By TOM JAMES
Bruce Arians, the Indianapolis Colts’ new offensive coordinator, is certainly no stranger when it comes to tutoring and developing young, highly talented quarterbacks.
Arians was the Colts’ quarterbacks coach in 1998 when the team drafted eventual franchise icon Peyton Manning with the first overall pick of the National Football League draft. He was with the Cleveland Browns in 2001 when Tim Couch was selected No. 1.
And for the past eight years,the Patterson, N.J. native has been an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the last five seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator where he worked with Ben Roethlisberger.
Out of that group. Manning led the Colts to two Super Bowls, winning one. Roethlisberger has won two of the three Super Bowl games in which he has played.
So it shouldn’t have come as a major surprise that when first-year coach Chuck Pagano went looking for an offensive coordinator, knowing that Indianapolis would be taking either Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III with No. 1, he would search out the recently retired Arians.
“I’ve known Bruce. We worked together in Cleveland. His track record speaks for itself. As far as an offensive coordinator in this league, I just look at what he did with a young quarterback and developing a young quarterback (Roethlisberger). Taking them to the Super Bowl and winning Super Bowls and those types of things. So we hit a home run,” Pagano said after Thursday’s final mandatory mini-camp practice.
“When I called him, he was on his way from his retirement home, on the lake there with a bunch of golf courses. I said, ‘Hey, you retired?’ He goes, ‘Not if you’re offering me a job.’ So he was officially retired for two days. But he’s a brilliant offensive coordinator. He works great with guys.”
Arians has been tasked with developing Luck, who has been described by many football observers as a ‘can’t miss’ prospect. The Colts coach isn’t concerned. Rather, he’s excited by the possibilities.
“When I lay my head on the pillow at night, I’m not worried about Bruce. I’m not worried about (new defensive coordinator) Greg (Manusky). I’m not worried about Marwan (Maalouf) with the special teams. Those guys are great men. They’ve been in the game for a long, long time. They know their craft,” Pagano explained.
“But more importantly, they’re great with kids. They’re great with people. And the way they deal with these guys, they’re great teachers. They know the importance of relationships and they know the importance of building trust. I slept well at night knowing those three guys are at the helm.”
Arians likes what he sees
After five full-squad mini-camp workouts, the Colts’ offensive boss is happy with the progress that he’s seen.
“It’s good to have (Luck) with everybody and watch him grow with his teammates,” Arians said Thursday. “I thought we got a lot better the last two days. He’s so smart. He’s done so much work already. He just lets it flow. He gets it the first time around. It’s not hard at all.
“It’s just go out and play and get used to where the guys are and the spacing of the passing game is very critical to what we do. Those things come with time with progress. He’s learning that part of it. We’ve got plenty of time and lots of progress to make.”
One thing that doesn’t concern him is Luck’s timing with the team’s veteran receivers, such as Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie. That will come in time.
“Not really. We still have a long way to go. When you look at last year, guys didn’t even have this (organized team activities and mini-camps due to the labor lockout) and it got done,” Arians stressed.
“(Carolina’s) Steve Smith and Cam Newton, they made a nice connection. (Cincinnati’s) A.J. Green and Andy (Dalton) didn’t even work together. Sometimes that gets blown out of proportion. I think the (offensive) tackle hearing the snap count is a little bit more important than them throwing routes.”
Rookies keep working
While Indianapolis’ veteran players are finished with their work until the start of training camp on July 29 at Anderson University, the Colts’ rookies will hang around the team’s West 56th Street facility for a few more days for more instruction.
“So many times when they leave the biggest thing is that we don’t need any distractions. You can just pick up the paper every day and you read about somebody making a bad decision. So first and foremost, take care of yourself, make great choices and continue to work out,” Pagano said, repeating the marching orders he gave the team after Thursday’s practice.
“They have put all of this time in, so the worst thing they could do right now is go take two or three weeks off and then try to get back. Training camp is certainly not grounds to get in shape. They have put too much time in right now and too much work in with Strength and Conditioning Coach Roger (Marandino) and (Assistant Strength Coach) Richard (Howell) in the weight-room and running and conditioning. To put it down from a physical or mental standpoint would be disastrous. So take care of yourself, take care of one another, stay in your book, keep working out and get charged up. You have got to recharge your batteries for training camp.”