As Colts shut down Anthony Richardson for season, don’t underestimate lessons learned from Andrew Luck

NEW YORK — The 2023 No. 4 overall NFL Draft pick’s rookie year is over.

The Indianapolis Colts announced Wednesday that quarterback Anthony Richardson will undergo surgery to repair his throwing shoulder.

Richardson injured his shoulder when he was tackled on a run Oct. 8 against the Tennessee Titans.

While Richardson, “those close to him” and medical staff determined the course of action, per team owner Jim Irsay, franchise history also haunts the Colts. They selected quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick of the 2012 draft. He earned four Pro Bowl berths in the six seasons he played, including the 2014 year when he threw a league-best 40 touchdowns.

Luck missed the 2017 season with a shoulder injury (Irsay noted both Luck’s and Richarson’s shoulder injuries came against the Titans, prompting further déjà vu in the organization) and ultimately retired before the 2019 season, citing the physical and emotional tolls his endless rehabilitation left on him.

Avoiding a repeat is paramount. The Colts want to ensure they adequately factor in Richardson’s long-term health, a concern already after his college career.

“For us, after going through what we went through with Andrew Luck, it's tough,” Irsay said Wednesday on his way out of league meetings. “He just felt that the way the shoulder felt, the pain he was having and everything, Anthony felt that that was the best way to go. Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton decided to not have the surgery. Others have had the surgery. Andrew had the surgery a little bit down the pipe.

“We have every reason to believe that he can come back and be all of who he can be.”

Richardson’s shoulder is the third injury he sustained in just four games. Richardson injured his knee and ankle on a scramble in Week 1, and a concussion on a rushing touchdown in Week 2.

All three injuries came on runs. Does Irsay worry about Richardson taking on too much risk when he runs?

“He's not running too much. He's protecting himself. He really is,” Irsay told Yahoo Sports. “If you look at the one on the shoulder injury, you can't believe it happened. It's just a normal tackle. You know, it's not even a physical like Andrew’s tackle [when he injured his shoulder].

“It happens, but it hurts to see his shoulder, the throwing shoulder, at so young.”

Anthony Richardson's rookie season is over, and it's partly because Colts team owner Jim Irsay remembers what happened with Indianapolis' previous franchise QB. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Anthony Richardson's rookie season is over, and it's partly because Colts team owner Jim Irsay remembers what happened with Indianapolis' previous franchise QB. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Richardson completed 59.5% of his passes for 577 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while the Colts split his four active games. In addition to his 87.3 passer rating, Richardson rushed for 136 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries (5.4 yards per attempt)

In relief for Richardson, Gardner Minshew has completed 65.2% of pass attempts for 882 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Colts are 3-3, trailing the Jacksonville Jaguars by a game in the AFC South race.'

While Richardson’s rookie year concludes (save an unlikely chance Irsay mentioned that the Colts advance to the conference championship game and Richardson heals in time to justify a late-January return), the Colts are excited about his future.

Irsay said Richardson has already demonstrated leadership, maturity, intelligence, calm “way beyond his 21 years of age” and athletic ability during his early days in Indianapolis. The team owner believes his quarterback flashed sufficient ability to suggest he could have contended with Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud in a race for rookie of the year honors.

“I really see those two guys being the future of the league,” Irsay said.

The Texans selected Stroud second overall after the Carolina Panthers drafted quarterback Bryce Young, whom Irsay noted is “just off to a slow start” but “I’m sure Bryce will play well.”

The Panthers are the lone NFL team without a win this season.

Meanwhile, Irsay celebrated from Richardson “the great things out of him already on tape” and what they portend for the Colts’ future.

“We saw what we have in the future there with the playing time he had in there,” Irsay said. “So it's frustrating, but it's like Jon Landau said about Bruce Springsteen back in [1974]: ‘I've seen the future of rock and roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen.’

“Well, I've seen the future of the NFL and his name is Anthony Richardson. And I believe it.”