INDIANAPOLIS – Tom Moore coached football for more than 40 years, but he never had the opportunity thrust this week at Bruce Arians, a former Colts colleague from 1998-2000.
Arians this week was tabbed to pinch-hit for Head Coach Chuck Pagano, who is fighting a treatable form of leukemia that will keep him sidelined for the near future.
Moore was the Colts’ offensive coordinator for many seasons, and Arians was his quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000, before departing for Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
Arians has commented previously how beneficial his time was under Moore, and Moore knows well the talent Arians possesses and will apply on Sunday as Pagano’s replacement.
“Bruce is an excellent coach. He has lots and lots of experience at the assistant and head coaching level. He’s seen both sides of it. He’s extremely knowledgeable. He will do a great job,” said Moore. “He’ll be demanding. Players will have to be accountable, that’s for sure. He’s demanding, but a very fair coach. He will be demanding, but understanding.”
Arians is the fifth interim head coach to serve in Colts history, the first since Rick Venturi succeeded Ron Meyer for the last 11 games of the 1991 season.
It is undetermined how long Arians will serve in this new capacity. What Moore knows is that it is not the preferred role in which to serve. He wishes Pagano all the best and knows Arians is a good choice to move into the position.
“It’s tough. My prayers go to Chuck Pagano. He’s a tremendous coach,” said Moore. “It’s a tough position Bruce is in. One thing about it, Bruce is fully qualified to fill in in this particular situation because of his experience. He knows the ins-and-outs. He’s been in a lot of systems, and he is a great communicator. He has a tremendous rapport with players everywhere he’s been. That will bode well for him. Players will find out he can adapt and handle the total package.”
Arians said he has been in contact with Pagano throughout the week both strategically and personally. He quipped that Pagano probably already had viewed Friday’s practice because he remains connected to the club technologically.
Arians is not asking any more duty-wise of his assistants with Pagano’s absence, and he will continue to call plays on Sunday. Arians said there only will be a limited amount of times he will need to remind himself he has the head coaching duties as well on Sunday.
“At certain times (I will). I don’t think it’s going to come up more than five or six times in the game,” said Arians. “It’s going to be whether it’s a questionable call that has to be reviewable, non-reviewable, do we want to take that chance, when to take that chance to go for it or not to go for it? Usually, I’m standing there watching it anyway.
“It’s not as big a deal (as people think). The preparation, the day and the night before are bigger than the game, as far as that phase of it for me.”
INJURY UPDATE – Bruce Arians said guard Joe Reitz, cornerback Vontae Davis, guard Seth Olsen, cornerback Justin King and linebacker Pat Angerer will not play. All other players will be game-time decisions. Linebacker Dwight Freeney did fine in Friday’s practice. “He’s more than ready,” Arians said of Freeney.
Arians said cornerback Cassius Vaughn would start for Davis and Darius Butler will play. “Wally Pipp, that’s where the whole ‘Next Man’ line got started. We believe in it. If you’re a Colt, you play like a starter when you’re on that field,” said Arians.
ARIANS A FAN OF JOHN UNITAS AND DREW BREES – On a week where Major League Baseball saw its first Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, since 1967, a long-time NFL mark may be broken.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees enters Sunday’s game against San Diego with touchdown passes in 47 consecutive games, a streak that ties a league mark never threatened seriously. Colts Hall-of-Fame quarterback John Unitas set the mark from 1956-60. It has stood since as one of the enduring records in all of sports, placed by many alongside the record 56-game hitting streak of Joe DiMaggio that was set in 1941.
Arians played quarterback at Virginia Tech, and he has tutored some of the game’s greatest talents. A native of York, Pennsylvania, Arians grew up a huge Unitas fan. He salutes the accomplishment Brees has had to this point.
“I think the (47-game) record speaks for itself,” said Arians. “Anything that lasts that long (is noteworthy, just like Joe) DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. I think (Miguel) Cabrera getting the Triple Crown equals that. Those are feats that are once-in-a-lifetime accomplishments. For Drew (Brees) to do it, and do what he’s done since arm surgery, just coming back from that, is amazing. To tie and possibly break the record of Johnny Unitas is an achievement.”
