INDIANAPOLIS —A winning tradition. Tremendous support and resources. A passionate fanbase. A franchise quarterback.
For Jim Irsay, few organizations in professional sports can boast what his Indianapolis Colts can provide as the team searches for its next head coach.
"You come around the Horseshoe," Irsay said on Monday, "you're coming around something special."
The Colts, who parted ways with Chuck Pagano on Sunday after his sixth season at the helm, immediately started scanning the list of the best potential head coach candidates in the professional and college ranks so that they can get back to their winning ways — and fast — in their next chapter.
But while they're confident in what the Colts can provide, Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard also know several other teams have since started searches for their next head coach, too, and realize competition will be fierce for some of the best coaching talent around.
But Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit believes the Colts, above all others, have what it takes to provide a winning atmosphere.
Benoit on Wednesday released a ranking of the NFL head coach opening "based on desirability," a list that has the Indianapolis Colts at the very top. You can read the entire piece by clicking here, but here's what Benoit had to write about the Colts, specifically:
1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
*What is Andrew Luck's status? That is what candidates will ask first when discussing this opening with their agent. If Luck is healthy, this is the most attractive job by default. Fans and talk radio hosts might debate the legitimacy of Luck's superstar reputation, but football people don't. Within the league, he's seen as a first-tier quarterback, no ifs ands or buts. There are usually no more than seven of those in the NFL at a given time; rarely is one waiting to get a new head coach.
Jim Irsay understands this, and given that he's been under fire for, in the minds of some, "wasting" Luck's prime years under the defensive-minded Chuck Pagano, it wouldn't be surprising if the Colts owner nudges new GM Chris Ballard toward offensive candidates. Luck has spent his career in systems that feature deep dropbacks. That plays to his predilection and ability to push the ball downfield, but it also subjects him to more hits. Given what Luck's body has recently gone through, Ballard might be inclined to find a coach who will install a passing game that's both complex and quick-timed. That's an unusual combination, but there's a certain quarterback in New England who has mastered it. The Colts could go hard after the guy who has helped that quarterback most recently.*
Benoit has the Colts ranked ahead of the New York Giants (No. 2), Arizona Cardinals (No. 3), Detroit Lions (No. 4) and Chicago Bears (No. 5) as the most attractive opening (he says the Oakland Raiders were excluded because, "apparently, they've already found their next head coach" referring to reports that Jon Gruden will be their next leader).