The Rivalry is Back On – Colts GM Drops Mic After Coach Backs Out
Indianapolis Colts General Manager, Chris Ballard, ended his Wednesday press conference with a statement making it clear that any repaired relationship with the New England Patriots is dead after their offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, backed out of his agreement to be the team's next head coach and stay with with New England.
Since the Colts fired former coach, Chuck Pagano, on New Year's Day (a moment that was about a year overdue, if you ask me), speculation had run rampant on the internet that McDaniels was high on their list of candidates to replace him. As the days and weeks passed, and the team interviewed multiple candidates, reports indicated they had settled on McDaniels as the guy, but couldn't make it official until the Patriot's season was over, which as we all know ended with a Super Bowl LOSS to the Philadelphia Eagles (HA! HA!).
Wednesday's press conference was supposed to introduce McDaniels as the new head coach. Then this happened late Tuesday evening.
In the interest of fairness, the Colts and McDaniels had not officially signed a contract making him the new coach, according to reports. However, he and the team had a verbal agreement in place, and had reportedly been working together to find other coaches to fill his staff, some of which had already signed deals with the team before McDaniels backed out.
So, what should have been a celebratory press conference on Wednesday, one that would begin a new chapter in the history of the team, one filled with hope that McDaniels was going to be the guy to pull them out of the funk of the past three to four years and return them to the annual contender they once were during the Peyton Manning era, instead turned into one where Ballard did his best to reassure fans this was a minor obstacle, and one the team can and will overcome.
But perhaps the greatest moment of the press conference came at the end, after thanking the reporters for their attendance, Ballard calmly gathered his things, and dropped this emphatic statement.
Truth be told, for fans like myself, the rivalry was never over. Sure, there were reports that Ballard had smoothed over the rough patches in the relationship between the two teams after the infamous "Deflategate" scandal a few years back, but from a fan's perspective, they were still the Patriots. The evil empire of the NFL. The team that's always good. The team that always wins, and the team we so desperately want ours to be.
I was on board with McDaniels has head coach despite the fact his previous experience in Denver nearly a decade ago didn't go so well. Yes, Bill Belichick calls the shots as Head Coach in New England, but McDaniels is the guy that makes Tom Brady and their offense do the things they've done so well for so long. The thought of his brains paired with a (hopefully) healthy Andrew Luck had me down right giddy ("giddy," I say!) over the possibilities that could unfold on my TV every week. Did I expect a Super Bowl run every year? No. But I thought this was the right move to make to see them back as a regular contender again. At the very least, I thought McDaniels could make them look like a competent team again, and not one that looks like their playing football for the first time every week.
I'll admit, I found myself quite a bit angry over McDaniels' sudden change of heart, and that's unlike me. Yes, I love my Colts, but at the end of the day, it's just a game. I think this got to me because the Colts have been a dumpster fire full of dog hair and rubber tires for what feels like an eternity (although it's only been the past three seasons), and this felt like being kicked when they're clearly already down. The fact that it involved the hated New England Patriots made that kick feel like it was done by a pair of steel toed boots.
With that said, Chris Ballard gives me hope. The full press conference on Wednesday lasted about 20 minutes, but the two statements above left me feeling like the Colts have the right guy leading the charge. A calm, steady hand when it feels like the walls are crumbling down, but one with a fire inside that will turn the other cheek when smacked, and will use that smack as motivation to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Although the exact date isn't set yet (the NFL will release all 32 team's schedules in April), we do know the Colts and Patriots will play each other at New England at some point this season. Thanks to this, there's no doubt it's going to be intense, and I. Can't. Wait. Get your popcorn ready.