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'Suck for Luck' could be best hope for NFL's worst

By Steve Politi, Special to CNN
updated 4:13 PM EDT, Fri October 21, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Stanford senior and football quarterback Andrew Luck called No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft
  • "Suck for Luck" fan movement encourages poorly performing NFL teams to keep losing
  • So far the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, and St. Louis Rams have the worst records
  • Luck is reportedly too busy enjoying college life to pay attention, calls campaign "stupid"

Editor's note: Steve Politi is a sports columnist for The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. He can be reached at spoliti@starledger.com, or follow him on Twitter: @StevePoliti

(CNN) -- Turns out, Vince Lombardi was wrong. Winning isn't the only thing. In some NFL cities this season, losing matters even more.

From Miami to Indianapolis, from Minnesota to St. Louis, some fans want their team to lose as many games as possible to get the No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft, which would give them an opportunity to draft the player who is widely regarded as the most polished prospect at quarterback in years to enter the league.

Or, to use the rallying cry that's becoming popular, they want their team to "Suck for Luck."

His name is Andrew Luck, and he's a redshirt junior at Stanford. He would have been the No. 1 pick had he declared for the draft after his junior season, when he completed 70.7% of his passes for 3,338 yards, 32 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He is on pace to match or even top those numbers this season for the Cardinal, which is 6-0 and hosts Washington on Saturday.

But his value is more than just numbers. He has all the tools that make a great quarterback, a 6-foot-4 frame with a cannon for an arm, plus a feel for the game beyond his 22 years. One player cannot transform a football team. But every team covets a franchise player at the most important position on the field, and Luck, who has another year of eligibility that no one expects him to use, is probably the best to come out of college since Peyton Manning in 1998.

Even the great Manning, however, wasn't a lock for the No. 1 pick like Luck is in 2012. Hard as it is to believe, some analysts thought Ryan Leaf, an eventual bust in the NFL, was a better choice. Nobody is a close second this year. Luck, barring a catastrophe, will go to the team with the worst record in the league.

"He is the real deal," John Madden, the longtime NFL analyst and Hall of Fame coach, said on Sirius satellite radio this week. "I've been watching the NFL for years, and I don't remember a more automatic, sure thing."

Which leads to the "Suck for Luck" movement. The precise origins of that phrase are unknown. It has become a Twitter handle -- @SuckForLuck -- which is "imploring the Miami Dolphins or the terrible NFL team of your choice to tank for the #1 overall pick."

The Dolphins are the clear favorites in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes, but hardly the only contender. Here are the teams with the best shot at sucking enough to get the No. 1 pick, with their odds:

Miami: Not only do the Dolphins (0-5) have a lame duck coach, Tony Sparano, and an overmatched quarterback, Matt Moore, they also have an owner who seems resigned to the quest. According to the Miami Herald, owner Stephen Ross has told his friends he's willing to put up with short-term losses if the end result is the franchise quarterback his team needs. Odds: 2-1.

Indianapolis: Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian recently scouted Luck, and with good reason. The Colts (0-6) are owners of the worst record in football and seem completely hapless without Manning. But Manning is expected to return from neck surgery and just agreed to a $90 million contract with the team. Could the Colts really draft Luck and start him as a backup? You bet. Odds: 4-1.

Minnesota: The Vikings (1-5) rolled the dice in the offseason, acquiring veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb, but he has struggled mightily and will be replaced this week by untested Christian Ponder. Viking fans have been waiting years for a great quarterback in his prime, and have to be salivating at the prospects of having Luck and All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson in the same huddle. Still, with Peterson, Minnesota is going to win games this year. Odds: 8-1.

St. Louis: The Rams (0-5) certainly have the suck part covered, but they believe, in young quarterback Sam Bradford, that they already have their franchise quarterback. Would they bail on him to grab Luck? Hey, they could always trade him. But playing in the woeful NFC West will lead to a few victories for Bradford and Co. Odds: 10-1.

The field: Carolina (1-5) is off to a slow start but just used the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft on former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who has dazzled at times in his rookie season. Arizona (1-4) has lost four straight games, but made the trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Denver (1-4) made the switch to Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, a folk hero for his conservative views, so it seems unlikely the Broncos would suck enough. Odds: 15-1.

One other wrinkle: Luck's father, Oliver, is a former NFL quarterback himself. Would the Luck family try to pull a draft-day power play like some other franchise quarterbacks, including Eli Manning and John Elway, and refuse to sign with a team it deems unacceptable?

Until April, it's all speculation ... and, for the contenders, losing.

"We don't really pay much attention to it, to be honest with you," Denver coach John Fox said this week when asked about the Luck sweepstakes. "But it's part of the popularity of our great game of NFL football. Being a competitor, I don't know many coaches or players to be different. You're trying to win every game."

Luck, not surprisingly, thinks this entire "Suck for Luck" thing is ridiculous. He returned to Stanford this season because he loves the college experience, not to create a year of fans hoping for their teams to lose. His former college coach Jim Harbaugh, now the 49ers coach, has called Luck "as good a competitor as you'll ever see." He is 26-5 as a starter.

"I am aware of it," Luck told the New York Times. "A couple of guys told me about it. I think it's stupid. Simply put."

It may be stupid, but it'll be one of the most-watched storylines of the 2011 season. While the teams at the top chase a Super Bowl title, ultimately the biggest winner could end up being this year's biggest loser.

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