Arians tried and failed to speak with Unitas before a 1998 game the Colts played in Baltimore. He wanted to pay his respects to a boyhood idol. Instead, he just lives with a memory from years ago.
“Johnny Unitas was my hero. Brooks Robinson, Johnny Unitas, I loved those cats,” said Arians. “As a young basketball player (in York, Pennsylvania) the Colts off-season basketball team dressed one time in our locker room. Johnny had a deodorant commercial out at that time. He wore a hat and trench coat where he said he packed his .38. They dressed there and I sneaked over and had his trench coat and hat on and he said, ‘Hey, did you pack my .38?’ I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.
“There was no one like John Unitas. What he did for the game of football can’t be duplicated by anyone. He brought this game into the 20th century. He was the forerunner of what we see now at that position.”
Unitas started the 47-game streak on December 9, 1956. He kept it going until December 4, 1960, breaking the prior record of Cecil Isbell (22 games) on November 30, 1958. Unitas held sole possession of the record for 19,663 days. He threw 102 touchdown passes during the streak, compared to 114 by Brees as the nature of the game today has changed dramatically.
The Colts were 31-16 during those 47 games, while the Saints are 33-14. Fifteen Saints have snared scoring passes from Brees during the streak, while Unitas teamed with seven Colts (38 touchdowns, Raymond Berry; 27, Lenny Moore; 25, Jim Mutscheller; 4, Alan Ameche; 3, L.G. Dupre; 3, Alex Hawkins; 2, Jerry Richardson).
COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE): OWNER AND CEO JIM IRSAY (On Chuck Pagano) “Chuck is very dear to this organization as a head coach. The special thing about Chuck is he’s a ‘salt of the earth’ man. You aspire to be the type of man he is. He’s the type of guy who will spend 10 minutes with the janitor asking how his ill mother is, the type of guy who goes out of his way to treat people in a special way. He’s going to be greatly missed in terms of his intensity, his energy, his leadership, the things that made him the candidate that Ryan (Grigson) and I selected ultimately as our head coach. He has had the chance (this season) to set the tone for the players, coaches and what he expects. In meeting with the team and coaches, there is nothing more than we want to get that Green Bay game ball and have a victory game ball and be able to walk that into the hospital and put that in his hands. That’s our goal. I know we will pull together. It’s been a very difficult day, a lot to take in for our coaches, players and organization.” (On Chuck Pagano) “I’m very optimistic he will beat this thing. I think it’s unlikely that he will be ‘all-in’ as a head coach this season. It’s probably not in the cards where he’s going to be able to come back and be ‘all-in’ this season. … There are peaks and valleys. Once you get better, there is more chemotherapy. It’s a process of getting back to yourself. We know the demands in this league of being a head coach. It’s one of the most demanding jobs that you can have in this country. Bruce Arians is going to be our interim head coach. It was Chuck’s wishes and certainly had my blessing and Ryan’s blessing. We’re fortunate to have a veteran coach like Bruce to lead the team. Everyone is up to the task of doing that extra bit of work that everyone needs to do for us to maintain and play at a high level. It is important for him to stay engaged in the team. … He is ready to take this fight on, and he is a fighter.” BRUCE ARIANS (On message moving forward) “That this foundation is built solid, and we know how to do it. It’s just a matter of continuing on to build what we started. If Chuck can’t make it back for the regular season, why can’t we extend the season? Play a few more games until he gets back. We’re going to get some guys healthy. We’re going to get better each week. Let’s extend the season for him so he can come back.” (On Chuck Pagano) “Chuck and his family, (we’re close). Johnny (Chuck’s younger brother) and I worked together here a long time ago and in New Orleans together (1996). I’ve known Sam (Chuck’s father) and his mom, they’re kind of like my West Coast family. Chuck and I worked together in Cleveland. We battled when he was in Baltimore and I was in Pittsburgh. For a few good years there, we had great games that always went to the wire. There’s always been a great mutual respect. His family is my family. When he made the call for me to come (to Indianapolis), there never was a doubt or hesitance on my part to join him. I knew he’d do this right. He’s doing it the right way, and we’re going to continue that until he comes back.” (On his reaction) “Football is not who we are, it’s what we do as players and coaches. It doesn’t define us. Family does. Faith does. That was more the conversation. The football part, you just go on, you march on. That’s always the way this business has been. … He doesn’t expect it to stop. He expects us to pick it up and keep it rolling until he gets back. