After Sunday’s loss to Baltimore, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said he didn’t think a bigger bundle of cash would keep Bruce Arians from leaving his job as Colts offensive coordinator to take an NFL head coaching job, if a suitable one were offered.
But that doesn’t mean Irsay shouldn’t try to entice Arians to stay.
Because as nice a guy as Chuck Pagano is, and as inspirational as his story is, he’s a defensive guy. And defensive guys who become head coaches needs lots of help on the offensive side of the ball. Pagano hasn’t proved he can win without Arians. On the other hand, Arians has proved he can get more out of the Colts’ young offensive squad than anyone dreamed imaginable.
Tony Dungy, another defensive-minded head coach, never won a ring until he was paired with offensive guru Tom Moore—and of course Peyton Manning.
Sure, the Colts have one of the best up-and-coming quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, but without a keen offensive mind to shepherd his development, things could go sideways.
Yes, Clyde Christensen has plenty of NFL experience and could step in for Arians for the long haul if needed. But there’s a reason Pagano chose Arians over Christensen to be his offensive coordinator.
And while some have argued that Arians’ absence on Sunday had little to do with the Colts’ inability to get a touchdown against the Ravens, it can’t make Irsay feel good about the long-term prognosis without Arians.
This is not the Baltimore defense that won the Super Bowl in 2001. Something tells me Arians would have found a way to coax the offense to score more than nine points against an aging Ravens D.
So despite what Irsay says, I expect him to throw a pile of cash at Arians that not only will assure that he’s rich for a very long time but to let him know just how much he’s loved by Colts management.
It’s clear why Irsay and the Colts want to keep Arians. But why would Arians ever consider staying? First, Irsay truly is a rare breed among NFL owners. Not only does he make a serious commitment to winning, but I also think he cares about his players and coaches on a level that is rare among professional sports team owners. It may come off as corny from time to time, but most of the players and coaches know it’s genuine.
And if that’s not enough, there’s Luck. Every military leader desires firepower. Nothing supplies an NFL offense with firepower like an all-pro quarterback. They make you look real smart and your job a whole lot more fun. Just look how smart John Elway and John Fox look in Denver with Manning under center.
The Colts have already granted the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles permission to interview Arians, and the San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns also are interested. Sure, the Bears have a solid quarterback in Jay Cutler and the Chargers have past Pro Bowler Philip Rivers, but neither has Luck’s on-field potential. The Eagles and Browns are a mess at quarterback. Any one of these moves could make Arians the next guy spun off the merciless NFL coaching carousel.
Guys like Luck are in extremely short supply in the NFL. Arians, like most NFL coaches, is a confident guy. He’s also smart enough to know what he has in Luck.
Irsay is a class act, so he won’t stand in Arians’ way of climbing to the top coaching rung if he so desires. And at 60, Arians doesn’t have many more opportunities to realize his head coaching dream.
But a mile-high pile of cash and strong show of love from Irsay might be enough to give him pause. And that might help Arians realize the opportunity that lies before him in Indianapolis.
To be remembered as the guy who morphed Luck from a lump of potential into an NFL Hall of Famer and to hoist the Lombardi Trophy alongside his pal Pagano are rare opportunities indeed.