INDIANAPOLIS — Disappointment. Shock. Excitement.
For Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, the 2017 season — and what the organization is facing heading into 2018 — has provided a whole gamut of emotions.
And, the thing is, they're probably the exact same emotions most avid Colts fans have experienced the last 12 months, too: disappointment that the team isn't currently in the playoffs for a third straight year; shock that quarterback Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season as he continues to work his way back from shoulder surgery; and excitement for a new head coach, a top-three pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and a completely healthy Luck taking the field once again in 2018.
Irsay discussed those topics, and more, recently in a one-on-one conversation with Colts.com's Caroline Cann:
Cann: You just seem excited anytime you talk about anything that's coming in the future for the Colts. What does going through this coaching search mean for this organization?
Irsay: "All the nuances and all the aspects of the way you have to build this thing to get it so you can achieve excellence and get to the top of that hill, to get the Lombardi trophy, to get a parade on a day like this when it's minus-5 degrees outside — those are the things you strive for. So it's exciting to go through, and just to talk about. And so days like this, you have a chance to sit back, and all of a sudden you start talking a little bit about big-timing planning — 'OK, who's going to be the new head coach?' I'm just thrilled to be here, thrilled just for you and I to talk as a couple fans to our fans, and just to say, 'Hey, we love this thing, and we can't wait to get after it, get in and start playing,' and just how bitterly disappointed we are not playing right now with the playoffs going on. We are used to playing in January, and I take it personal, I feel the weight of the disappointment personally by not giving our fans their January enjoyment of preparing for a Colts playoff game, and I personally apologize to our fans for not being able to deliver that, because it's something that we're more accustomed to giving our fans than not. But all it does it make us work that much harder; all it does it put more fuel on the fire; all it does it make us more wild-eyed and more passionate about how we're going to go get it and how we're going to go get it done."
Cann: When you're looking for this candidate, you mentioned that Chris Ballard is going to lead this charge and bring those top candidates. When those top candidates come to you, what's going to separate one from the other? What are some things that you're looking for in that head coach that's going to lead the team?
Irsay:** "Really, what it's about is Chris really getting tunnel-visioned and drilling down and putting in those 17-, 18-hour days and finding that pillow hard to rest his head (on) at night, because he's thinking so hard and trying to see what's the best for the Colts going into the future. And then I'm there for him to come to me, and I'm there to help him. It's like, 'Listen, talk to me; tell me what you're thinking. I've been everything — I've been a ball boy to a general manager. I was a general manager at 24, I was an owner at 36. And so, come and talk to me so I can do anything I can to help you. And if you have any misconceptions, if you're over-thinking something, if you're missing something, I'm there to be a safety net, if you will.' And, in the end, again, encouraging: 'Stay with your intuition; stay with your gut feeling; stay with your intuitive aspects.' And when he comes down to saying, 'OK, Mr. Irsay, this is our guy,' then me rubber-stamping it and saying, 'I think you've gone through everything that you need to go through, and you've really done a great job in your process, and now you've come to the answer that I can't help but to rubber stamp and to agree with.'"
Cann: I know the record is not what you want it to be, but it does give you a third pick in the NFL Draft. How excited are you to be able to add that type of talent to the Colts' roster?Irsay:
"Boy, really excited. I tell you: one thing that you have to remember is that we've been so good for so long that we haven't had the luxury of those high picks. But when you look at the last ones: Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, and I'll even use Dwight Freeney — that was not a Top-10, even, but it was, for us back then, it was a very high pick, being in the Top 20 — and you look at Manning, James, Freeney, and you say, 'Hey, look at what these guys did to help push this organization to greatness,' and that's where we stand again. And so we have many (options): again, Chris can trade down, he can take the pick, he can do both — take the pick in the first round, trade down in the second, third and fourth rounds. I mean, you have to realize all of a sudden there's so much equity that's happening right before your eyes, meaning that you go from, 'OK, I'm the third pick in the third round; OK, if I'm like the 15th pick in the third round and I want to move to the third pick in the third round, I have to give up whatever: two 4s (fourth-round picks) and a 5 (fifth-round pick).' So you start adding up and going through the type of things that you can do by trading down is amazing, but also the opportunity of looking at some incredible football players, and we've seen that when we look back in history. So I can't tell you how excited I am when I start looking at the excitement when I'm working with Chris Ballard and looking into Andrew Luck's eyes and seeing the fire that's there, and just seeing the type of football team that we have going forward, this is really exciting times. And it's been tough on our fans because, believe me: I never thought — I never thought — I'd be sitting here talking about how Andrew missed the whole season. I'm as stunned as every one of our fans are; I really am. And when I said that he's going to be ready to go, I meant it with every fiber in my heart and in my body, and I was as shocked as anyone that it took a longer time to heal than it did. But, again, medicine, it's more art than it is science, and it happened and we lived through it, and here we are going into 2018. But we are so excited and I just want to let our fans know that we are so fired up about where we're going, and the excitement we feel as we think about the next two, four, six years and some of the things that we can accomplish going forward. It's going to be special. So (I) couldn't be more excited about it, and it's been some tough moments for Colts Nation, and with all our fans I share the mutual pain and suffering that we've had to go through with some of that, and we're really looking to a great 2018 season."