INDIANAPOLIS -- Patience is not a strong suit of Colts owner Jim Irsay.
He’ll tell you the same thing.
Irsay is used to winning. The Colts had reached the playoffs 14 out of 16 years prior to the 2015 season.
It may be hard to believe, especially with quarterback Andrew Luck on the roster, but the Colts are rebuilding. They don't use the word "rebuilding" in describing what’s going on. The reality is that is what's happening on defense.
That is where Irsay is being tested.
“It’s hard being patient, I tell ya,” he said.
Irsay is the same person who stood on the stage in downtown London last October and talked about winning multiple Super Bowl titles with Luck.
If the Colts do win multiple Super Bowl titles, the first may not be anytime soon because new general manager Chris Ballard is waist deep in reshaping the roster and front office.
Ballard tore down the defense by parting ways with older, slower players earlier in the offseason. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday the Colts are parting ways with director of college scouting T.J. McCreight and “others from scouting department.”
“You have to be willing to put up sometimes with having the patience, sometimes to slow down and make sure we’re going to build this right,” Irsay said.
"That’s what sold me when I came in the building, that it wasn’t like, 'OK, we’re this close, we’re on the doorstep of winning a Super Bowl,'" Ballard said. “He understood where we were at and that to really do this thing right we needed to have some patience. Look, we’re going to try to compete and win the thing every year. That’s our mindset. It happens.”
Irsay, in only a way that he can, couldn’t contain himself in talking about winning Super Bowls. The Colts went to the playoffs nine straight years with Peyton Manning at quarterback. They came away with just one Super Bowl title in that span.
“I’d rather win two Lombardi [trophies] and endure several losing seasons than have one Lombardi and be in the playoffs every single year and never have a losing season for 10 years or what have you,” Irsay said. “It’s about greatness. It’s about world championships.”
Ballard, from the first day he was hired, has consistently talked about roster balance. That’s why he’s focused on fixing what has routinely been one of the worst defenses in the NFL under coach Chuck Pagano. The Colts may improve their defense, as they used six of their eight draft picks on that side of the ball, but the road to their success still hinges on Luck being on the field.
The quarterback is expected to miss the offseason while rehabbing from shoulder surgery. The plan is for Luck to be the team’s Week 1 starter at the Los Angeles Rams barring any kind of setback.
“I just wish -- and I think our fans know -- I can’t emphasize enough how Andrew’s leadership skills and his passion to win a world championship, how much that means to him,” Irsay said. “It’s his focus, it’s what his life is based around. And that’s exciting. And we’re trying to get that on defense. And we need leaders on defense.”
At the conclusion of the draft Saturday, 14 out of the 21 players the Colts have acquired through free agency or the draft have been on defense.
Irsay noted the moves the other three teams in the AFC South have made and he knows it’ll be a challenge to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Tennessee and Jacksonville both used their top-five picks to add offensive weapons -- running back Leonard Fournette with the Jaguars and receiver Corey Davis with the Titans.
"Look, we’re going into this thinking, 'Hey, we're not sure how good we can be, but we sure are looking to be playing in January,'" Irsay said. “That's our hope and I don’t think that's unrealistic at all."
Another non-playoff season in 2017 will test Irsay's patience even more.