INDIANAPOLIS — For those of you who may have lost track of time, the 2017 season is officially underway.
The Indianapolis Colts' contingent is pounding away this week just 11 miles away from its home base at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, where the team is getting an up-close-and-personal opportunity to evaluate more than 300 of college football's top draft-eligible prospects.
The event was the first opportunity to hear from Colts head coach Chuck Pagano since his end-of-the-season press conference on Jan. 2, as well as the first time new Colts general manager Chris Ballard has spoken since his introductory press conference on Jan. 30. Since that time, both Pagano and Ballard — and their staffs — have been working hard to all get on the same page and start to get a solid plan together for the upcoming 2017 season and beyond.
Ballard and Pagano's respective press conferences this week from the Indiana Convention Center each came with some interesting nuggets of information about the past, present and future of the organization, which is hoping to get back on top of the mountain in the AFC South Division after two straight 8-8 seasons.
Here are the Top 10 Quotes from both Ballard and Pagano this week:
• "It has been a whirlwind here the first month, but the staff has been working really hard, the coaching staff and scouting staff, working on both free agency and the draft. Excited to be here at the Combine and look at these talented athletes we have a chance to look at." — Chris Ballard, opening up his press conference with a summary of the past few weeks as he gets adjusted to his new job with the Colts.
• "It's a process. We know it's a process. We know how we are judged and it's by wins and losses – 8-8 the past two years is not good enough. The standard is the standard; the expectations are what they are. We are never going to be satisfied until we get back to where we need to be. We have a lot of work to do. We will continue to evaluate our roster. Obviously, we are here to evaluate these players. Build the roster. If we can get younger, we get younger. If we can get faster, get faster. Try to create competition within the roster. We have a lot of work to do, but the objective always is to win." — Chuck Pagano, on the team tending to be more youth oriented — more about the draft and perhaps less about free agency.
• "We are going to research every player. We are going to vet every player hard. We are going to go A to Z to see what the problems are and see if it's something we want to manage. That's going to come as an organizational decision from Mr. (Jim) Irsay and from the rest of our ownership down to our marketing. How is it going to impact our fans? We have to weigh all of that before we make a decision on a high-risk character guy." — Ballard, on his approach to balancing a potential character risk vs. talent when evaluating college prospects or potential free agents.
• "I think you watch the Super Bowl and you watch what Atlanta has done and they have done a great job. I have a ton of respect for Dan Quinn and his staff and that organization. You saw a lot of young guys on that defense and you saw them develop young guys and put guys out there. Guys may have not played to the level that they should've played at early on, but they put them out there, developed them and through time, experience and reps you saw a bunch of speed out there and a bunch of youth out there. There is nothing like speed. There is nothing like toughness. There is nothing like getting a bunch of guys that are great competitors. I think it's paramount." — Pagano, on how important having youth and speed are to his roster.
• "I think we have some good pieces to work with, absolutely. But let me make sure that you understand this, because every year it's not going to change for me, one to 63 (players). We are always trying to get better. We are always trying to create competition. Players have to earn it and the way you make them earn it is by creating competition at every position every year. So we are going to always be digging looking for talent. No matter if we had just won the Super Bowl, it doesn't matter, you start over. It doesn't change. You are continuing to look better. You are trying to get better talent in the building at all times." — Ballard, on if his opinion of the Colts' roster has changed from Day 1 to this week.
• "It's all good. We are off to a great start. Like Chris mentioned, the scouting staff, the coaching staff, everybody in the organization is working extremely hard. We have one vision, we have one goal. We are like-minded, the entire organization is like-minded. I think communication is outstanding, I think that's obviously huge. It's all good, we are off to a great start." — Pagano said of the process of building a relationship with Ballard so far.
• "Two things – honesty and respect. You have to be willing to be honest. You have to be honest, you can't let problems lay out there and not address them. You have to have honest discussions about exactly what's going on and then both sides have to respect the work that each one of them are doing. Look, I am not a coach. I don't spend 24 hours a day scheming up, trying to find ways to put a guy in position. Likewise, coaches don't spend 180 days on the road digging on a player. Our coaches are going to be involved in the process of us selecting players. Absolutely, we are going to get their input, but if you don't honesty and you don't have respect between each other's jobs then it's hard to make it work." — Ballard, on the key to having continuity and success in a relationship between a general manager and the head coach.
• "I have a lot to work on, just ask Tina (Pagano). If I wasn't willing, that thing might've ended years ago. I think two weeks into my marriage I lost full control and so the law was laid down. Again, we are all working. I have to be better. I will be better. My blinders are off. My earmuffs are off. I knew you guys were waiting. Thank you for the opportunity. The eyes are wide open." — Pagano, asked if he feels he has to improve this season personally.
• "Competitive, speed and toughness. We have to continue to add all over the roster, not just the defense, offensively too. Competitive, speed and toughness. We will continue to look for that. We add a few players and then all of a sudden things get flooded. You scout 365 (days), that is a little bit of a misconception in the league that free agency and then the draft. No, scouting is 365 (days). You can find players. I think one of the best times to find players is in September, October and November when rosters get tight and people are getting cut and they're getting claimed. That is when you know we got it right because now our players are going and playing in other places. We will continue to upgrade the talent and upgrade the competition." — Ballard, on the work it will take to get the Colts' defense back on track, much like he did as a personnel executive with the Kansas City Chiefs.
• "Yeah, again, disappointed, not discouraged. Do I take it personal? I think we all do. It doesn't matter what title you hold. I came here having worked on the defensive side of the football. The things that we talked about we have not done yet and I emphasize yet. I think that's very, very important. Yet is a great word. We have another opportunity and we have another chance to improve and do better. Where we're at is certainly not good enough. Record-wise and defensively, it's not where we want to be. We're excited about the future; we're excited about the opportunity. We have the right people in place to do the job. Love our staff, I love our coaches and we will grind until we get it right." — Pagano, on if he takes it personally that the defense hasn't performed up to standard the past couple seasons.
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