Colts’ Jim Irsay on Andrew Luck: ‘You guys don’t know the fire that’s burning’ in his eyes

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The occasion primarily was to address a head coaching vacancy, one created when Jim Irsay decided enough was enough with Chuck Pagano.

It occasionally veered to showcase the owner’s unwavering – and emotional – belief in all things Andrew Luck.

The Monday afternoon gathering was for Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard to discuss where the Indianapolis Colts are, where they’re headed and how they intend to get there in regards to finding the suitable replacement for Pagano, who was fired following Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans and with two years remaining on his contract.

It invariably found its way to Irsay – again and again – re-directing his thoughts, and yes, emotions at his $140 million quarterback who missed all of last season due to a balky right shoulder. Irsay spoke passionately about the “fierce fire’’ in Luck’s eyes, his expectations that Luck will do special things.

On the coaching search, the Colts powerbrokers shared only the basics. The search will be wide-ranging and might include someone from the college ranks. Previous NFL head coaching experience isn’t a prerequisite, but Pagano’s successor must be adept at amassing a quality staff that’s able to develop talent.

“We’re going to get the right fit for the Indianapolis Colts,’’ Ballard said.

Perhaps the overriding factor: the next Colts head coach will be Ballard’s call. He will spearhead the search and Irsay will be involved in the interview process, but the final decision rests with the GM.

During the 30-plus-minute press conference, Luck’s name was broached, first by Irsay during his opening comments.

“As tough as it’s been going through the process with Andrew and his shoulder and talking with him and seeing the progress that he’s made and where he’s at mentally, physically, emotionally, all places . . . it’s really exciting,’’ he said.

“I say this to Colts fans everywhere: you should be excited because it’s going to be exciting. Andrew Luck is going to be back and I mean back with a fierce fire in his eyes. I promise you. We are going to be doing some special things.’’

From his first day on the job, Ballard has made it clear a winning organization isn’t about one player, even one of Luck’s ilk. He also made it clear he’s not interested in a candidate who’s interested in the Colts simply because of Luck’s presence.

“I want somebody who wants to come to the Indianapolis Colts,’’ he said. “I want somebody that wants to build something special. If candidates want to come here just for Andrew, then he’s probably not going to be the right fit.’’

Might the uncertainty regarding Luck be a deterrent? He is expected to resume throwing soon, and only then will be the Colts have an idea how Luck’s surgically-repaired right shoulder responds to the extended workload.

“Not the right fit. Not the right guy,’’ Ballard stressed. “If he has pause, he’s not the right guy.’’

Irsay, though, used Monday’s press conference to reinforce Luck’s value to the franchise.

He all but shouted: Who in his right mind wouldn’t want to coach Andrew Luck?

“You guys don’t know the fire that’s burning in Luck’s eyes,’’ Irsay said. “You guys don’t know what type of fever he has for success right now. It’s 107-degree fever towards success right now, the intensity he has.

“You put (Luck) on that field, healed up and you put an Edgerrin James – maybe that’s bigger and faster – and let (Ballard) continue to do the job that he’s already begun to do, this is going to be a special place to be and a special place to play.’’

It was mentioned to Irsay he expressed similar optimism on Luck’s return shortly after the January surgery and again during the preseason. Why should the fan base trust him now?

“I’m not trying to sell something I don’t believe in,’’ he said. “And I do believe, from talking to the doctors and from talking to Andrew, that there is no question that he can come back. My optimism was absolutely genuine. It was completely warranted.

“One of the finest, if not the finest shoulder doctor in the world said the surgery went outstanding. And things looked really good. And there was no setbacks . . . however, each case is different. It’s just one of those things that is taking a little longer than we thought that it would.’’

Irsay pounded home his steadfast belief in Luck’s ability to make a complete recovery from the surgery that forced him to miss the entire season, and Luck’s ability to resume a career that has incredible potential. Luck, the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, is 28.

On more than one occasion, Irsay’s voice raised a couple of octaves. He became more animated, pointing a finger at the media. He wrapped his hands around the microphone. He slapped the table.

“When you talk about me being an optimist, I am. But I am a realist, too,’’ Irsay said. “I’m going to look you in the eye. I’m not going to BS anyone. Not going to BS my fans. I’m not going to BS anyone because I don’t want it done to me.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Andrew is going to come back. When I talk about the look in his eyes, when I talk about the temperature of 107 degrees, I’m telling you that kid is a special kid. Special. He was born to do great things in the National Football League, and he will do great things in the National Football League, alright?’’

It was a press conference designed to offer an insight into the Colts’ search for a new head coach.

It wound up being a press conference that offered an insight into Jim Irsay’s commitment to and belief in Andrew Luck.

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