Last night’s stirring, sleep-depriving, triple-overtime, 56-48 win over USC has advanced even farther the legend of Andrew Luck (even though he threw a key pick-six that set the stage for a game-tying drive and that overtime victory). Regarded not only as the clear-cut best prospect coming out (assuming he comes out) of college in 2012 but also as the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning in 1998 or fellow Stanford quarterback John Elway in 1983, Luck faces expectations that will be hard to satisfy, much less exceed.
Six years ago, former USC tailback Reggie Bush was building similar hype as he rocketed toward the Heisman. Not even a less-than-stellar, performance in the 2006 Rose Bowl, which featured un-Reggie-like numbers and a boneheaded decision to try a downfield lateral, could derail his candidacy to be the first pick in the draft — and the presumption that he’ll be the next Gale Sayers. Even after the Texans opted to pass on Bush, which came not long after the first reports of his receipt of cash and other benefits while at USC emerged, we all expected Bush to have a dramatic and immediate impact, and to put together a resume that would make him a first-ballot entry into Canton.
Similar expectations await Luck at the next level. Regardless of whether it’s fair or unfair, it’s a product of Luck’s performance at Stanford, media attention, fan anticipation, and a name that fits perfectly into a catchy slogan that creates hope for the worst teams in the NFL this season.
But should the expectations be so high for Luck? As one league source explained it on Saturday, some scouts think that Luck may not be the franchise savior/multiple Super Bowl winner/sure-fire Hall of Famer that everyone expects him to be.
Even if those scouts are simply choosing a contrarian view without firm evidence to support it, Luck would benefit from more people sharing that opinion. Otherwise, once he gets to the NFL he’ll have nowhere to go but down.