 record in his starts this season. Luck, meanwhile, is just 2-5 in his chances and has regressed mightily from the guy who once looked like a lock to join the elite-quarterback club.
“I’m not even going to go there. That’s ludicrous,” Pagano answered when asked by a reporter about the most unlikely of QB controversies.
“You have to stay off Twitter. Get your blinders and your earmuffs on. … Andrew is our starting quarterback. When he’s 100 percent healthy, and our doctors and our trainers say he’s ready to roll, then he’s going to be under center.”
Hasselbeck is everything you want in a backup quarterback, a veteran guy with extensive starting experience who understands NFL defenses and will not be intimidated by the enormity of the stage.
But he would also be the first one to tell you he’s the placeholder for the immensely talented Luck not the threat.
You don’t have to look far to see what losing a top-tier starting quarterback can do to a team. The Cowboys are 0-7 this season without Tony Romo and if you rewind back to 2013, you will see the Green Bay Packers could not win a game when Aaron Rodgers was down with a broken clavicle.
So Hasslebeck’s value should never be diminished because he has the Colts tied for first place, albeit in the weak AFC South.
That said there are some extenuating circumstances to his success.
For instance the Indy defense is allowing just 16.5 points per game in the backup’s wins, a number which would rank No. 1 in the NFL. Conversely, the same group surrendered 27.7 PPG with Luck under center.
Much of that discrepancy relates to the competition in that Hasselbeck has been able to lead the Colts over Jacksonville, the then-struggling Texans, the free-falling Falcons, and an up-and-down Tampa Bay team. Meanwhile, Luck actually topped Denver and nearly pulled off wins against unbeaten Carolina and the once-beaten Patriots despite his uncharacteristically poor play.
Last week Luck said he was “very confident” he would be able to return at some point this season.
“Obviously, going to defer to the doctors,” Luck said. “As athletes, we do know our bodies very well. We like to say we know them better than anyone else. But as I understand, an organ healing is non-negotiable.”
In the meantime Hasselbeck deserves the designation of NFL’s best backup but Colts starter?
You “Really!?!” need to ask that question?
“I know I wasn’t playing very good football to start the season off,” Luck said. “Now I have to deal with injuries. Shoot, that’s sports. That’s football. No one feels sorry for you.”
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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