Robert Kraft and the Patriots pried Josh McDaniels away from the Colts head coaching position at the last minute. So whether it was intended as payback for Deflategate or not, Indianapolis GM Chris Ballard couldnt help but conclude Wednesday mornings press conference with a promise that this is only the beginning.
Thank yall, Ballard said. The rivalry is back on. Then he walked out of the room.
Ballard was diplomatic in his 19-minute press conference, but he was also honest and did not hide his and the organizations disappointment with being blindsided. After all, Ballard was supposed to be introducing McDaniels as coach at the podium Wednesday, and instead he was forced to stand on stage alone and explain McDaniels backing out of the position in favor of remaining in New England as offensive coordinator.
The Colts already had signed multiple assistant coaches to join McDaniels staff, including former Cowboys linebacker coach Matt Eberflus as defensive coordinator. And per NFL Network, Indy even had completed the set-up of McDaniels office before he reneged in a brief phone call with Ballard Tuesday night.
He said he had bad news for me, Ballard said. I just said I need a yes or no answer are you in or out? We went around for a minute and he said hes out, and I said OK were gonna move forward, I wish you best of luck.
Asked if Ballard tried to persuade McDaniels to reconsider in a last-ditch appeal, the GM grew stern.
There was no persuasion, Ballard said emphatically. Let me make this clear: I want, and we want for this organization, a head coach that wants to be all in. Weve got work to do And I want somebody thats 100 percent committed to partnering with us and getting that work done.
Just because youre the first choice doesnt make you the right choice, Ballard added later. Its about getting the right guy. And I think you can all look it up. Sometimes things work out the way theyre supposed to work out.
Ballard stood by the assistant coaches already hired, saying the Colts wont back out on them just because McDaniels flip-flopped on the organization.
They will be on the staff. We will not abandon them, Ballard said.
The Colts reportedly are expected to continue their head coaching search, as well, by requesting permission to interview Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich coming off his Super Bowl victory and Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell.
There is plenty of reason for the Patriots to stick it to the Colts after since-fired GM Ryan Grigson claimed the Patriots were deflating footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship Game, tarnishing Tom Bradys reputation and leading to a four-game suspension for the QB at the start of the 2016 NFL season.
Clearly, though, McDaniels about-face shocked the Colts as much as it floored NFL fans everywhere. Ballard was asked if he had ever seen signs of McDaniels having cold feet and he said: No, not at all. Not ’til Tuesday evening. Not at all.
Asked if he had grown angry and punched a wall or erupted at the news, Ballard said: Look here. Im competitive and I want to win, alluding to a fire burning inside him. And asked of owner Jim Irsays reaction upon hearing from Ballard that McDaniels had backed out, Ballard smirked and said of Irsay: There is no doubt hes competitive.
Former Super Bowl-winning Colts head coach Tony Dungy, now an NBC analyst, also had strong words on Twitter in response to an MMQB story that said McDaniels felt more comfortable with the Patriots than with the Colts.
Havent read the article but I can tell you there is NO excuse big enough to justify this, Dungy said. Its one thing to go back on your word to an organization. But having assistant coaches leave jobs to go with you then leave them out to dry is indefensible. For COMFORT??
Ballard said when asked of Krafts motivations: I dont deal with New England. I have no idea what theyre thinking.
After the occurrence yesterday with Josh backing out, we were disappointed, Ballard said. Unquestionably we were disappointed and surprised. Wed agreed to contract terms, we had an agreement in place, we followed all the rules, did everything right. Two interviews, both of them went very well. Very confident that we were going in the right direction, very confident Monday evening and Tuesday morning.
And as you could see we had a plan in place because we made an announcement that Josh was going to be our head football coach, Ballard added. I got a call Tuesday evening saying he had changed his mind and was going in a different direction and at that point I informed our owner, we informed yall of where we were going and well keep moving forward.
In a classy move, though, Ballard opened his press conference by saying that any of the McDaniels news was secondary to Sundays tragic passing of Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson, 26, and Uber driver Jeffrey Monroe in a car accident caused by a suspected drunk driver. Ballard said just Tuesday he and Colts safety Matthias Farley, 25, had cried together in the GMs office remembering Jackson.
With the passing of Edwin Jackson and Jeffrey Monroe it was a very tough two days, and my thoughts were not even close to this head coaching search, Ballard said. My thoughts were with Edwin, Jeffrey and their families, and the tragic death(s) that occurred Sunday morning Very difficult day, very difficult couple days talking with both families, talking with our players, and I want all of you to make sure that you keep in perspective whats important in life, and thats human life and thats people how we treat people, telling the people that youre close to that you love them every day.