PHOENIX – Jim Irsay knows the outside expectations.
As a man that has held similar standards for his own franchise, he can't help but hide his personal excitement about the 2015 Colts.
He has seen a team that finished one game short of the Super Bowl add some proven veterans in the offseason.
While at the Annual League Meetings in Arizona this week, Irsay has good reason for his enthusiasm. But he also has left Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson with some specific defensive goals heading into 2015.
Here are some of the highlights from Irsay talking to the media on Monday afternoon in Phoenix (Irsay’s thoughts on Reggie Wayne can be found here):
On the rehab of Robert Mathis:
"We look for Robert Mathis at some point to re-emerge. It may not be until November. We don't know yet in terms of his progress."
Bowen's Analysis: The November timetable laid out by Irsay on Monday is a worst-case scenario for Mathis' rehab. Obviously, when dealing with an Achilles' rehab situation, at the age of Mathis (34), any timetable is delicate. Let's say Mathis isn't back to his normal self until the second half of the season, that's why Irsay alluded to the vital signing of Trent Cole on several occasions during his media session on Monday. If Mathis isn't ready for the season opener, the Colts have four guys that have started at the outside linebacker spot before in the NFL (Cole, Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner and Jonathan Newsome).On if the chips are all in for 2015:
"We definitely are trying to get better as a football team. We know that it was a great (2014) season, two playoff wins, one on the road, being big underdogs. And at the same time, the two Patriots games, the Cowboys game, the Steelers game, left us concerned just about the consistency and really being able to get to the top of it, and win the Super Bowl, and finish it off.
"We've tried to improve the roster. It's by far from a go for broke situation (though). We are very cautious with our cap."
Bowen's Analysis: Irsay would not commit to the "all the chips are in the middle of the table" sort of belief for 2015. He clearly understood the need to go out and find reinforcements this offseason. The "consistency" word is something that the entire Colts staff has previously harped on in trying to reach the pinnacle. Not many owners in the NFL have had the success over the past decade and a half as Irsay. While the league has watched at least four new playoff teams emerge in each of the last 25 years, the Colts have been in the postseason 14 times since 1999. The championship remains the clear goal, but Irsay made sure to talk about the necessary steps (division, home field, etc.) that teams typically take before playing in the Super Bowl.On the Colts 2015 offseason:
"Obviously with (Frank) Gore and (Andre) Johnson, it was great meeting with those guys. They both came in together. That's going to raise a lot of excitement because they are offensive players of great stature and that sort of thing. Really, two guys that are special guys in the way they approach the game and their commitment to the game. We really feel that we've improved the club, even defensively with (Kendall) Langford and certainly with Trent Cole. Trent was someone that was really important to us that Ryan (Grigson) had actually drafted in Philadelphia and scouted."
Bowen's Analysis: While Irsay was very pleased with the 2015 free agent haul, particularly Cole, he made sure to address the draft when asked about future offseason needs. He was staunch in his continued belief that teams must build through the draft. The Colts have eight picks this season (two in the sixth round) and now almost the entire offseason focus will shift towards the draft from April 30-May 2.On future contracts:
"We have key players that we really want to retain over the next two years---obviously, Andrew (Luck), T.Y. Hilton, (Anthony) Castonzo, both tight ends. So we have to be prudent in how we go about it."
Bowen's Analysis: With a look always ahead to that 2012 draft class, Irsay addressed some of those thoughts on Monday. First, the Andrew Luck contract situation will likely be put on hold until the 2016 offseason. He remains under contract for two more years (a fifth-year option in 2016) so this shouldn't be too much of a surprise for Colts fans. It might be a surprise that Irsay lumped the Colts young tight ends (Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener) into the above group. With significant deals inevitably (in a good way) coming for Luck, Hilton and Castonzo next offseason, the Colts Owner is confident that both of his fourth-year tight ends are in the plans, as well.On getting "tougher":
"I don't know if toughness is the right word. I think it may have to do with our ability to really be coordinated and deal with the hardest situation, which is on the road, a veteran quarterback where they do a lot of motion and they do no huddle and really defensively have to be able to make your substitutions and sometimes maybe simplify things. I really talked to Chuck (Pagano) and our staff and general, defensively, to make sure that we're able to have great communication and make substitutions and keep up with the pace.
"I don't think it's a question of guys backing down in terms of physical toughness. I don't think that's the case. It may look like it. It's concerning, obviously, when you (allow) 657 (rushing) yards in three games (against New England). You have 219 (rushing) yards a game against you on the ground and that doesn't bode well. I think it's something Chuck wants to fix and the defense wants to fix because again, coming from that Ravens defense, the first thing we talked about is, 'Hey, the first thing we do is stop the run and then we get after the passer.' We've done a good job of stopping the run at times, there's no question. It's just that we have to get better and more consistent I believe."
Bowen's Analysis: When Irsay rattled off the Patriots rushing totals against the Colts in the last two years, it was definitely an eyebrow raiser. It's clear that the Colts Owner had a specific message this offseason. The meat of that message surrounds the need for better defensive communication, specifically if/when you have to take your act on the road come playoff time.