INDIANAPOLIS – For really the first time since February, Jim Irsay sat down for an interview that involved many of the questions on the minds of Colts fans.
Irsay joined The Rich Eisen Show on Monday afternoon, to chat about his 9-4 Colts, the future of Philip Rivers, conversations with Andrew Luck and a possible playoff bubble for the NFL in January.
Here are some highlights from Irsay chatting with Eisen:
-On his 9-4 Colts at this point of the season: “It’s really exciting. This team has been so impressive, really to go 4-1 in a playoff atmosphere over the last 5 weeks and it really has been that. When we beat the Raiders (on Sunday), they knew what was on the line, as we did, almost a playoff game with what was at stake. Both games with Tennessee were huge battles and we split. Beating Green Bay and Houston, they knew what was on the line and had a chance to run the table and get back in this thing. They fought so gallantly. And as (Diego) Maradona said, ‘The hand of God’ came in at the end at the goal line and knocked that ball out somehow and recovered, you don’t win many like that. It’s been so exciting. There’s so many stories that go around it. As far as the changes and everything, I think Philip Rivers has been that great leader, that you can’t say enough about the professional, the competitor, the selfless player that he is, how the guys rally around him, young and old, he’s just a special guy. He’s meant a lot to us this season.”
–On if he thinks Rivers will play just 1 season with the Colts: “I’ll say this, there’s no guarantee that there’s going to be any (toe) surgery in the offseason at this point. It’s something that is being evaluated. It’s not a definite. But he’s such a tough guy. I don’t know how you play 6 days after ACL surgery on your knee. But Philip did. With the toe, everyone knows how tough that is for a quarterback, driving the ball. I could see us lined up the same way. You never know for sure, but with Philip and Jacoby (Brissett) as a 1-2 punch. And you have to give a lot of credit to Jacoby because he’s been such a team player and he’s come in and made some big, special plays in the red zone and in short yardage. I could see us rolling it one more time that direction. It just depends. I know Chris Ballard, Frank (Reich) and I have to talk at the end of the season, sit down, and see where we are at there. But we are really excited with the way it’s going now, and we really are an ascending team. I don’t know if we could have won that Raider game in September. I think we were still trying to figure out who we were and trying to figure out who was going to settle into certain roles for our football team. But when you have athletes like Quenton Nelson popping out at left tackle and Nyheim Hines doing the things that he does in between gymnastics flips in the end zone, and Kenny Moore really with an All-Pro type of play coming from him, so there’s just a lot of great news, including young guys like (Michael) Pittman and (Jonathan) Taylor at running back. We are just really excited the way we are playing right now. 2021 isn’t that far away, so we’ll see what happens in the offseason.”
-On the last time he’s spoke to Andrew Luck: “It’s been a couple of months. We’ve had contact within the organization. Frank Reich has talked to him. T.Y. (Hilton) talks to him. Anthony Castonzo talks to him. He knows that our door is always open. Really, it stands that way as an alumni player, who we have so much respect for in what he’s done for the franchise. This guy was special. He came in and things like the Kansas City playoff game when we were down 28 points and one of the great playoff wins in history. So we have great affection for him and we just want him to be happy and have a fulfilling life and do what he really wants to do, because this game is very demanding and you have to be all-in. This is not a game you can play if you are not all-in. I think he made a courageous decision and decided my direction needs to be apart from this game going forward. As shocking as it was to all of us, including me, we respect it.”
–On ‘making a run’ for Luck: “I don’t think we have to make a run at him. I think he knows that we would always welcome him back with open arms. It’s just that we respect his decision, and we don’t want to confuse the situation by constantly asking a question that he knows is there. He’s retired. He knows what we think about him. I know that Frank Reich and Chris Ballard have had long conversations on where we stand. Sure, we would love to have him back, if he came back, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I know his Dad well, Oliver, and his Uncle Will, who has been his agent, his mom’s brother, who is a great guy. So it’s really one of those situations where you go intuitively, where you try to get the answer more from an intuitive nature. And I just don’t think that it’s in the cards for him to come back. But only he can decide that, only he knows. He knows we would welcome him back with open arms, if he did. But as you know, we can’t as a franchise wait for that to happen. I think Chris and Frank and I have been very disciplined in our thinking in saying that, ‘Look, he’s retired. We have to operate as such.’ There’s no time to be daydreaming on what ifs. If it happens, that’s great, but I just don’t see that in the cards. But anything is possible.”
–On thinking back to Josh McDaniels turning his back on the Colts, and Irsay ending up with Frank Reich alongside Chris Ballard: “All the time. I’ve seen this for a half century for how things develop. You think they are not developing for the right reason, or they are developing against you, when in fact, something greater is being drawn together and presented to you later. You have to be ready to seek that opportunity. To be a champion is really one thing, it’s overcoming adversity. It’s the mindset. And everyone likes to talk about overcoming adversity, but unfortunately words don’t really do it justice to what adversity really means at sometimes the level it can come to you, as competitive of an environment as the NFL. You just have to be ready. I know with getting Peyton Manning, Jake Plummer had to come back from a 2-score down situation (in Week 17) with 3 or 4 minutes left in the game and then less than 10 seconds, flopped up from 2 to 1 (in the 1998 NFL Draft), which allowed us to get Peyton in ’98. So you just never know what’s going to twist that way. You always try and be ready for the future. I remember I traded Chris Chandler to Tampa, they said you could have a (2nd round pick this year or a 1st round pick next year). I said, I’ll take a 1 next year, which was ’92. And that ended up giving us the first two picks of the draft, 1-2 in ’92, which is the first time in modern football. You try to be ready. And when you get dealt a tough hand, that’s when you have to be a leader, that’s when you have to have that determination that you will conquer anything from you.”
–On if he thinks the NFL is planning to go to a bubble for the playoffs: “We have an Owner’s meeting Wednesday, Zoom wise. I really think it’s been a tremendous accomplishment as an industry to be able to go forward and play these games. Our trainers, our coaches, our players, so many people have worked so hard to be able to get to this point. I think in going forward, I could see more precautions being brought in, and we have even heightened those, as of late. I don’t see a bubble situation where we would end up in one part of the country and play out of one stadium, I don’t think anything like that. But I think our diligence is being raised and we know every single day we have to work hard to overcome these obstacles because right now in the country the COVID situation is raging hard and it’s not going to go away soon, the vaccine is here almost but that’s going to take some time, so it’s not going to protect the Super Bowl and the playoffs. We are ready to do everything we can. We literally talk day-to-day and we are ready to call an audible if we have to, and we take it a day at a time to see how we can be successful. But I think it’s a great story and it’s been tremendous for the country and for the economic outlook in general to be able to play these games and it’s something we are going to keep working hard at trying to finish off with a Super Bowl in Tampa.”