INDIANAPOLIS —Tuesday night's second annual Indianapolis Colts Town Hall event certainly wasn't a State of the Union address, but at times it sure felt like one.
With various Colts season ticket members getting an up-close-and-personal, exclusive look into the organization as it continues its work into the 2018 offseason, it felt as though every statement by the team's new head coach garnered a round of applause from the audience.
Frank Reich, hired Feb. 11 as the Colts' next head coach, was certainly striking a chord with those in attendance who are eager to see the new direction of the franchise.
His one-on-one with host Peter King, the longtime NFL writer, was one of just several highlights from the event. Here's a comprehensive look at the special guests and what they had to say:
General manager Chris BallardOn what went through his mind when Josh McDaniels decided not to take the team's head coaching job on Feb. 6: "Before the coaching search started, I got a text from Barry Alvarez that said, 'Don't flinch.' That was a mantra we had at Wisconsin when he first took the job. When he took over at Wisconsin, it was as bad a program as (there) was in the country. And he said, 'Don't flinch.' And from Tony to Bill to Jerry Angelo to Barry Alvarez, all the advice they had given me when you're picking a coach was two things: Barry was, 'Don't flinch,' and the rest of them were patience. Absolutely I was not happy at that moment, but then once I got my wits together, I said, 'You know what, we're not going to flinch. We're not going to flinch as an organization, and we're going to have patience and we're going to find the right coach.' We get wrapped up in what the media (report) and these timeframes, and there was never a point that I had a timeframe that we had to have a coach by this time, and I knew that we still had other guys to go do. And so from that point, when he made the decision to not come to Indy, it was, 'Don't flinch and have patience and we'll find the right guy.'"
On what he saw in Frank Reich during his interview that made him the right candidate:"One of the No. 1 traits — I went and saw Coach (Barry) Alvarez; I mean, he's been a mentor of mine for a lot of years, since I played there — and one of the No. 1 things was presence. Every great head coach has presence. And after 15 minutes, I knew Frank had presence. His vision, his ability to articulate his vision — I knew it pretty quickly. And my thoughts in my head weren't, 'This is going to be our next head coach.' My thoughts were, 'Why the freak didn't I interview him three weeks ago?'"
On why it's so important for him to build through the draft and use free agency to fill in holes:"I think if you just look around the league and you look at the teams that are successful — I mean, let's just take Philly for example, and to watch (center Jason) Kelce, (tight end Brent) Celek; all these guys that have been Eagles their whole career, their passion, not only for playing football but for the organization. I mean, they were as excited as the fans were. And I'm not saying that the guys we bring in from free agency won't have that same connection. But it's different when a player plays his entire career in one place — and we know how hard that is to do — but when you draft a player and then you're able to extend him to a second contract and he's able to play within the organization, he's able to teach the young players, 'Hey man, this is how we do it. This is how we work. This is how we're going to win games.' And that's where we've gotta get to."
Head coach Frank ReichOn why he decided to get into coaching after a 14-year NFL playing career: "I always knew that this was the path that I ultimately wanted to take. I grew up in a home: my dad was a coach, my mom was a coach, my brother's a coach. We were just a football family, and there was just something about the camaraderie and the cohesiveness of a locker room. But not just that, but the competitiveness of it. And having had a taste of it as a player and experiencing some really high highs and some really low lows, and just knowing bond that we had between us, it was just so exciting, so exhilarating. And so I always knew that that's what I wanted to do, and always wanted to do it at the highest level."
On if his role as a backup quarterback better helps him in his role as a coach:"I think the biggest advantage is this: is understanding that, even from a coaches' perspective, that this game is about the players; the players make the plays, they're the ones out there playing. As coaches, we provide vision, we provide leadership, we push them and we challenge them to get better and we do our role. But at the end of the day it's about players, and I think that some of the experiences that I had gone through in those moments, if anything, instilled confidence in players. Because I could look at Nick Foles — I kind of (have) been down the road of how to start playoff games as a backup player. And … while it was easy to see why everyone was concerned — our MVP quarterback had gone down; we played poorly the last two games of the season on offense and everyone was panicking — where you could look at Nick and you could look at the offense and say, 'We're good. We're the best team in the NFL. Teams that were chasing us the whole year, they're still going to be chasing us in the playoffs.' You can look at players with confidence having experienced that and believing that in your heart."
