The phone call between Josh McDaniels and Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard didn’t last long, but it seems like it was eventful.
Ballard said he was in draft meetings at about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday when he was pulled out to take a call from McDaniels. McDaniels called Ballard to tell him he was backing out of the Colts head-coaching job, a job he had agreed to earlier in the day Tuesday. He was going to stay with the New England Patriots as their offensive coordinator. That set off a crazy story that shocked the NFL world.
“He said he had bad news for me,” Ballard said in a press conference Wednesday. “I just said, I just need a yes or no answer, are you in or out? We went around for a minute, he said he’s out, I said ‘OK, we’re going to move forward, I wish you the best of luck.’”
Ballard said he didn’t try to persuade McDaniels to change his mind, and he didn’t stay on the phone to hear what caused the change of heart.
“I live in a black or white world. Either you’re in or you’re out,” Ballard said. “I didn’t want the explanation.”
Ballard was intense throughout his press conference but handled it well. He said he wished McDaniels the best. He never took a shot at the Patriots or got angry. But he couldn’t help but give one salvo as he gathered his papers and left the press conference.
“The rivalry is back on,” Ballard said.
Of course, the Colts and Patriots have a history, which notably peaked with the Colts’ deflate-gate accusations that started an infamous controversy. The Colts and Patriots had made a few trades since then, but that era of good feelings might be over for a while.
This is a story that will be tracked for a long time. We’ll watch to see what happens with McDaniels, and how the Colts’ very public second choice at coach does. But Ballard wasn’t worried about McDaniels not taking the job.
“Things work out for a reason,” Ballard said. “There have been a lot of instances in this league, maybe not to this extreme, but just because you’re the first choice doesn’t make you the right choice. It’s about getting the right guy. Sometimes things work out the way they’re supposed to work out.”
Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich’s name has come up as a possibility to be the Colts’ next head coach. But the Colts have to start over with their search. They hadn’t been interviewing coordinators for weeks, Ballard said, because they were under the assumption McDaniels would take the job. The Colts announced McDaniels had agreed to the job on Tuesday morning, and Ballard took the blame for that.
“I’ve thought a lot about that. But I was very confident,” Ballard said. “That’s on me. That’s not on the organization. That’s on me. I was very confident a deal was in place.”
Ballard thought McDaniels agreed to the job. That makes sense considering the Colts had been hiring his assistants. Ballard said those coaches that were already hired, including new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, will be retained.
“They will be on the staff. We will not abandon them,” Ballard said, with a not-so-subtle shot at McDaniels.
There was no reason to believe McDaniels wouldn’t take the job until he called Ballard to say he was staying with New England.
There has been speculation that Andrew Luck’s status, coming off shoulder surgery that cost him the entire 2017 season, was a reason McDaniels backed out. Ballard addressed Luck’s health and said the Colts aren’t concerned. Ballard said Luck does not need more surgery and “we feel very strongly Andrew is in a good place.”
“He’s going to do everything right to get himself ready to play,” Ballard said. “I’m very confident, and he’s confident, that he’s going to come back and prove a lot of people wrong.”
McDaniels will be back in New England, and presumably will be the Patriots’ next coach whenever Bill Belichick retires. The Colts got stood up at the altar and were embarrassed on Tuesday night, but Ballard was confident and resolute that Indianapolis would end up just fine.
“We will get the right leader for the Indianapolis Colts,” Ballard said. “One that believes what we believe, and wants to go where we want to go.”
– – – – – – –