Andrew Luck challenged convention. He is forgoing NFL millions to stay for a fourth year at Stanford and complete his architectural design degree. His decision may be risky or unwise financially, but it’s also his prerogative.
We treat playing in the NFL as though it’s a duty. Luck, a puppet for our amusement, has a responsibility to us. He has elite talent. He must play professionally as soon as possible and for as long as he’s physically able. Think I’m exaggerating? Imagine the scorn he would receive if he decided to quit football and become an architect. Luck’s going to take his paycheck and mediocre city and he’s going to like it!
Luck is leaving money on the table, but how much money? The NFL probably has a rookie scale by the 2011 Draft, so Bradford dollars aren’t guaranteed. If he’s truly the “once in a generation” guy, he won’t fall like Leinart. If he blows out his knee, he probably has a cushy insurance policy. Worst-case scenario, he’s from a well-off family, high-profile, well-connected and has a legit degree from Stanford. He’ll be okay.
The transition won’t be seamless next year. Even if they lose Harbaugh, Stanford could keep and promote Greg Roman and keep most of the staff together. They must replace three senior offensive linemen. However, they have a favorable non-conference schedule – San Jose St., at Duke, Notre Dame – and only face Oregon once in the new Pac 12 alignment, at home.
Stanford will start in the Top Ten. Luck will be the overwhelming Heisman favorite. The Cardinal should have a shot for a BCS Title. They might even fill their stadium. Luck should have a fun year. You only go to college once. He has only been there two and a half years. He may not feel ready for the NFL.
Luck staying does not mean Harbaugh will, but that, and a hefty raise, would help Stanford’s case. If he’s not sold on the 49ers, Harbaugh could stay on one more year and see what NFL opportunities were there next year.
The NFL Draft also becomes a little more interesting. Mallett, Gabbert, Locker and Newton are all intriguing first-round prospects, though none are sure things. None should go number one, but any of the four could end up in the Top Ten. The big loser is Carolina. They still get a Pro Bowler, but they nearly had the chance to draft the next great quarterback or to demand a king’s ransom for him.
[Photo via Getty]