INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jim Irsay walked into the media workroom early Saturday evening to discuss the state of his Indianapolis Colts, and at one point casually offered seismic news.
Prior to the 2017 NFL trade deadline – October 31– a team inquired about the availability of rehabbing Andrew Luck. Was the Colts’ $140 million quarterback available in a trade?
The short answer: not a chance.
General manager Chris Ballard made it clear his response was brief and clear.
“I just, c’mon man, I’m not taking those seriously,’’ he said. “We’re not trading Andrew Luck.
“I’m not putting that on my resume.’’
It boggles the mind to consider the bounty Luck would command, either via a trade or on the open market.
“Trust me, there were people who would have given an unprecedented amount of draft picks – all with the No. 1 behind them – for him,’’ Irsay said with a laugh. “And we wouldn’t even think of even drifting in that direction.
“He’s our guy. We feel 100 percent confident he’s going to come back and lead this football team with some of the new teammates . . . to great things.’’
Irsay declined to elaborate on the amount of trade interest in Luck.
“We’ll, I’m not going to go any deeper than that,’’ he said. “We don’t open our doors to that. But let’s just say I think the rest of the league is anticipating for him to return and play great.’’
Luck is participating in the Colts’ offseason program, but has yet to resume throwing. He recently said his goal is to be ready for the start of training camp in late July or early August without throwing restrictions.
Luck’s last game was against Jacksonville Jan. 1, 2017.
Irsay did nothing to tamp down the optimism surrounding Luck’s return, and the possibility of him helping return the franchise to the dominance it enjoyed during the early 2000s.
Over the last three days, general manager Chris Ballard added 11 draft picks to address a flawed roster. That included Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the 6th overall pick.
Even with those additions, work still must be done to upgrade the roster. The Colts have failed to reach the playoffs or post a winning record for three straight years. The last time they went four straight seasons with a non-winning record: 1978-86.
It appears, Irsay was asked, the team still is a ways away from returning to playoff contention.
“We are,’’ he conceded. “The only thing I’ll say is only Andrew can decide how far we are away because he’s a magic man. There’s only a few magic men. You guys have seen them. You know who they are.
“If he’s healthy and he’s back, he makes up for a lot of deficiencies. Can he take you all the way? We’ll have to see how good Chris is in plugging some of the holes, particularly on defense.
“But when you’ve got a guy like (Luck), it’s hard to definitely say how much deficiencies he can cover up because he’s special. You guys have seen it.’’
Before his shoulder issues became a major concern, Luck led the Colts to three consecutive 11-5 records and playoff appearances, highlighted by a trip to the 2014 AFC Championship game.
The Colts are 43-27 with Luck under center in the regular season, and 10-16 without him.
While Luck, Irsay and the Colts as a whole are optimistic normalcy returns in the next few months, there are no guarantees.
“We really don’t have doubts, but again, until he goes out and does it,’ it’s going to be a matter of great interest and debate,’’ Irsay said. “That’s the way it is.
“If we had any doubts we would have obviously talked about the quarterback position from a backup standpoint. But we really don’t have doubts.
“He’s got to go through practices. He’s got to get roughed up a little by his teammates. He’s got to get roughed up in the preseason. And then he’s got to play regular season when it’s all on the line.
“This is a process. Football players like Drew Brees have come through and for a decade have had excellence after the surgery Andrew went through. We feel that we have a guy for the next 10 years that’s going to be a great, great football player.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.