It is a race won by losing and a competition no team wants to be in. Landing the first pick in the NFL draft is an honor that awaits the NFL’s worst team.
The Indianapolis Colts are pulling away in the dismal derby after opening the season 0-10 and now have the inside track at landing Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck is a Heisman trophy candidate and almost certain to be the No. 1 pick in the April draft.
A playoff contender year after year behind quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts have lost Manning and their season as the future Hall of Famer continues to recover from off-season neck surgery.
The situation has presented a dilemma for fans and ticket sellers in Indy. Should they root for the Colts to continue losing in order to guarantee getting Luck, a potential franchise QB? If they do land Luck, which quarterback do they keep: the Super Bowl-winning icon, or the next big thing?
And the most nagging question: How do you sell tickets for a winless team?
“We’ve had better years,” Mike Peduto, an owner of Circle City Tickets in Indianapolis, told TicketNews. “We always plan for a worse-case scenario but no one could have predicted this.”
The race to the bottom of the NFL has been dubbed the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes.
Amid concerns of teams tanking to get the No. 1 pick, the Miami Dolphins suddenly have pulled off two wins in a row to move into a four-way tie with the Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings (all 2-7) for the second-worst record in the league. That makes the Colts the odds-on favorite to get Luck-y.
The Panthers, Rams and Vikings have all picked quarterbacks in recent drafts, so they are less likely to select Luck next year. The Dolphins have been searching for a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired more than a decade ago. And there’s been talk of a Colts-Dolphins trade that sends the 35-year-old Manning, or Luck, to Miami.
The possibilities are intriguing. But the here and now for ticket brokers isn’t.
So far this season, the Dolphins have had to buy remaining tickets for three of their four home games to guarantee sell-outs and avoid having games blacked out on local television.
Meanwhile in Indy, investing early in Colts tickets usually pays off. Not this season.
“There were years when [the Colts] were 13-0 and 14-0, and we had bought [tickets] early at face value. And then the demand rises, and we’d do well,” Peduto said. “This is just the opposite.”
With their remaining schedule, Indianapolis will be hard-pressed to come up with two victories. The Colts have three home games left: November 27 vs. the Panthers, December 18 vs. the Tennessee Titans and December 22 vs. the Houston Texans.
None of those games are particularly attractive match-ups, Peduto admitted, even in a good season. He added that Circle City this season “has been pretty aggressive price-wise, selling well under face to try and help recoup what we put in.”
Colts owner Jim Irsay has said he expects Manning to be ready to play next season. Trading the face of the franchise is always tricky. Could the Colts keep Luck as an insurance policy who eventually transitions to the starter’s role under Manning’s tutelage, the way Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers did with the Green Bay Packers behind Brett Favre?
Possibly, but Luck also could command a lot in a trade.
Colts general manager Bill Polian said on his weekly radio show that he’s talked to Manning about drafting a quarterback. “Peyton and I have spoken about that, and he’s OK with that,” Polian told listeners.
But Colts fans who see Luck as a savior should be careful what they wish for.
“Remember the first year Peyton was here? They went 3-13,” Peduto recalled about 1998, when Manning was the No. 1 pick. “So even if Luck comes in and he’s the man, it’s going to take a year or two for them to be successful.”