INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck turned a frustrating, injury-plagued season in 2015 into perhaps the best overall year of his career in 2016.
The folks over at ESPN.com have recognized the Indianapolis Colts quarterback for his efforts.
In announcing their annual NFL All-Division Awards, Luck was voted as the AFC South's Comeback Player of the Year, as well as the division's co-Offensive Most Valuable Player, which he shared with Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray.
As for the Comeback Player of the Year award, here's what ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells wrote about why Luck was the man for this distinction:*
"Luck went crashing down in 2015 with an assortment of injuries, including a lacerated kidney, that caused him to miss nine games. He also wasn't very effective when he did play, as he committed 13 turnovers and completed only 55.3 percent of his passes in the seven games he played. But Luck bounced back to complete a career-high 63.5 percent of his passes and finish fifth in touchdowns (31) and eighth in passing yards (4,240) in the league this season. Luck's improved play would have received more attention had the Colts not been a mediocre team that missed the playoffs for the second straight year."*
ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco agreed with Luck as the Comeback Player of the Year pick, while Sarah Barshop, the ESPN Houston Texans reporter, gave her vote to Texans pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, while ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky gave the nod to Murray. Their explanations can be found by clicking here.
It's hard to argue against Luck, Clowney or Murray for this distinction, but I'd have to point at DiRocco's explanation for why Luck should perhaps get the nod over the other two:*
"It would be hard to find anyone in the division who had a more miserable 2015 season than Luck. He suffered torn cartilage to two of his ribs, fractured ribs, a shoulder injury and a lacerated kidney. He played in only seven games, threw just 15 touchdown passes and won only two of those seven starts. After a full offseason to heal, Luck returned to form this season, throwing for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns (the second-highest total of his career) with 13 interceptions. He kept the Colts alive in the division race pretty much by himself all season despite deficiencies on defense and along the offensive line. If the Colts ever gave him a better-than-average offensive line and a few more defensive playmakers, Luck would have them challenging New England again."*
As we know by now, the Colts are in the process of finding their next general manager, and the hope is that, of course, that person will be able to get that offensive line fully shored up (though it was much better down the stretch) and find some more defensive playmakers. So stay tuned for that.
As for Luck's co-AFC South Offensive MVP distinction, here's what was written about both Murray and Luck's nominations:
"Murray was the tone-setter on the best offense in the AFC South, doing the best job of establishing a reliable identity. And he gained 343 more offensive yards than Colts running back Frank Gore and scored 12 touchdowns, four more than Gore.
But the Titans could do fine without Murray, because they still have Marcus Mariota and promising rookie running back Derrick Henry. The same couldn't be said about the Colts. That's why Luck tied with Murray for the division MVP. Luck completed a career-high 63.5 percent of his passes, finished fifth in the league in touchdowns (31) and eighth in passing yards (4,240). He was the NFL's most-improved passer, according to Pro Football Focus."
Barshop and Kuharsky went with Murray in their votes, while DiRocco and Wells went with Luck (click here for their full explanations).
Kuharsky wrote this about the tough decision:*
"There are several good candidates. Murray finished third in the NFL in rushing. Hilton led the NFL in receiving yards. But Colts quarterback Andrew Luck gets my nod because no one in the division is relied upon more by his team. Look at the Colts' roster: The defense ranked in the bottom third in the four major statistical categories. The offensive line isn't good -- and really hasn't been since Luck entered the league in 2012. Running back Frank Gore rushing for more than 1,000 yards at age 33 is a heck of an accomplishment, but he isn't the back he was in his prime. So it fell to Luck, as it always has, to give the Colts a chance to win the division. He threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns (the second-highest total of his career) with 13 interceptions. Without him the Colts are a four-win team at best."*
Here's how the other AFC South awards shook out:
Best rookie:Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars / Jack Conklin, OT, Tennessee Titans
Coach of the year:Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans / Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans
Defensive MVP:Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans
Coming up soon, we'll take a look at which Colts players were selected to ESPN's All-AFC South Team for the 2016 season.
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