INDIANAPOLIS – The main theme from Jim Irsay on Sunday was his fervor for wanting the NFL Combine to remain in Indianapolis.
But, as always with Irsay, the topics ranged much further than just that central focus.
Here are 10 takeaways from Irsay’s presser:
-Colts Continue To Meet With Andrew Luck, But: Even though Chris Ballard says it’s time to move on, Jim Irsay isn’t going down that road at all. Ever the optimist, Irsay continues to leave the door open on a possible return from Andrew Luck, although the owner says he hasn’t posed that specific question to his former franchise quarterback. “Andrew’s my friend and I miss my friend,” Irsay said on Sunday. “I loved winning games with him. I loved seeing his happiness in the locker room. But right now, I know (Reich) has had dinner with him, Chris has had dinner with him. But I can’t comment on anything in terms of: Will he ever come back? Is he coming back this year? Is he coming back next year? I don’t know. I haven’t asked him. Right now, he’s doing the most honorable and the thing I would want him to do the most, he’s an excellent husband and a tremendous father to Lucy. To me that’s where we all start as men and women.”
-Anthony Castonzo Returning? The newsiest item from Sunday’s presser was Irsay saying that it’s a ‘strong likelihood’ Anthony Castonzo returns in 2020. The first domino this offseason could have some clarity soon, with free agency starting on March 18th. “I haven’t talked to Anthony personally, but he’s a Pro Bowl left tackle and we want him to come back,” Irsay said. “I think there’s a strong likelihood that he will, but I think Chris will have more on that in the coming weeks. I’m hopeful.” It goes without saying that a return of Castonzo would be massive for the Colts as they embark on an offseason that already has several other immediate needs that should be addressed.
-Similar Message On Jacoby Brissett: When Chris Ballard and Jim Irsay have met the media this year, you can find comments on the team believing there’s a higher celling for Jacoby Brissett, while also acknowledging all options available in looking for another quarterback this offseason. The Colts do really like Brissett and think he can grow. “I think that Jacoby is on the rise, and you’ve got to give him time to develop,” Irsay said. “People forget that Peyton (Manning), one of the greatest ever in my opinion, the greatest, I mean, 3-13 in ’98, 2001 6-10. All of the sudden, Jacoby goes 7-9, it’s like the world’s falling apart. I mean, we had a lot of injuries, special teams wasn’t outstanding and the combination of those things and Jacoby being a starter for the first time, that’s a lot to overcome. I mean, 7-9 isn’t bad. We wanted to win the last game in Jacksonville. We were disappointed we couldn’t. We wanted to.” And then there’s the ‘but’ part of the quarterback dilemma. “Chris and Frank and I have really talked about this and, man, we’re really open-minded. There’s a lot of ways this thing could turn. But, right now, Jacoby is the starter.” Irsay thinks Brissett starting and Brian Hoyer as the backup is a top-half QB situation in the entire league. Many would disagree.
-Irsay Involved In Massive Quarterback Decision: When it comes to the vast majority of personnel decisions, Jim Irsay lets Chris Ballard handle things and have the final say. But this quarterback situation is different. Irsay will be involved in the decision-making process. Here was Irsay going into detail on where the Colts stand at the 4 key parts of an NFL franchise: “I’m of the belief that we have one of the top three head coaches in the league. We have a great general manager. It’s the four legs that I always talk about: general manager, head coach, owner, quarterback. We are trying to figure out that 4th leg. We are hopeful. I like a lot of things about Jacoby. I have to admit. And we’ll see. Because we are open-minded. This is really unusual. I’ve been in the league almost a half century and I’ve never really been through something this different, if that’s the word. It’s nice because I think there’s multiple choices, but it’s also hard because you have to pick one of them and if you don’t pick the right one…”
-Colts Unsure About Adam Vinatieri Returning: We know the Colts have young kicker Chase McLaughlin under contract for the 2020 season. But they haven’t ruled out bringing Adam Vinatieri back for a 25th NFL season. “I know he’s rehabbing that knee and something that Chris and Frank will talk about and give their opinions to me,” Irsay said when asked about Vinatieri, who is a free agent, coming back after a difficult 2019 campaign. “As an as owner I occasionally step in, but I like to give my people room to make mistakes. Often times that’s how you learn. The best way to learn. It hurts, but you learn that way. I don’t know. He’s rehabbing now. Adam knows how much I think of him. He’s unbelievable. Adam’s just a winner. His great, great, great, great, great great grandfather got out of Custer’s Last Stand. That’s good energy, man. We’ll see. He’s in rehab mode now, and we’re in the middle of trying to put the team together.”
