At 4 pm ET the Indianapolis Colts held a year-end press conference with owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard. A lot of information that was shared could indicate what fans can expect as the team moves forward in the head coaching search and look forward to the 2018 NFL Draft.
Ballard’s focus as he searches for a head coach
Addressing the Colts head coaching search, Ballard answered some questions about how wide he will cast his net. He made it clear that coaching candidates from all levels of experience, including coaches who may have been fired after having bad records in their previous head coaching stops, and including coaches from the NFL and college will be considered. He made it clear that he wants player developers and “teachers” to compose the staff.
Colts GM Chris Ballard: "Previous head coaching experience is not a requirement...We're going to be about teaching and developing players." https://t.co/noOhjcSFn7— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNFL) January 1, 2018
Chris Ballard vows it's a wide-open search for the #Colts new coach. Hints rather strongly that this could be a curveball. College coaches will be included.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) January 1, 2018
With regard to current Colts coaches, he will allow them to keep their options open but will grant the new head coach the authority to determine the future of coaches that are still on staff. He also mentioned said that people shouldn’t be surprised by a curveball from the candidate. He doesn’t place a great deal of emphasis on experience as he tries to identify candidates and looks more toward leadership. He said the process would be thorough and that he has had plenty of time to be prepared to search for a new head coach.
Keep in mind that Ballard also made it quite clear that he intends to keep all of the candidates and interviews internal. We will likely get some leaks from NFL insiders but it is very likely that numerous candidates will come through Indianapolis and escape under the radar.
Ballard: "There's a lot of job openings. We're going to keep everything we're doing internal, including who we're interviewing."— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) January 1, 2018
Andrew Luck to start throwing soon
Ballard addressed questions about how important he thought Andrew Luck would be to finding coaching candidates and whether he emphasized candidates who he thought could get the most out of Luck. Ballard responded that Luck is one player on the team and that he isn’t looking for a coach who has a singular focus.
He also scoffed at the idea that any coaching candidates would hesitate in having interest in the coaching job due to questions surrounding Luck’s health or outlook for 2018. He stated that any coach who was only interested in coming to Indianapolis due to the promise of Luck taking the field would not be a good fit. On that note, he mentioned that Luck will start throwing soon and that the team will learn more from that than anything else.
Ballard: Andrew Luck will start throwing soon “and that’s going to tell us a lot.” #Colts— George Bremer (@gmbremer) January 1, 2018
Could the Andrew Luck situation cause coaching candidates to worry?— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) January 1, 2018
Chris Ballard: "(If it does, he's) not the right fit. Not the right guy. If he has pause, he’s not the right guy."
Follow-up: "Should anyone have pause?"
Irsay looks back on the Pagano years
As for Jim Irsay’s portion of the press conference, there were a couple of major topics he discussed and one interesting comment that may or may not have any reflection on the conversations he and Ballard have had about the upcoming draft.
Irsay was very complimentary of former head coach Chuck Pagano. He brought up great memories like the comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at home and going to the AFC Championship game. He brought up an astounding year that resulted in former general manager Ryan Grigson gaining recognition as one of the top executives in the NFL. He brought up the #ChuckStrong season and how much it meant to the city of Indianapolis, to the team, and how much Pagano has done to help combat cancer by raising millions of dollars since he was able to overcome his diagnosis.
Jim Irsay on Chuck Pagano's time in Indy: pic.twitter.com/fjtqvQvpHZ— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 1, 2018
Jim Irsay believes in Andrew Luck and is confident in his return
IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel challenged Irsay’s confidence in the return of Andrew Luck in light of his comments that he expected Luck to be back early in the 2017 NFL season. Tongue-in-cheek it came across like he was challenging either Irsay’s honesty or his credibility in making comments about Luck’s health and likely return. This set off a long rant where Irsay made it very clear that he has supreme confidence in Andrew Luck, referred to him as a “special kid,” and adamantly proclaimed that he believes Luck will take a big place in NFL history books before it is all said and done.
Irsay clarifying his optimism regarding Luck playing in 2017:— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) January 1, 2018
Says it’s just taking longer than they previously thought.
“My optimism was genuine and completely warranted."
Irsay on Luck. Getting emotional. Voice rising. This kid is a special kid. He was born to do great things in the National Football League.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) January 1, 2018
Irsay: "I'm not going to BS you. I'm not going to BS our fans... I have NO DOUBT in my mind that Andrew is gonna come back. That kid is a SPECIAL kid. He was born to do great things in the NFL."— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) January 1, 2018
Is Saquon Barkley the next Edgerrin James?
One other interesting morsel from the press conference was that Irsay mentioned getting Luck back on the field and putting a player like Edgerrin James out there with him, but someone who is bigger, faster, and stronger gives the 2018 Colts a lot to look forward to. With a top 3 pick in the draft in his back pocket and Saquon Barkley potentially staring the team in the face when they go on the clock, this could be the player he is referring to.
Jim Irsay hinting that the Colts might be thinking Saquon Barkley at No. 3? pic.twitter.com/MKHeuEBa1N— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) January 1, 2018
Expect to see a great deal of speculation about the Colts interest in Barkley as the NFL Draft approaches.