Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard answers questions during a press conference at the NFL football team's practice facility in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Thursday, February 08, 2018 1:00 am
Disappointed Colts GM rekindles coaching search
INDIANAPOLIS – 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 longtime offensive coordinator reneged on a deal he initially accepted.
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 the Colts envisioned when Chuck Pagano was fired hours after Indianapolis 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, Matt 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.
The timing could present Indianapolis with a unique opportunity to pick off a candidate who might emerge as a top candidate on next year's coaching carousel.
Several possibilities exist including Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who is scheduled to interview Friday with the Colts, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The Colts are also scheduled today to interview Dan Campbell, the assistant head coach and tight ends coach of the New Orleans Saints. Campbell is the former interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Also, agent Bob LaMonte is dropping McDaniels as a client, according to a person close to the situation. LaMonte is a high-powered agent who represents many coaches and front office executives leaguewide, including Ballard. He negotiated McDaniels' deal with Ballard and the Colts and advised McDaniels to follow through on his commitment, according to the person with knowledge of the deliberations.
The good news for Indianapolis is that the only coaching vacancy still looks pretty attractive – if Andrew Luck is healthy.
Indianapolis still has Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton, Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle, a revamped defense that showed major improvement as last season went along, the No. 3 pick in the draft and about $80 million to spend in free agency.
Luck, meanwhile, continues to be the big question as he rehabs from last January's surgery for a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Some believe McDaniels' sudden change of heart was related to doubts about Luck's health.
Ballard didn't bother asking McDaniels why he made the decision.
On Wednesday, he attempted to alleviate concerns about Luck while acknowledging the franchise quarterback still hasn't thrown a football since returning from Europe late last year.
“At this point, we feel very strongly that Andrew is in a good place. He doesn't need surgery,” Ballard said. “I have not gotten that from the two doctors that he's seen here after the season. His strength is good. He's working on his throwing motion and he's working on his arm speed right now. He has not picked up a football, but he is throwing balls, working on arm speed.”
McDaniels decision didn't just leave the Colts in the lurch.
Three assistant coaches – Matt Eberflus, Mike Phair and Dave DeGuglielmo – had been hired in Indianapolis.
While Ballard said he likes all three and will honor their contracts by keeping them on the next coach's staff, others strongly criticized McDaniels from walking away from them.
“Haven't read the article but I can tell you there is NO excuse big enough to justify this,” Dungy wrote on Twitter in response to a story that indicated McDaniels stayed with the Pats because he was more comfortable there.
But at the news conference, Ballard said people say no to job offers every day, he wished McDaniels well at the end of Tuesday night's brief call and that his primary concern now is finding someone who wants the job.
“To me, it's about being right,” Ballard said. “You've got to be right.”