Andrew Luck's early returns

After all the questions are answered, Andrew Luck will begin the grind of rebuilding the Colts. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

On Thursday in Palo Alto, Andrew Luck will begin another round of intense NFL preparation. Each day, for three-plus hours, he'll work his way through numerous drills and hundreds of throws. "It's a grind," said George Whitfield, who will train Luck and also administered a program for Cam Newton before the draft last year.

It's symbolic, you could say. The day after Peyton Manning officially parted ways with the Indianapolis Colts, Luck begins in earnest a final leg of preparation. You can see him sitting there, watching the press conference, the finality setting in ...

"I doubt he watched," said Whitfield. He laughs. "I know he put in time and threw [Wednesday]. He knows the deal. He's getting ready."

Even if it's oblivion by choice, it's also a sound model. For Luck, and perhaps any quarterback drafted No. 1 overall, a focus on the craft must somehow outpace the inevitable tumult of the team you play for, because, as the chart shows, there's a simple truth: Your team doesn't win.

In the last 25 years, 60 percent of all No. 1 overall picks have been spent on quarterbacks. As rookies, those quarterbacks started a combined 144 games. They won 42 of them, or roughly the equivalent of a 4-12 season that occasionally hits 5-11. Almost incredibly, given how random the NFL can be year to year, not one of those 15 QBs managed a winning record in games they started as rookies. The closest would have been Mike Vick, who went 1-1 as a starter in 2001. And not one time in those 15 seasons did a team that drafted a QB No. 1 overall manage a winning record that season.

The closest would be the 2003 Cincinnati Bengals, the only team in modern history to draft a QB No. 1 overall -- Carson Palmer -- and allow him to take exactly zero snaps for an entire season. Instead, Jon Kitna took every snap on the way to an 8-8 mark.

Luck won't have to wait, but the expectations are probably flawed if fans expect him to pick up where Manning left off. In reality, Luck will be picking up the pieces.