KRAVITZ: Optimistic Irsay insists Luck will be fine - and other notes on the Colts’ coaching search

Colts GM Chris Ballard (left) and owner Jim Irsay (right) hold a news conference New Year's Day. (Ben Reiff, WTHR)
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Bob Kravitz

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - My brain hurts, and it has absolutely nothing to do with any New Year’s Eve revelry.

I’m sitting here at my computer just moments after team owner Jim Irsay met the media – oh, general manager Chris Ballard was there, too – and I’m trying to make sense of Irsay’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings, a lengthy filibuster that was both mind-numbing and, at times, quite revealing, especially as it related to his eternal optimism about Andrew Luck’s return.

First, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. You know, the facts:

  • The Colts are not making previous NFL head-coaching experience a requirement and might even dip into the college ranks.
  • The Colts could go the hot, young coordinator route or they could go for an elder statesman who has a couple of years left in the tank. Or someone else entirely.
  • The Colts are not married to finding someone who cut his teeth on the offensive or defensive side of the ball; the best man will get the job, regardless of his football background.
  • The Colts will proceed with Ballard in charge of the search, and when Ballard pares the field down to two or three top candidates, Irsay will get involved in the process – which is the way it’s been done throughout Irsay’s tenure.

In other words, if you were looking for hints as to who the Colts might hire, you came to the wrong place. The Colts are keeping everything in house, close to the vest, embarking on a national search that Irsay guarantees will help return the Colts to the glory days of the 2000’s. (Yeah, he said that).

But if you were hoping for a glimpse inside Irsay’s mind, which works in unique and fascinating ways, you were absolutely in the right place.

Let me set the scene: Irsay came out and early on, he doubled (shoot, quadrupled) down on his brazenly optimistic belief that Luck will not only return to full health next season, but lead the Colts to a championship – maybe multiple championships. “You guys don’t know the fire that’s burning in his (Luck’s) eyes,’’ Irsay said. “You don’t know the kind of fever he has for success. It’s a 107-degree fever he has for success.’’

Which begged the questions: Why should we believe you now? Why should we believe you when you said last summer that Luck would be ready for the season, or when you said in August after a preseason game against Detroit that Luck would be ready to roll early in the season? Why, Jim…why?

And off he went, roughly 11 minutes of Jim Unplugged.

“…I do believe from talking to the doctors, from talking to Andrew, there is no question that he can come back,’’ Irsay said. “My optimism (last summer) 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 really looked good. There were no setbacks. However, each case is different and it took longer for the shoulder to heal, as simple as it can be. When you talk about me being an optimist, I am, but I’m a realist, too. I’m going to look you in the eye. If we have something tough to talk about, we’re going to talk about it right on. I’m not going to BS someone. I’m not going to BS my fans, not going to BS you, not going to do that to anyone because I don’t like it being done to me. I’m telling you, I’m telling you, I’m telling you, I have no doubt in my mind that Andrew is going to come back. And when I talk about the look in his eye, the temperature of 107, of a fierceness, I’m telling you, that kid is a special kid.’’

He raised his voice.

“SPECIAL!!’’

At this point, I thought back to John Belushi’s “Animal House’’ rant when he said, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?’’ I wanted to say, “Don’t stop him, he’s on a roll.’’

“He (Luck) was BORN to do great things in the National Football League, and he WILL do great things in the National Football League,’’ he continued. “That’s coming from someone who’s witnessed this league for nearly half a century…I don’t have all the answers, but I do have intuition and I’d rather tell my fans the truth. If it was bad news, I’d be the first to tell them, but it’s not bad news, it’s good news – it’s DAMNED good news…I’m serious here when I say this: I really, really, really feel from all the information I blend together from nearly half a century of experience, I feel he’s going to be back and be back for a long time and he’s going to write his name into the National Football League’s history books in a very important way.’’

Did Irsay purposely mislead the fans this past summer? I’ve known him for 17 years, and don’t believe that to be the case. I don’t buy the notion that he cynically sold fans on the belief that Luck would return in order to sell tickets. He truly believed Luck would make a full recovery in time for the season. He was just wrong. If that makes me soft, gullible, whatever, so be it.

“I’ve been as shocked (as anybody); if you had told me he was going to miss the entire year, I would not have believed you,’’ Irsay said. “I would not have believed you. I would not have believed you. I couldn’t have believed you. It was a very incredible situation for all of us to live through…’’

And on and on it went, with verbal detours into an injury he suffered while preparing for a marathon, to Ron Meyer and heaven-knows-what-else.

This is a very appealing job, without question. Whatever you think of Irsay, he is fully committed to winning championships, providing his people with the resources they need to return the Colts to the top. Ballard is universally viewed as one of the strongest general manager candidates to come along in a very long time. And there’s this: The Colts have Luck (we think/hope/pray), the Colts have the third-most money in the league to go free-agent shopping and the Colts have plenty of draft capital, starting with the third selection in the upcoming draft.

So far, all we know is the Colts have received permission to talk to Carolina’s Steve Wilks, Houston’s Mike Vrabel and New England’s Josh McDaniels, with plenty more candidates to come through Indianapolis in the next few weeks.

It was left to Ballard, though, to offer the more level-headed appraisal of Luck’s situation, noting that he will begin a throwing regimen within the next few weeks, which will go a long way toward determining Luck’s short-term future.

Meanwhile, I don’t know about you, but I need some aspirin.

My brain hurts.