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.” (On how team took the news) “Hard. That was tough because he’s done such a good job of winning them over and having them play so hard. That’s what was so pleasing about practice today. The one thing about football players and football coaches, our safe haven is out there on the field. You leave everything in the locker room. Whether your family is sick, your kids are sick, anything that’s a problem once we step out the door, it’s just football. It’s really a peaceful spot. All you think about is your job at that point in time, playing ball, then you get in the locker room and you deal with those other things. That’s where we’re at, and we’ll continue to do it that way.” (On his philosophy and Pagano’s philosophy of coaching) “Well our philosophy is so similar. As far as practices and schedules, those are all set in stone. Our guys are used to what we do Monday through Saturday. We’ll continue on that road. As far as the rest, you have to be yourself. I learned watching all those guys who became head coaches under Coach (Bear) Bryant’s staff at Alabama try to be him. The one thing he told me when I became the 47th is, ‘Just be you.’ I was 30 years old. I thought I knew everything. You have to be yourself. I have my own way of communicating, which usually is not printable, but I will be me.” (On if surprised by play of Robert Mathis) “No, because he’s such a great athlete. (The) base defense is the 3-4, but he’s really playing the same spot. He’s just standing up. You knew he was going to rush the passer. The thing he’s missed is Dwight (Freeney) on the other side. The rest of the time in your nickel and dime defense, they are playing their normal positions they’ve played their whole career. I think sometimes it gets overemphasized about playing a different spot. He’s such an intense player and a good player he can do anything he wants to do.” (On curious to see team’s reactions to week) “Not really, I kind of expect it. This bunch is a very resilient bunch, and they know how to work. They come to work Monday and we had an excellent practice after hearing the devastation with the news that they got. I felt very good in the meetings today with the focus. The one thing that I think we’ll have to be very aware of is not getting over excited, over hyped, to try to do something extra. We don’t need to do anything extra. We just need to play, coach, every day and prepare like we have and not get caught up with snot bubbles and tears. They don’t beat anybody. We all want to win the game for a lot of reasons, but we can’t put extra expectations on it because of what has happened.” (On if he will keep addressing Pagano situation throughout the season) “I think as time progresses, the initial shock waves will be over. The initial shock waves of this thing, you can’t get too caught up in that emotion. The football field is kind of our safe haven and when we get out there, it’s business as usual. We stay there. We stay focused at that moment – one play at a time, one day at a time. That’s just what we have to do. We can’t get caught up. It’s going to really happen Saturday. I think more and more as the week progresses, more and more emphasis is going to be, ‘Try to win this game for Chuck.’ Chuck doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want to put that extra pressure on these guys. Just win the game because we want to win the game. That’ll be the extra icing on the cake to give him that birthday present.” (On Packers, Aaron Rodgers) “I think the biggest thing is no matter what happens to Aaron (Rodgers), he’s going to play 60 minutes. He could be down 14 or 20, it doesn’t matter. They can play up-tempo. They can run the football. The Saints gave them a heck of a battle but with him a lot of times, it’s who gets the ball last. With us, we need the ball last with the lead and hold on to it and finish it. We’ve gotten in situations now where we’ve finished one but didn’t finish the other. When I talk to our guys, I’m more interested in the Colts than I am the Packers. We’ll take care of our own business. We know that they wear green and gold and they’ve got a lot of Pro Bowlers. This is a game where our “five-star” players, they’ve got to show up. We’ve got some “five-star” players, and they need to show up in the big game.” (On getting traction early in third quarter) “I think coming out of the locker room both times we had a chance for a double score. Usually when you get a double score at the end of the half and the first possession of the third quarter, you win 80 percent of the time. We got the field goal against Minnesota, then we had the quick four-and-out this past week and penalties. More than anything we beat ourselves, and then we gave up a big play. I was very pleased with when we did lose the lead for the first time in the game, we went 98 yards or 92 yards. Now we did miss the field goal which we’ve got to quit doing. No one knows that more than Adam (Vinatieri). We had a chance to bounce right back. It shows a lot of resiliency in your ball club, especially a young offense to be able