Colts Jim Irsay Reinforces Chris Ballard’s Rebuilding Plan

Oct 9, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay watches from the sidelines before the game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay watches from the sidelines before the game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

During a break from the league meetings, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay preached patience as his team is “reinvented” into a younger, dynamic powerhouse that can win multiple Super Bowls.

In today’s NFL, it’s difficult to rebuild.  Owners don’t give general managers or coaches the luxury of transforming their teams over the course of several years.  Instead, winning is the expectation – many times, from day one.  Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn’t completely subscribe to this view.

He realizes that to build a perennial winner, the Colts may have a few down years.  He’s okay with that if it leads to greatness.  He made his sentiments clear to IndyStar’s Stephen Holder.

"“I believe – and I’ve said it before – I’d rather have a chance to win two Lombardis and have a losing season or two than just be 8-8 or 9-7 and win no Lombardis. It’s about greatness, about championships.”"

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At the same time, Irsay isn’t saying the Colts will tank, nor is he saying that the expectation is to not compete.  I expect some patience from Irsay, but a 5-12 campaign would not be acceptable.

Irsay did shed some light on the process being undertaken by general manager Chris Ballard.  It involves getting younger through through the draft.  It also involves a critical look at some of the veterans on the team and making some painful changes that could benefit the team long-term.

The trade of Dwayne Allen, release of Patrick Robinson, D’Qwell Jackson and Art Jones, and the non-tendering of guys like Mike Adams and Erik Walden are all signs that the Colts are indeed making an overhaul.  Chris Ballard recently discussed the team’s approach here and here, and Jim Irsay reiterated it.

"“We really do feel now that we have to continue to build it the right way, meaning going young. It’s no secret that we’re really looking to reshape the roster, particularly on defense.  We’re also looking, I think, to try to accumulate as many draft picks as we can.  I don’t think we’d hesitate trading down if the situation was right in certain rounds to try to get a few more picks.”"

So does all of this mean that Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano won’t be on the NFL “watch list” for possible coaching dismissals?  While his job seems pretty safe, Irsay noted that Pagano will have to change his ways to adapt to a younger roster:

"Mar 2, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano speaks to the media during the 2017 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports“Honestly, I think it’s really about seeing how we are getting the best players on the field and really doing the type of smart things that really make you sit back and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know if Chuck would have done that three or four years ago. I see growth there.’Sometimes you have to simplify things to make sure the young players can come and play and not have a coach say, ‘He’s just not ready, it’s too complicated, he needs another year.  We have to be able to get the best players on the field. And if we have to simplify things to do that, then we realize that’s something we’re going to do so we can achieve what we want. And that’s developing and drafting these young players and eventually looking at signing them to that second contract.”"

As for Chris Ballard, Irsay couldn’t be more pleased in his performance to date:

"“I wish our fans could experience and see what a great job Chris is doing, and the type of energy, the type of vision, the type of wisdom, the type of tireless effort and passion that he has for the horseshoe and where we are going. It’s exciting. … I’m telling you, what I’ve learned in being around Chris and working with him, it’s been better than I even thought.  Our fans should be excited. They really should be.”"

Next: GM Chris Ballard Shares Latest Thoughts on Colts Roster, Continuing to Build

Indianapolis Colts fans should indeed be excited.  Unfortunately, 5 seasons were wasted before Irsay “got it right” by hiring the right guy who is focused on building the team the right way.