ORLANDO, Fla. — It's springtime, and, naturally, there's no shortage of hope for just about every National Football League franchise this week at the annual league meetings.
The Indianapolis Colts are certainly no different this regard. After an interesting start to the offseason, to say the least, the organization is excited about its new head coach, its personnel approach and what could be ahead in 2018 and beyond.
Leading that charge, of course, is team owner Jim Irsay, who on Monday sat down with the local media in attendance at this year's league meetings in Orlando to talk about a variety of Colts-related topics:
• On the Colts' approach to free agency this offseason:Irsay acknowledged the fans' desire to bring in as many big-name free agents as possible, but cautioned against that kind of approach, referencing similar mistakes the organization had made in years past.
"We're very cautious," Irsay said ."Chris (Ballard) and I have had endless conversations.
Irsay said the goal, of course, is a level of sustained success, which can happen when you build successful draft classes each year.
"The goal is always about building it for championships, for greatness and over a long period of time," he said.
It might not necessarily happen overnight, but Irsay likes the direction the team is headed.
"We really feel within a three-year window we have an opportunity to build this franchise, to fix some of the areas that need to be fixed," he added.
• On the search for a new head coach:Suffice to say, the Colts had an interesting start to their offseason. After parting ways with head coach Chuck Pagano following the 2017 regular season finale, Indianapolis had landed on New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to be its new leader.
But McDaniels, who had already agreed to terms to take the Colts' job, called to tell general manager Chris Ballard, just hours before he was supposed to have his introductory press conference in Indy, that he had decided to stay in New England.
What was Irsay's initial reaction when he heard that news?
"I felt mostly bad for Chris," Irsay said. "He had put a lot into it. ... I just tried to say, 'Look: it happens. I wish it didn't, but it happens.'"But Ballard, and the Colts for that matter, didn't dwell at all on that news. They immediately re-opened the coaching search, and landed on what seems like a slam-dunk candidate in Frank Reich, a former Colts assistant coach and longtime NFL quarterback who had just helped lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl title as their offensive coordinator.
"We were really, really blessed," Irsay said of landing on Reich. "I feel as a franchise that it's been something that's been a real plus."
• On the upcoming NFL Draft:After a St. Patrick's Day trade with the New York Jets, the Indianapolis Colts moved down just three spots, from No. 3 to No. 6 overall, in the first round of April's NFL Draft, but also added two second-round picks this year, as well as another one in 2019.
Irsay credited Ballard with laying in the weeds and seemingly making such a big move out of nowhere, but, like Ballard, remains confident that the Colts will still land a blue chip prospect with the sixth-overall pick.
"We could go pass rusher, we could go franchise running back, we could go offensive lineman," Irsay said.
Most would assume the pass rusher Irsay is referring to is Bradley Chubb the franchise running back is Saquon Barkley and the offensive lineman is Quenton Nelson.
But no matter what direction the Colts can or will go with that pick, Irsay said the team doesn't feel pressure to go with one particular player over another; all could help in achieving goal of sustained success moving forward.
• On quarterback Andrew Luck:And, finally, Irsay also addressed the continuing rehab work of franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, who is expected to return with his teammates for the start of the Colts' offseason workout program on April 9.
Luck, who missed the entire 2017 season as he recovered and rehabbed from offseason shoulder surgery, has been working on his own the offseason with a throwing expert out in California, and Irsay said Monday "all indicators are healing is going really well."
"We feel optimistic that he's turned the corner and has a full decade ahead of him of excellence," Irsay continued.
Irsay was asked how much he believed Luck would be throwing during OTAs this offseason, and he joked that he would think No. 12 would take a "Brett Favre" approach during that time.
"I expect him to throw quite a bit," Irsay said with a smile. "I expect him to kind of channel his Brett Favre, if you will, and just say, 'The hell with it. Let's go play football.'"
But Irsay quickly reminded reporters of Luck's dilligent rehab work — and the importance to stay on track.
"The throwing shoulder, there's a lot going on there," Irsay said. "It's a complicated mechanism. At this level, with the type of work that's put out and that type of thing, you just want to make sure you bring him along the right, timely way, without hurrying him."