to do that. And defense gives us a shot with a three-and-out. We’ve just got to finish ballgames, all 60 minutes of them. We’ve been doing a heck of a job for about 58 of them. We’ve just got to finish the whole game, especially a team like the Packers.” GREG MANUSKY (On if surprised about how quickly Robert Mathis has made the LB transition) “Definitely. The one thing Robert has going for him is his great knowledge of the game. He understands it. Usually with young guys, I know he’s not a young guy, but a young guy in that position, it usually takes them two years to get their feet underneath them. He’s way past that, from his vision points to him shooting his hands. He’s just a football player that’s going out there. Actually, he’s learning every day, but the vast improvement from day one to today is dramatic.” ROBERT MATHIS (On facing Jeff Saturday) “It’s going to be fun but at the same time, you miss him around here. He was our leader, our top dog around here. I understand it’s the business of this game. It’ll be fun playing against him.” (On remembering 2004 Colts-Packers game) “It was a barn-burner for both offenses. We were kind of disgusted by it, but you certainly got your money’s worth if you love offensive touchdowns and bombs and stuff like that.” DWIGHT FREENEY (On ankle) “It’s getting there. It’s not there yet. With those types of injuries, they kind of linger, the high ankle. I just go out and test it every day and be very optimistic that it’s going to be fine. Those kind of things stick around for a while. Unfortunately, it happened. Fortunately, it happened in the first game, not the middle of the season. It gives me some time to get back healthy.” (On how tough to be out) “It’s real tough. I can’t stand it. That’s why sometimes you see me if it’s a three-week injury, I’m back after one week. The sideline I can never get used to.” (On appreciate more now) “Yeah, you really do. You really start missing it, all the camaraderie, the meetings, just being around with the players in practice and definitely the games. It’s part of you, especially being out there for 11 years like I have. It’s all you know. You never want to see the guys out there without you.” (On facing Jeff Saturday) “That’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be really interesting the first time I actually hit him or he hits me. There’s definitely going to be something said. I don’t know (what). That’s another thing (why) I want to get out there so bad – to see Jeff. If it happens, it will be something special.” MIKE McGLYNN (On health of line) “Most of the success of your season is based on staying healthy. Adapting (is huge). If you’re the next guy up, if you’re in that position, you have to go ahead and do your thing. That’s how opportunities come in this league.” (On guys coached to do whatever it takes) “In the NFL, not every guy drafted in the first round is going to be a starter. When opportunity comes for you, you have to make the best of it. You have to hang loose and look to contribute wherever and whenever you can. That’s how you have to approach it. If you don’t, that time will come and go and you will be out of the league.” ANDREW LUCK (On trying to balance week with Chuck Pagano news and game preparations) “You try to put it aside a bit as cold as that sounds. I think all of our thoughts are with him. We break it down after practice on, ‘Chuck.’ I think a lot of guys are going to be playing for him for a lot of games to come. I think we also realize that he’d be disappointed in us if we weren’t putting a full effort into practice, or maybe getting too low about what’s going on or too emotional about it. Try to go to work. Try to do right and put the work in because I think that’s what he would want.” (On playing well to start third quarter) “I think one is trying to sustain focus for 60 minutes, regardless of how the first half went – good, bad, mediocre. I think realize it’s a 60-minute game. No one tallies up a win or loss after the first half. Maybe it’s young guys in this locker room, but I don’t think that’s an excuse. We’ve got to just come out strong, stay focused and hopefully we’ll start righting that wrong in this upcoming game.” (On if he views field as safe haven) “Yeah. It is nice to go out on the football field where you worry about football and that’s it on the football field. It’s always seemed to be that way, ever since Pop Warner. I think you’ll find 99 percent of the guys that play football agree with that sentiment. I wish it could help heal Coach Pagano maybe in a more tangible way. Obviously, hopefully we can uplift him in some way.” (On comparison to Aaron Rodgers) “I think I’ve got a long way to go to be compared to Aaron Rodgers. He’s definitely someone that I enjoy watching. His command over the offense, when a guy looks covered, Aaron’s always done a great job with back-shoulder throws. When a tight end is running down the middle, (him) putting it in the right spot or the only spot that it could be caught, and often times it is. It is a lot of fun to watch him play, watch him make plays with his