INDIANAPOLIS — Nick Sirianni is in his first year as the offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts. He recently talked to reporters about the state of his unit as it continues through offseason workouts and heads towards the 2018 season.
Where did these tests that your receivers are talking about come from?
"I am from a family of educators so that's always the – my dad was a teacher, my mom was a teacher and so that's how I was raised. And the people that I was around in the business. Brian Daboll, who was the offensive coordinator at Kansas City when I was there, he was big into saying, 'Hey, find out what they know. Don't assume anything.' A great way to do that is by doing it in front of their peers and holding them accountable for their answers. What I feel like it does is it forces them to study. It forces them to study maybe a little bit more than they would on their own because they're prideful guys that want to be right and they want to look good in front of their peers. That's why they are in the positions that they are in. So I've done that for a little bit and I always felt like it has worked pretty well so I continued it here."
Are the tests with every position on the offense?
"Yeah, we try to – Coach Guge (DeGuglielmo) was around; Brian Daboll too. I know he did that around him when he was with him too so he was kind of already familiar with how we wanted to do that. But yeah, it's with all positions; it's with all positions and it's great. We've just got a good staff and they're all buying into, 'Hey, this is how we want to kind of get them to learn the offense,' or one of the ways we want them to learn the offense."
Is there a normal grading scale?
"It's a normal grading scale. There's no curve. There's no curve. Yeah, so it's all about not only getting them to learn the offense, but also to compete with each other. The constant competition – they're fighting for jobs so the constant competition amongst each other is just another way for them to compete also."
There seems to be a lot of question marks at a lot of different positions. Do you feel like you have the personnel needed to be the explosive offense that you want to be?
"Yeah, I see talent around this roster, I really do. We have good tight ends. There is a wide variety of tight ends that we have. Obviously, we've drafted the offensive linemen and then the guys that were here and what we already brought in. I see talent there. Obviously at the quarterback position you have all these guys are competing, but you have Andrew Luck and you have Jacoby Brissett . That's rare to have a backup that's started a lot of games, which he got to start an entire year and then also games in New England. These backs I feel like are playmakers. I love the group that we have, I really do. Also with the receivers, we drafted two young guys. T.Y Hilton's a known player in this league that has made a lot of plays and I've been really impressed with some of the other receivers down the line too. Chester Rogers has really caught my eye and K.J. (Brent) and Ryan Grant . I think it is a good group. I see a lot of similarities to some of the other offenses that we have been around as far as playmakers, and I really feel like we have a lot of playmakers on this team."
When your offense is rolling, what does it look like?
"Well, first we're running the football well. We're running the football well and we're not relying only, solely on the pass, and the pass is complementing the run and we're (getting) explosive plays. So it really all starts with the run, and that all starts up front with our offensive line. So when it's really rolling, we're not in 3rd and 8 and 3rd and 9 and 3rd and 10. Now, we can convert those — we feel like we can convert those — but we're more in 3rd and 4, 3rd and 5, and we're moving the sticks because we're runnin' the football well."
On the offensive line woes of the past, and why he believes it's improved now:
"I know, first of all, Coach Guge and Coach (Bobby) Johnson, they're phenomenal coaches. We're really lucky and blessed to have them in this building coaching our guys every single day. So it starts there, obviously, with those two guys. Obviously the addition of (Quenton) Nelson and Braden Smith , that's huge. Sometimes it feels like you're wanting that guy in the draft — 'Oh, pull the trigger on that guy! We want him!' — and you don't get him, but we got two of 'em. I mean, that's huge; and that's huge. I've been around Matt Slauson for the past two years in San Diego and L.A. — obviously we were in two different places there — and what a leader he is to be around these young guys that they have. Anthony Castonzo , Ryan Kelly — I mean, these are first-round draft picks that, you know, as you we watched them on tape when we got here, we're like, 'Wow, these guys are talented guys.' I mean, a lot of teams I feel like would want to be in the position we're in. And being on different offenses through the past 10 years that I've been in the NFL, it was like, 'Man, I just wish we had a couple draft picks.' So it's exciting just that we have talent, that we have young guys that are hungry, we have young talent that's already been here in Anthony and Ryan, and then we have veteran guys — Austin Howard , obviously, we just brought in; Jack Mewhort — we have veteran guys that can groom these guys, too. Because that's a tough thing; you know, the NFL's new, these guys are going to be playing, and it's really important, obviously, to have that veteran leadership, which I feel we do with a nice mix of young guys."
On if he's excited about the prospect of the offense with Andrew Luck at quarterback:
"Shoot — absolutely. I mean, what a talent. What a talent he is. Obviously he's played top-notch football every year that he's played, and, gosh, sometimes people are like, 'Gosh' … I've been lucky enough to be around him and Philip Rivers. I mean, that's pretty rare. And so, yeah, I'm really excited to work with him. He's a sharp guy, he has off-the-charts intelligence, football I.Q., so what a guy to be able to work with. And obviously sky's the limit when you have a quarterback of his caliber."
How is it in the film room with Luck?
"He's like another coach. He's like another coach. You get around coaches, and you're able to talk ball back and forth with him, shoot ideas back and forth with him. You're on the same page 'cause you guys are in there grinding all the time together. Well, he picks it up quick. It's like he's in there all the time because of how smart he is and because of how high his football intelligence is. So it makes everything move faster; it speeds up the process of learning the offense and getting to know each other — what we like, what he likes — so, yeah, it's been a great deal so far."
On if he has a plan for Luck in July and August when Luck fully returns to practice, and if he has to moderate that to some degree:
"I think you see how he's doing when we get to that point, and see how he feels. And I know we have a top-notch athletic training (staff) and doctors. You know, that's really their call as far as how many throws he gets; everything like that."
On if it's difficult to implement a player into a new offense that he hasn't seen throw yet:
"I don't think so. You know, obviously he doesn't get the same amount of reps, and is not getting the reps right now. But he's out there and he's still going through the process, it's just without throwing it. So mentally he's getting every that he would get normally, you know? It's just obviously physically he's not able to do some of those things right now."
On how far being mentally prepared can go vs. being physically prepared:
"It's not exactly the same — you're right. I mean, it's not exactly the same. But the mental is a huge part of it, obviously. So I think we're on our way, I guess to say. He's getting a ton of those reps, and I see it going in the right direction."
In what ways is Luck putting his own stamp on the offense?
"I mean, that's what's great about a quarterback with a high football intelligence. You know, we want him to feel comfortable. It's not my offense, it's not Frank's offense — it's our offense. We're all in this together. And he wants to change a checkdown to this (because) he feels better — well, he knows what feels right to him when he makes a read and finds a checkdown. There can't be any pride, there can't be any ego. It's all of us together for the good of the team, and so actually that's always nice because he tells you what he feels like's best, alright? 'Well maybe we should put this route on here instead of that.' 'Oh,' you know, 'that sounds pretty good. Let's do it. We never even thought about that.' So what an opportunity to be able to work with somebody like that. So, yeah, 100 percent he's able to put his stamp on this offense for the good of the team, and it's Frank and I's job to make sure that it's systematic and organized and fitting the needs of its players and of our quarterback, most importantly."