INDIANAPOLIS** – Bruce Arians walked into the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center just prior to the Super Bowl and it felt like home.
For Arians, it was a familiar street address since he worked with Indianapolis from 1998-2000. Then he was quarterbacks coach, now he is offensive coordinator. His new office is located only a few yards from where he was once positioned, and he loved the familiar vibe in the building.
"It was one of the finest three years I've ever had," said Arians of his first time with the Colts. "In 36 years of coaching, I don't think I've ever been welcomed more warmly in a building than when I got back here. It's really exciting."
Arians left Indianapolis to become offensive coordinator with Cleveland in 2001, a post he held for three seasons. Arians departed Cleveland for Pittsburgh in 2004 as wide receivers coach. He held that role with Pittsburgh for three seasons until being elevated to coordinator in 2007. During Arians' tenure, the Steelers made six playoff appearances and reached three Super Bowls, winning twice.
It was in Cleveland that Arians worked with Chuck Pagano, now the Indianapolis head coach. He matched wits against Pagano during his time in black and gold.
"We've been going against each other tooth and nail at Baltimore and Pittsburgh for a while, but we were together in Cleveland, he as secondary coach and me as offensive coordinator," said Arians. "We worked closely together. His brother, John, was here (Indianapolis) with me (in 1998-2000). I've known the Pagano family for a long time. It's a football family."
Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson completed the coaching staff this week, and the 19-member staff has 16 new faces, counting the head coach. Arians is excited about the opportunity to work with an old club in a new role.
"I really look forward to it. It's exciting being a part of this staff," said Arians. "We look forward to getting going, getting everybody on the same page and winning some ballgames.
"First and foremost (our job) is to maintain the excellence they've had (here). My dear friend Tom Moore did an unbelievable job establishing it. (Quarterbacks Coach) Clyde (Christensen) has done a real good job (as coordinator). I gave Clyde his first job at Temple a long time ago (1983). It's kind of a family offense. We want to maintain the excellence they have, take some of the younger players and get them going and bounce back real quick."
Arians and the rest of the offensive staff is looking at the talent on hand as it plots the direction for 2012. On the immediate radar screen is the Combine next week. The draft follows in April. The coaches will stay busy.
"The biggest thing right now is the evaluation of the guys we have," said Arians. "So far, I've been very pleased with what I've seen. We have some veteran guys. We have some young guys, it's a nice mix. Getting that (roster evaluation) done, looking at free agency (and) who might fit us, then starting on the draft and see what's available this year. I know there are going to be some quality guys. Hopefully, we can get some on offense."
Counting college, this marks the fifth coordinator job for Arians. He has worked with some of the league's top talents like Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. He knew well before then how intensely the competitive fires burn for the top players.
"With all the elite quarterbacks, it's their competitive spirit," said Arians. "I don't care if you're playing golf, tiddlywinks, they want to win. They bring that desire to win and impose it on the rest of the guys in the huddle. The ones I've been around – Peyton (Manning), Ben (Roethlisberger), even Tim Couch, who I love and thought was going to be a great player until his arm blew out – they had that competitive spirit that would overwhelm everybody. … The elite ones can spin the football. They know the offense. With those kinds of guys, you want to keep the game as simple as possible and let them play."
"I think Bruce is really innovative in what he does," said Kelly Holcomb, who played for Arians here and in Cleveland. "He's very smart about what he does. He's smart about football. He keeps things simple for you. He's very good at scheming defenses. He knows what he wants to do. He's very good at articulating to his players what he wants them to do. … He can communicate with people. He's a likeable guy, and I can't say enough good things about him."
Pagano enjoyed his time together with Arians in Cleveland, and he is pleased to have him on board in Indianapolis as he undertakes the first field leader position in his 29th year of coaching.
"Bruce and I go back a long way," said Pagano. "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."