feet as well. He’s a great quarterback.” (On this being business as usual in wake of coach’s illness) “I think it’s almost more as an obligation to him. For us, the foundation that he’s laid so far, it’s now on our end to hold up the end of the bargain and work (and) do what he would want. If we can come into work the way he’s going into work and the way he did things, then hopefully we’ll hold up our end to the bargain and see him back out here.” (On Chuck Pagano news feels like a losing locker room) “A football loss doesn’t compare, or a loss of the game doesn’t compare (to this news). This is real life, real world. (The news) puts it in perspective a little bit. I think guys were in a little bit of shock, but I think full optimism as well, especially after guys getting to know him, getting to know his personality, his strength. Again, I firmly believe he’ll beat it.” (On if this is “Next Man Up” to the extreme) “Absolutely. I think it is. We have to find a way to get it done. … We need to do everything in honor of what Coach Pagano’s going through, in honor of his fight that is much more severe and maybe much more ‘real world’ than playing a kid’s game for a living.” ADAM VINATIERI (On Pagano) “He’s a fighter. He’s a leader in this group of men. He’ll be missed while he’s not here. We’re going to do our best to make him proud while he’s gone. Hopefully, he gets back here as quickly as he can. Obviously, his health and his family are the most important things. Football is a game. It’s all of our livelihood and part of our lives. When he has to go through this as a group in this locker room, we’re feeling for him and his family. We’ll pull together the best we can to have him be able to just concentrate on what he’s going through and not having to worry about any of us. There’s nothing we’d rather do than bring a game ball back for him.” (On having fondness for him)“He’s shown us a lot of things just in the short period of time we’ve been here together. Family, team, hard work and those types of things have been what he’s instilled in this locker room. Those are the things he’s going to continue with his battle, too. We’re definitely pulling for him. We’ll pull up the slack while he’s gone. We can’t wait to get him back as soon as we can.” (On Bruce Arians) “Bruce has been around a long time. He knows what it’s going to take. He’s already embraced that leadership role and taken on the extra responsibility that we’ll be ready to go. We know what we need to do. We’ll miss Coach (Pagano) while he’s not here, but we know what needs to get done. Bruce will lead, and we will follow. We will pick up the extra slack and do what needs to be done.” ANTOINE BETHEA (On if the message you can show Chuck Pagano is by winning) “Most definitely. I’m pretty sure that when we go out on this field on Sunday, and every game, we are going to play for Coach Pagano. I think that one of the best things we can do for him is wherever he’s at watching that TV, he can look at that ticker and see we’re winning. We can win for him. We are going to go out there and are going to fight. We’re going to scratch, claw and try to get these wins for Coach Pagano.” JERRAUD POWERS (On Aaron Rodgers) “He can make every throw. He can put it in the tight spots. He makes audibles at the line of scrimmage to put his offense into the best situation with whatever defense he sees. He’s mobile. He probably doesn’t get a lot of credit for his mobility, but he can move out of the pocket and scramble for first downs. He’s a confident quarterback. He’s been doing it the last few years, ever since he’s been the starter. He’s proved that he’s one of the, if not the best quarterback in the league.” (On if it is business as usual) “I don’t like to put his situation in football. He’s dealing with something that’s far more important than a kid’s game we’re playing. We’re playing a kid’s game, and what he’s dealing with is a life threat. On the flip side, we do have a job. We have a responsibility. Guys have to come in here and make sure we’re focused on Green Bay and able to get the job done come Sunday. That’s what he wants us to do. As a player, we have a responsibility as a whole. We have to come in like clockwork as usual and try to put what he’s going through to the side a little bit once we’re on the field. Like B.A. (Arians) said earlier, ‘As a football player, the only time you can find peace and put things to the side is when you’re out on the field practicing.’ That’s where we have to keep our focus. At the end of the day, (he) is on our mind. We want Chuck to be healthy. We want the best for Chuck, his wife and his kids. We’re praying for them. It’s not something we’re not going to think about, but it does have to be clockwork and business like usual once we’re focusing on Green Bay.” (On Bruce Arians) “B.A. (Arians) has been around the block a few times. He’s not going to change any philosophies that Chuck has instilled in us. Coach Pagano has started a great foundation. Everybody is on board with that foundation. B.A.’s just going to continue to preach what Chuck is preaching.”