Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard vows to find right coach the second time around

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard answers questions during a press conference today at the NFL team's practice facility in Indianapolis. (Photo by the Associated Press)

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard gave fans what they wanted, and what they needed, in his news conference Wednesday morning: Confidence, intensity and commitment.

Ballard stood up in front of the media at the Colts complex and talked about his disappointment with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ decision to back out of taking the Colts head coaching position. He vowed to find the right fit and walked off with a competitive aside: “The rivalry is back on.”

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Ballard said McDaniels called him about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, or about eight hours after the Colts had announced McDaniels had agreed to terms to be the coach. Ballard said McDaniels told him he had “bad news” and Ballard asked “Are you in or out?

McDaniels said he was out, and the conversation ended. Ballard told owner Jim Irsay and the NFL community went into an uproar.

“Obstacles happen,” Ballard said. “That’s what makes this league great. Overcoming the hard times – that’s what makes football great. It’s a great lesson on football. Things don’t always go the way they’re mapped out. But it’s the mentally tough, gritty people that overcome these things that are successful. …That’s what this city is, and that’s what this organization is built on.”

Highlights of Ballard’s news conference:

* Ballard has other candidates in mind and will pursue them, but does not have a strict timetable for the hire. The NFL Combine starts in three weeks, so it would make sense to have a coach in place before then.

“We will get the right leader for the Indianapolis Colts, one that believes what we believe and wants to go where we want to go,” Ballard said.

* Once McDaniels said he was backing out, Ballard did not try to persuade him to reconsider.

“There was no persuasion,” Ballard said. “Let me make this clear. I want, and we want as an organization, a head coach that wants to be all in. We have work to do. I want somebody 100 percent committed to partnering with us and getting that work done.”

* Ballard expects the assistant coaches who were already signed to contracts under the presumption of being part of McDaniels staff will stay on. Ballard said he is not concerned about that being an issue with another incoming coach because he is confident in the abilities of those hired. The known coaches to have made deals to join the Colts are defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, defensive line coach Mike Phair and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.

* Quarterback Andrew Luck never spoke with McDaniels and Ballard said he doesn’t believe Luck’s uncertain health status played a role in McDaniels changing his mind.

“It’s never about one guy,” Ballard said. “It’s about the team. That’s what I believe. I think Andrew would tell you the same thing.”

Ballard reiterated he wasn’t interesting in finding out McDaniels’ rationale.

“I live in a black and white world,” Ballard said. “Either you’re in or you’re out. I didn’t want the explanation. Either you’re in or out, 100 percent in or out.”

* Ballard expressed exasperation with rumors surrounding Luck’s health. Ballard said Luck does not need additional surgery and that he continues to work on his throwing motion. Luck has not yet begun to throw a football, he said.

“He’s going to do everything right to get himself ready to play,” Ballard said. “I’m very confident and he’s very confident he will come back and prove a lot of people wrong. We want our team to match what he has inside.”

* Ballard started his news conference by talking about the tragic death of linebacker Edwin Jackson, who was struck and killed by an apparent drunk driver. Uber driver Jeffery Monroe, who was standing with Jackson when both were hit, was also killed. Irsay has stepped in to pay for both men’s funerals.

“Make sure we keep in perspective what’s important in life,” Ballard said. “That’s human life and that’s people, how we treat people. We need to be telling people we’re close to that we love them every day. Tomorrow is not promised to anybody, it’s not. Sunday was an eye-opener and put a lot of things in perspective for me.”