Colts GM says rivalry with Pats ‘back on’
Colts general manager Chis Ballard showed up for a news conference Wednesday — just not the one he expected.
Instead of introducing Josh McDaniels as the team’s new head coach, Ballard stood in front of reporters trying to explain why New England’s offensive co-ordinator reneged on a deal.
But if Ballard’s disgust about losing his top choice wasn’t clear from the occasional glare or the strong pitch in his voice, he left no doubt with one parting shot.
“The rivalry is back on,” he said before leaving.
Conducting a coaching search in February isn’t what Ballard or Indy envisioned when Chuck Pagano was fired hours after the Colts completed a 4-12 season on Dec. 31.
Exactly 24 hours after announcing McDaniels’ hiring on the team’s Twitter account and roughly 16 hours after he called back to tell Ballard he was out, the search begins anew for the jilted Colts.
Their other finalist, Mike Vrabel, has already taken the Tennessee job. Another top-tier candidate, Mike Nagy, has already been hired in Chicago. Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who also interviewed for the job, is back on campus getting ready for spring football.
“We have a list of candidates, I’ve had them from the get-go,” Ballard said. “There are other guys we wanted to interview, but because of the playoffs, we weren’t able to.
“We’ll move forward with them and we will get the right leader for the Indianapolis Colts — one that believes what we believe and wants to go where we want to go. I’m very confident in this.”
Ballard didn’t name names, nor did he provide a timetable.
The timing could present Indy with a unique opportunity to pick off a coach who might emerge as a top candidate on next year’s coaching carousel.
Several possibilities exist, including Philadelphia Eagles offensive co-ordinator Frank Reich, who was part of a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots with a backup quarterback.
The good news for Indy is the only coaching vacancy still looks pretty attractive — if Andrew Luck is healthy.
Indy still has Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton, Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle, a revamped defence that showed major improvement, the No. 3 pick in the draft and about US$80 million to spend in free agency.
Luck continues to be the big question as he rehabs from last January’s surgery for a partly torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Some believe McDaniels’ sudden change of heart was related to doubts about Luck’s health. Ballard attempted to alleviate lingering concerns about Luck while acknowledging the franchise quarterback still hasn’t thrown a football since late last year.
“At this point, we feel very strongly that Andrew is in a good place. He doesn’t need surgery,” Ballard said.
McDaniels’ decision didn’t just leave the Colts in the lurch.
Three assistant coaches — Matt Eberflus, Mike Phair and Dave DeGuglielmo — had already been hired in Indy. While Ballard said he likes all three and will honour their contracts by keeping them on the next coach’s staff, others strongly criticized McDaniels from walking away from them.
“It’s one thing to go back on your word to an organization,” former Colts coach Tony Dungy wrote on Twitter. “But having assistant coaches leave jobs to go with you then leave them out to dry is indefensible.”