Why Luck's retirement will eventually hurt the NFL

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

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It's the start of the work week for most. But for Andrew Luck, it's the second day of the rest of his life. The shocking retirement announcement from the Colts quarterback on Saturday night was one of those true "what were you doing when ...?" moments in the NFL and it caused an entire nation of sportswriters to stop whatever they were doing on a weekend night and spring into action.

If you missed the great work from our crew, here's your chance to get caught up: There's Dan Wetzel on the single most honest line Luck delivered in his announcement, and Kimberley Martin on why Luck doesn't owe your fantasy team a single thing.

There's Terez Paylor on GM Chris Ballard's prudent foresight, and Eric Edholm on how the 2012 draft class looks really weird now.

Finally, there's Pete Thamel recounting an illuminating day he spent with Luck when he was just a student at Stanford. (Come for Pete's insight, stay for the footlongs in a backpack anecdote.)

What does no Luck mean for the NFL?

There are so many fascinating aspects to this story.

As I hungrily scrolled Twitter this weekend and devoured the stories above, the one question I kept asking myself was: What does this mean for the NFL?

We've been shocked by early retirements from players in their prime this decade. Patrick Willis and Calvin Johnson were 30 when they called it quits. Chris Borland was only 24.

The league didn't skip a beat.

But Luck seems different. Quarterbacks don't just up and retire. The money's too good, the glory is too great. Signal callers usually only hang it up once the Hall of Fame jacket is secure and they've overstayed their welcome by a few years or no one will pay them to stick around as a well-heeled backup.

Luck said he was worn down by injuries, but his deep and young team seemed like it was on the precipice of making runs at the Super Bowl for the next half-decade. Luck still walked away.

That has to count for something, right?

The NFL will be fine in the near term

I'd be kidding myself to think that anything will be changed in the 2019, except for the Colts' Super Bowl odds (which immediately plummeted). There are still fantasy leagues to be played and money to be wagered and tailgate spreads to be planned.

But where I think this will have the most effect is in the long tail that's eventually going to whip around and kneecap the depth of NFL's talent base. Already parents are pointing to guys like Willis and Johnson and Borland as reasons why their sons won't invest themselves in football. In Luck, that same crew gets its biggest example yet.

If someone who reached the pinnacle of the sport before getting knocked down didn't think the climb back up was worth all the collateral damage, why should anyone who's starting from the ground floor?


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