-No Extension Coming For Marlon Mack: Unprompted on Sunday, Jim Irsay wanted to debunk a report from earlier this offseason about a possible contract extension coming for Marlon Mack. Irsay said the Colts ‘love’ Mack, but that doesn’t mean the 23-year-old running back is heading for a second contract this offseason. “There were some misreports that we were pursuing an extension there. That’s not the case,” Irsay said. “I don’t know where those came from.” Mack is entering the final season of a four-year rookie contract. He is due a base salary of $2.1 million in 2020, after making less than $700,000 annually in his first three seasons.
-Keeping The Combine In Indy: Irsay’s biggest reason for holding this impromptu presser? He really doesn’t want the NFL Combine to leave the city of Indianapolis. “It’s something that’s very important to Indianapolis and unlike a draft for instance, which lasts three days, this is an event that goes on for two weeks, almost,” Irsay said on Sunday afternoon. “If you talk to general managers, if you talk to head coaches, if you talk to team doctors, no one does it like we can do it here. It’s a centric place where people come here in the Midwest. Particularly medically, we’re able to really get people in and if they need MRIs, whatever they need, that’s a strength. And the centralization of downtown is a strength. It’s important to us. It’s a big economic impact for this city. We don’t take that lightly. And so we look forward to having it for many years to come.” This wasn’t just pure optimism from Irsay, as he pointed out several specific reasons why the Combine should (will?) stay in Indy? “I see us locking it up long term. Listen, we’re a medium-sized market team and that sort of thing. And I think it helps to keep balance, if you will, in the league in a medium or slightly smaller market. But the main thing is that we do it better than anyone else. I mean, no one can do it as good as us. And, in the end, that’s what it’s about. Do you guys realize that over the next five years, we will roughly spend $40 billion on players. $40 billion. I think you want the right information, and you can’t get better than Indy right now.” The Combine workouts will be in primetime Thursday-Saturday this week for the first time in the event’s history.
-Plea To The NFL Schedule Makers: On a couple of occasions Sunday, Irsay had a message for the NFL league office. When it comes to the schedule, the Colts were very unhappy about not having a 2019 home game on national television (even though Andrew Luck was still playing when the schedule was created in April). “One thing I’m disappointed with, that I don’t understand, is why we were what we were, which was a playoff team winning playoff games, and we didn’t have one home game on national TV last year. That’s unprecedented,” Irsay said. “I don’t understand that. So it’s something that I just have to pursue, and you know me, I protect the Colts, and I will fight as hard as I can to accomplish the things we do.” One other (unlikely) thing Irsay wants. He wants to join the Lions and Cowboys of playing annually on Thanksgiving. “We’d like a permanent Thanksgiving game,” the Owner randomly mentioned. “Will we get it? Probably not.”
-Did He Say Russell Wilson? When Jim Irsay talks for 30 minutes, you are going to find yourself walking away saying, ‘Did he say what I think he said?’ That comment on Sunday came when talking about Andrew Luck. “I know we were going take Russell Wilson the year we took Andrew in the fourth round, but he was gone in the third,” Irsay said. “We would have taken him, but that’s a long story.” Um, yes, it is. So Wilson backing up Luck a la what Washington did with Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III in that same 2012 Draft? Wilson ended up being taken 75th overall in Round Three by Seattle. The Colts traded back into the third round (after taking Dwayne Allen 64th overall) and took T.Y. Hilton at No. 92.
-Spending In Free Agency: Even though the Colts have had a bundle of cap space in recent years, they’ve been extremely patient in using that money. And that’s not because Jim Irsay is tying Chris Ballard’s hands in forcing him to watch his spending. “I’ve never been shy in spending,” Irsay said. “I spent $100 million of my own money to keep that team together when we were in the smallest stadium in the league, with just about the lowest ticket prices until the new dome came. It’s just a question of, and we already are, a winning playoff football team. It hurt us all this year because we felt that we could be in the championship game and be out there and that sort of thing. Obviously we beat Kansas City in Kansas City. It was tough missing T.Y. (Hilton), and Parris (Campbell) got hurt, (Eric) Ebron couldn’t finish the season, that’s a lot of guys and a lot of weapons not there. I’m never shy in spending. But you have to understand. Our biggest problem is going to be how do we put the guys under the cap ,not how much room we have. We’ll see what happens this year. I’m going to, as always, I’m in it to win it. It’s not that I love winning so much. I just hate losing. I just hate it. I had to make some amends in my younger days with the frustration of losing. I’m hopelessly competitive. I’ve learned to be a better loser. But I guess I’m temporarily a loser, until we win again.”