INDIANAPOLIS – Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay is in the process of searching for a new general manager for his football team.
Irsay made dramatic changes on Monday when he announced Vice Chairman Bill Polian and Vice President and General Manager Chris Polian were leaving the team.
Irsay indicated the status of Head Coach Jim Caldwell is under consideration, with a final decision to be made in the coming days. Without speculating further, Irsay indicated Caldwell possibly could be in the mix going forward.
"In terms of the coaching staff, I met with Jim Caldwell," said Irsay. "Right now, that's still under evaluation. I anticipate the general manger being here when I make a final decision on the coaching staff and the head coach. I'm not saying that's definitely the way it's going to be. That's probably how it will go, but I'm not going to limit our resources in terms of getting our franchise back to greatness. Jim Caldwell could very well be back this year. That is not out of the realm of possibilities. Jim and I had a good conversation."
Indianapolis is fresh into an area in which it has not been since the end of the 1997 season when Irsay last hired a new general manager. He would not offer certainties of any sort in regard to how the matter plays out.
"I think it is possible that it is not resolved until the new general manger is here," said Irsay of the head coaching matter. "I don't want to commit or put myself in a box to any scenario because if I see a direction for the franchise to go that gives us the best chance to win and win the right way for the long term, then I wouldn't rule out that scenario.
"I would anticipate that the new general manager would be hired before we confirmed that Jim (Caldwell) is going to be back, or that we are going to go in another direction. Again, I'm not saying that is definitely the way it's going to happen, because what happens in going forward…is that things happen that you don't anticipate."
Irsay recounted a story where a coaching search took a specific direction quickly when a person now very familiar to Colts fans became available.
"When we let Jim Mora go (in 2001), we weren't sure what direction we were going to (take)," said Irsay. "Then, all of a sudden, Tampa Bay lets Tony Dungy go. As soon as I heard that, I was on the phone to Tony Dungy that night and virtually offered him the job. We didn't anticipate that Tony (Dungy) was going to be available, but he was. There are things that you don't know that are going to continue to evolve in 24-hour periods going forward.
"You keep your eyes open for them, and you are ready for them to seize the opportunity. When you see something that you know is going to have greatness with your franchise, you go after it. That is always the way I've been."
Irsay has been a master builder of the organization throughout his tenure since 1997. His intuition and commitment have been strengths that have allowed the Colts to produce many memorable seasons.
The tenets of his approach are basic. They are rooted in cement. They are time-honored.
"When I've talked about pillars of a franchise, quarterback, general manager and head coach, if you have a chance to get a great one, you get it," said Irsay. "There are not a lot of great ones. You do what you have to do to try to get some of those pillars in place. I will and others in the organization will keep our eyes open to seize any change in the environment or people that become available that we might not be thinking about right now."
Every head coach has duties that are laid bare for public scrutiny on a regular basis. They also achieve things that bring about a great deal of acclaim. Every field general also does things away from the spotlight that are known only on the inside of an organization. Caldwell passes Irsay's tests in those areas.
"I have kind of always been 'old school.' I have always believed in the strength of the general manager being very important, as well as the head coach in strength being where it needs to be in terms of authority," said Irsay. "I think that on some of the things that Jim Caldwell has done, sometimes (people) don't see it. … He is a very bright guy. He is a great teacher. He is a very good personnel evaluator. He is greatly respected by the players, because they know the integrity that man has. You are talking about one of the finest men that I have ever met, I mean bar none, and our fans should know that. He is demanding. He will make some changes that need to be made, and he takes responsibility in terms of he never took the excuse out, 'I do not have enough players' or 'someone is injured so I can't win.' He is not that type of guy. He prepares the team well."
Irsay is attuned keenly to his people. He has observed Caldwell's stoic demeanor on game days and considers it appropriate conduct. Irsay is not one to mistake sideline activity for achievement.
"I know the fans prefer to see someone on the sideline that is screaming and ranting more and those things," said Irsay. "One thing you look for in head coaches that is an important quality is a consistency, the way they come into the building and deal with the players. You don't want someone who is up and down and up and down. One of the key components of any head coach is the players know what they are going to get, the consistency. We had it with Tony Dungy. When people mentioned it with Tony Dungy that they wanted to see him rant on the sidelines more and throw things down. Tom Landry never did that either. He just sat there with his arms folded and his hat on. Tony is a Hall of Fame coach and Tom Landry is.
"I think there are a lot of positive qualities there (with Caldwell). At the same time, I really can't give you a percentage or a certainty if Jim Caldwell will be back or not. … I will be as honest with him as I can. I told him that, and he was very excited and understood. He understood he might not be here, but he understood very well that he could be here, and that I am going to reach that decision as soon as I possibly can. Like I said, probably with a new general manager already here and giving counsel on what direction we should go on his evaluation. I am not ruling out anything for the franchise in terms of could there be a big name coach that gets a lot of control that comes in? Anything is possible. I do not see that as a strong, likely direction, but at this point I not going to eliminate anything that gives us a chance to be the best franchise we can be."