In the curious case of Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement, there are two sides to the story. There is the personal aspect and — what really matters to most football bettors — the business side.
Luck dealt with bad injury luck as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. He was sincerely emotional Saturday night as he spoke of mental and physical fatigue from mysterious ankle and calf injuries that lingered all summer and triggered his decision to quit two weeks before the season opener. Luck, who will turn 30 on Sept. 12, just had the best year of his career (39 touchdown passes, 67.3 completion percentage, 4,593 passing yards, 98.7 rating) after overcoming a right shoulder injury.
Considering all of the Colts’ improvements, he was in a position to make a playoff run and a case for MVP this season. But his intelligence and selfawareness led him down a different path. Some people are wired a little differently. Luck should be appreciated for making a decision he called the toughest of his life.
Some critics will call that bull and say he quit on his coaches and teammates. It’s an impossible situation for those critics to understand because they do not walk in his shoes. It’s obvious he was not all-in on football and felt mentally drained from fghting injuries, so he made the best decision for all involved. It was personal.
When you are fnancially independent and earn $20 million-per-year, you have options. If you live paycheck-to-paycheck and grind it out, you have no choice but to show up for work. In the future, we might see more NFL players going the route of Luck and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired after the Super Bowl at age 29 because of physical pain that would not allow him to sleep through the night.
I know no bigger Luck fan than Chris Andrews, the South Point Sportsbook Director who’s fghting his own health issues. Andrews loves Luck as a player and is able to see both sides of the story.
“At this point, I just hope Andrew Luck has a great life,” Andrews tweeted Saturday.
Luck will be fne. I’m not crying for him. He’s wealthy enough to do whatever he wants. In a couple of years, he might even return to the NFL, where the Colts retain his rights.
Another lesson in this is to never take good health for granted — your own health or the health of the quarterbacks you are betting on when betting futures. Injuries to quarterbacks are a part of the game and inherent risks that bettors take.
A totally unexpected retirement by an elite quarterback is not part of the playbook. I made two futures wagers this summer that looked terrible after Luck’s retirement — Luck to win MVP at 10/1 odds and the Colts over 9½ wins. I knew of Luck’s calf injury and researched it before making the bets. In each story where Luck was quoted, he said he would be fne and ready to go when training camp opened.
No big deal, he said.
Peter King of NBC Sports reported his Aug. 4 conversation with Luck, who said there was “no doubt” he would be ready to play in Week 1. It’s highly unlikely Luck was lying one bit. Athletes almost always have the belief that they will be ready to go. Sometimes the body fails to cooperate. As VSiN analyst and former NFL executive Michael Lombardi said, “Who retires at 30-years-old probably in the prime of his career?”
The breaking news of Luck’s retirement forced bookmakers to audible and immediately adjust all odds on the Colts, who were no longer Super Bowl contenders when the books opened for business Sunday morning. William Hill Sportsbook Director Nick Bogdanovich said he does not consider this doomsday for the Colts, but he moved their Super Bowl odds from 20/1 to 50/1 and adjusted their win total from 10 (Under -130) to 7½ (Under -120).
The drop-off from Luck to Jacoby Brissett, who has been considered one of the better No. 2 quarterbacks in the league, is four points for now. The Colts are 7-point road underdogs in their September 8 opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. The line was 3 before Luck’s disappearing act. “I do think the Colts can still be competitive,” Bogdanovich said. “Brissett knows it’s his team now so maybe he can settle in and play well. Maybe the stars align.” Bogdanovich’s view is on the optimistic side, but he’s not alone. VSiN analysts (and Colts fans) Wes Reynolds and Jonathan Von Tobel said they are still picking Indianapolis to win the division.
At the Westgate SuperBook, the Colts’ odds to win the AFC moved from 6/1 to 30/1 and the prop price on Indianapolis to make the playoffs was adjusted from “Yes” -200 to “No” -300. Odds to win the AFC South also changed, with the Colts going from 5/7 favorites to 4/1 dogs. Luck ranked third in the MVP ticket count at the SuperBook behind Baker Mayfeld and Mitchell Trubisky. The Westgate had written 44 tickets on Luck at 10/1, and the largest wager was for $1,000. The MVP odds sheet states: “All bets are action.”
However, SuperBook Vice President Jay Kornegay said he met with his staff Sunday and the decision was made to refund Luck bets. “It was a shocker for sure,” Kornegay said. “I just felt like it was the right thing to do. It’s retirement. Obviously it’s a totally different situation if the player was injured. If there was a time to refund something, this was it. It was not like we were looking for kudos. People had no shot on this.”
Luck passed for 39 touchdowns last season — second in the league behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes — as Indianapolis fnished 10-6. Luck posted a career record of 53-33 straight up (61.6%) and 49-34 against the spread (59%) in the regular season. The health of a star quarterback is imperative to any futures wager. The Colts’ future is nowhere near as bright with Brissett, who was acquired in a 2017 trade with the Patriots. He started 15 games for Indianapolis that season and went 4-11. But this is not 2017.
“The Colts have a good team and they had Super Bowl aspirations,” Lombardi said. “It’s probably better for the Colts that Luck made the decision. It’s painful to say. But that’s life and we just move on.” Will the Colts win nine or 10 games and move on to the playoffs? It’s doubtful. But that’s the next part of the story we will follow with great interest.