INDIANAPOLIS – Bruce Arians joined the Colts in 1998 as quarterbacks coach tasked with helping the team work its way off a 3-13 record and to build a future.
Arians was a part of new regime with the Colts that featured President Bill Polian and Head Coach Jim Mora. He had a hand in helping the team reach the playoffs two times in his three years.
Arians is back in 2012 under a change in leadership now that includes General Manager Ryan Grigson and Head Coach Chuck Pagano. Always with a positive demeanor, Arians is happy to be back and he is ready to attack the new challenge.
“It’s like déjà vu like in 1998, starting off with a new general manager, a new head coach and a new quarterback,” said Arians. “It was so exciting to watch that process grow into what it has become. Now, to come back with a new GM and a new head coach, hopefully we have Peyton (Manning) back, I have my fingers crossed but possibly starting with another young one, it’s really exciting.
“I don’t know in my 37 years of coaching, I ever walked into a building and felt more comfortable and more welcomed than when I did when I walked back into Indianapolis a couple of days ago. I was excited, but it made me more excited because I know the class of the organization that Mr. (Jim) Irsay runs. I’m just excited about being back and being a part of that Horseshoe. You just can’t put a value on the quality of the organization and being part of it.”
Arians served as the club’s quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000. Following a 3-13 mark in his first season, Arians helped Indianapolis make a 10-game jump to 13-3 with a vibrant offense featuring young performers virtually across the board. Indianapolis won the AFC East and reached the Divisional Round, then followed the performance the next year with a 10-6 mark and a second consecutive playoff berth. Arians tutored quarterback Manning to consecutive 4,000-yard seasons in his last two years with the team, with Manning tossing 26 and 33 touchdown passes in those seasons.
Arians became the offensive coordinator with Cleveland in 2001. He departed Cleveland for Pittsburgh in 2004 as wide receivers coach, and he was elevated to coordinator in 2007.
During Arians’ tenure, the Steelers made six playoff appearances and three Super Bowls.
Pagano was the secondary coach in Cleveland for three years while Arians was the offensive coordinator. While getting acquainted better there, Pagano first met Arians in Indianapolis when Pagano’s brother, John, was with the Colts from 1999-2001.
“Bruce and I go back a long way,” said Pagano. “When he was here before, I first met him through my brother, John. He’s great at what he does. He’s very talented. His track record speaks for itself, what he did with the Steelers and that offense, the creativity and ability to run the ball, and then the vertical passing game he employed off of that. I feel really fortunate that he was available and that we are bringing him back to Indy.”
Grigson did not have a previous direct working relationship with Arians, but that did not stop him from sensing what the new coordinator possesses.
“He has a great energy and a great sense of humor,” said Grigson. “At the same time, you can tell he’s very bright, but he doesn’t make that known. He doesn’t put that in your face. He doesn’t talk about himself, even though he’s had great success. He’s a regular guy in that respect. You can talk to him as a regular guy. He doesn’t come off like he is some great coach. He has confidence, but he doesn’t come off like he’s a guru of sorts, even though he really is.”
Arians loved his previous stint with the Colts, ranking it as a special time in his life.
“It was by far the best three years I’ve had,” said Arians. “Learning with (Offensive Coordinator) Tom Moore and (Offensive Line Coach) Howard Mudd and just watching Peyton grow. I loved being allowed to coach. Tom let me coach, and I’m always indebted to him. We’ve (the family) lived in 10 or 11 different places, and we’ve always said Indianapolis was our favorite. We look forward to coming back and being a part of the community.”
He is excited about teaming with Grigson and Pagano in helping the club continue the winning culture established by Irsay.
“It’s really exciting. They’re two guys who know what they’re doing,” said Arians. “They have a great plan put in place, and I’m excited about being a part of that plan, having input. You can’t say any more about that organization. You can tell Mr. (Jim) Irsay did his homework, because he got two really good ones.”