“Andrew just makes [the job] that much more special and enticing,” Irsay said. “He’s coming back. He’s coming back. But putting that aside, the great tradition we have, the incredible stadium that we have, we’ve accomplished things here that are absolutely just remarkable.”
The Colts fired Chuck Pagano after six seasons on Sunday. They have missed the playoffs three straight years, which is their longest drought since they missed the postseason from 1988 to 1994.
One of the biggest questions the Colts face this offseason outside of finding a new coach is the health of Luck. The quarterback missed all of this season after having right shoulder surgery in January 2017, and there have been no guarantees made that Luck will be ready for the start of the 2018 season.
Irsay has been criticized for downplaying the severity of Luck’s injury over the past year. He tweeted that Luck would be ready for the start of the 2017 regular season after he had the surgery a year ago. Then Irsay said at the annual NFL owners meetings in March that Luck would be throwing during training camp. And then the owner had hoped that Luck would play in the Colts’ Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Rams at the end of the preseason. None of those things happened, as Luck only participated in a few practices before he was shut down and eventually placed on injured reserve due to continued soreness in his right shoulder.
Irsay was passionate and animated Monday talking about how he didn’t “B.S. anyone,” including the fans, in talking about Luck.
“It’s just one of those things that is taking a little longer than we thought that it would, in terms of looking at the success of the surgery, just looking at where Andrew’s coming from,” Irsay said. “… And I do believe, from talking to the doctors, and from talking to Andrew, that there is no question that he can come back. My optimism was absolutely genuine. It was completely warranted.
“One of the finest, if not the finest shoulder doctors in the world, said the surgery went outstanding and things looked really good and there were no setbacks. However, each case is different. Again, art, not science, and it took longer for the shoulder to heal. That’s just as simple as it can be.”
Luck is scheduled to resume throwing in the near future, and it’ll be then that the Colts will have a better idea on how his shoulder feels. Luck, who has missed 26 games over the past three seasons, said he’s working under the impression that he won’t need another surgery and that he’ll be able to take part in the team’s offseason workouts starting in April after recently spending six weeks working with a trainer in the Netherlands.
“I’m telling you that I have no doubt in my mind that Andrew is going to come back,” Irsay said. “When I talk about the look in his eyes, when I talk about the temperature of 107 degrees, I’m telling you, ‘That kid is a special kid. Special. He was born to do great things in the National Football League. And he will do great things in the National Football League, all right?”
A healthy Luck makes the Colts’ head-coaching opening one of more enticing jobs available. He led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons while taking every meaningful snap.
The Colts have already requested permission to interview New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard plans to undertake a thorough job search, and Irsay will get involved once the list gets down to the final 2-3 candidates.
Ballard said candidates don’t have to have head-coaching experience and he’s not ruling out looking at college coaches. One thing Ballard made sure to emphasize was that candidates who want the job strictly for Andrew Luck is “probably not going to be the right fit.”
“When you hire an inexperienced head coach, somebody that’s never done it before, they’ve got to have a presence,” Ballard said. “They’ve got to be able to lead the room. If they’re not on their side of the ball where they’re an expert, they’ve got to be able to hire a first-class staff that can teach and develop players. That’s what we’re going to be about. We’re going to be about teaching and developing players. And you’ve got to live through some bumps when you do that. But that’s very important, so you want a staff full of teachers who can develop not only players, but develop men. That’s what we’re on the look for.”