On being creative as a playcaller, while also being deceptive to the opposition:"I think that's the only way to attack it. And you can do that where you still have a common inventory that you're working from. You know, you're not re-inventing football — you're not re-inventing offense or defense or special teams every week — but you have a core inventory. That's what we'll be doing all throughout OTAs, right? We'll be installing our core inventory, and it'll be a vast number of plays. And it'll be in all situations, so you get all that practice in OTAs, all the meeting time, all the reps, so mentally it sinks deep in. And then you have all your practices, and then you get into training camp. And the preseason games, I'm just going to tell you right now, the preseason games mean nothing, so we show nothing in preseason. We show nothing in preseason. We don't want to give anybody any competitive advantage. We play to win in preseason, we play hard, we play fast, it's a great time to evaluate teams — and you've got to do just a tiny bit here and there; you can't just like make plays up — … so that when you get to Week 1, when you get to Week 1, … this is a gameplan specifically designed on every level what the matchups are about, how to put players in the best position."
Director of Sports Performance Rusty JonesOn how he was convinced to un-retire and join the Colts' staff:"I had been in pro sports for 30 years, and I had a son that had two years of college left, and I wanted to be with him. And I could; I could go at 60. And after 30 years of it, it can tear on you a little bit. So we got in through all that, we traveled the world a little, and then I ended up in New Hampshire on a lake in the middle of February and realized that really wasn't what I was about. It was pretty quiet. And Chris had been talking to me a little bit, and when I first saw Bill Polian after my first year I said I took a nap for a year after he was in Buffalo, and I needed some rest. And now it's me and my wife."
Offensive coordinator Nick SirianniOn why he feels he can match up well with Reich to head up the offense: "I met Frank when we were in San Diego coaching. And I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., so Frank is obviously a legend there, and it was amazing to call my high school buddies and say, 'You'll never guess who the quarterback coach is here.' So they were ecstatic about me being able to work with Frank. … I was a Steelers fan at that time of my life, so I don't quite remember. I should've been a Bills fan — that was the best time in the world to be a Bills fan. But my parents grew up in Pittsburgh, so I had no choice. I want to say 8, 9. Somewhere in there. Obviously there was that initial respect that I had for Frank when we first worked together, and then that respect just obviously grew and grew and grew and grew because he's a phenomenal man and a phenomenal coach. And we started to see, when he became the (offensive) coordinator for the Chargers and I became the quarterback coach, that we had a lot of the same philosophies and how to play the game of football, especially at the skill position at wide receiver and quarterback. So I knew I was on the right track if I was thinking the same way that Frank thinks. So we really got to know each other there, and again, the way Frank kind of explained his vision as up-tempo, multiple-personnel offense is the same way I think, and that's what so good and that's what was such a good dynamic with the Chargers is, when you've got two people that are on the same page on your coaching staff and bouncing ideas off of each other, it really makes for dynamic things to happen."
Defensive coordinator Matt EberflusOn his crazy last couple weeks; being hired to coach under McDaniels, seeing him not take the job, and then still having his contract honored to lead the defense under Reich:"I don't think we have the time today to do that. But it's been a great and exciting month, obviously, to test your faith, No. 1, and also to test your beliefs and what your core beliefs are. And when Frank came on — and just an outstanding man in terms of how he handled this whole situation: up front, honest, all-in — and just what a great man he is in terms of just standing up and having character. (The) Colts' organization, Chris Ballard, Mr. Irsay, just standing behind what had already been done at that point. So I can't say enough about the whole organization, and Frank and Chris and Mr. Irsay for doing that."
Tight end Jack DoyleOn his feelings about the upcoming return of quarterback Andrew Luck: "Excitement. Very excited — as everybody is on the team — for Andrew to be back out there, when he's ready to be back out there. And he brings not only his abilities on the field, but his energy in the locker room, his leadership, is huge for our team. So, yeah, excitement and ready for it to happen."
Defensive lineman Johnathan HankinsOn the Colts switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense: "I guess coming from the Giants, being in the 4-3, that's what I've spent my career doing. But I guess it's great for a new beginning and a new start, and I'm sure as (Simon) would say, we're excited for a new beginning and starting off the season right."
Edge defender John SimonOn the fact that the AFC South keeps improving and that the Colts will have their work cut out for them: "Well, my only goal is to win. And I know that's how it is in the locker room. I think last year we competed too many times rather than finishing games late and winning those games, which we should've won. But that's not an easy thing to do. And other teams are trying to win games, also. So it's just going into games prepared and being able to put together those four quarters that we weren't able to do last year."
Center Ryan KellyOn if he had met Frank Reich previously, and his feelings on the new regime: "No, I didn't. I never really crossed paths with him in a previous time. And talking (to) some people who had been here when he was here earlier on in his career, they said great things about him: just a phenomenal person, great coach, and so obviously it's a fresh start, and it feels good. So we're kind of making some changes right now, and obviously our complex is under construction, so it kind of feels like a new birth, and I'm pretty excited about it."
The 2nd annual Colts Town Hall was hosted by award winning sportswriter, Peter King, and featured general manager Chris Ballard, head coach Frank Reich, Andrew Luck and more