Joe Philbin passed up Giants job to be back in Midwest, protect Andrew Luck

INDIANAPOLIS -- Joe Philbin had his choice of assistant-coaching jobs this offseason: Join Ben McAdoo’s staff with the New York Giants or join Chuck Pagano’s staff with the Indianapolis Colts?

McAdoo, the new Giants coach, looks at Philbin as a mentor, and the two coached together with the Green Bay Packers. But with Indianapolis, Philbin had the opportunity to lead the group responsible for protecting franchise quarterback Andrew Luck as the Colts' offensive line coach.

Ultimately, protecting Luck and being able to move back to the Midwest carried more weight for Philbin.

“You make decisions that are best for you, your family,” Philbin said. “I have great respect for Coach Pagano and what he’s done here, what he stands for. I thought the organization was really committed to winning a championship here. They have a great group of men. I thought the staff that he was putting together was excellent and it just fit. I lived in the Midwest for 13 years out of the last 17 and loved every minute of it, so this is where I wanted to be.”

Philbin is going back to his roots of coaching the offensive line with the Colts. He did the same thing with the Packers for four seasons (2003-06) before moving up to offensive coordinator for Green Bay (2007-11) and eventually head coach of the Miami Dolphins (2012-15). The Dolphins fired Philbin after Week 4 last season, and he finished with a 24-28 record in his three-plus seasons there.

The 54-year-old Philbin could have easily sat back and enjoyed spending time with his family after being fired by the Dolphins. He didn’t want that. He wanted back into coaching. Philbin was already deep into the process of joining Pagano’s staff by the time McAdoo was named coach of the Giants on Jan. 14. The Colts announced the hiring of Philbin on Jan. 16.

“For me, when you’re not part of something that’s bigger than yourself, it’s not as much fun,” Philbin said. “I wanted to be somewhere I could contribute, be a part of something special. I’ve taken every job like it’s my last job. I’m building a house here (in Indianapolis) and I plan on staying here a long time.”

Philbin isn’t inheriting an established offensive line with the Colts. Quite the opposite. He has to build up a line that has been atrocious when it comes to both pass and run blocking. The Colts used five different starting quarterbacks because of injuries and gave up 118 quarterback hits last season.

“The ability to protect the quarterback -- I don’t care what level of football you’re at -- is absolutely critical, and certainly here it’s a point of emphasis,” Philbin said. “It’s a big job, and we have to do a great job. Everything starts inside out in pass protection.”

The Colts appear set on the line with left tackle Anthony Castonzo, left guard Jack Mewhort and rookie center Ryan Kelly, but they’re still looking for starters at right guard and right tackle. Philbin’s message to the unit so far is to be quick. He wants them to move with pace on the practice field, in the film room and definitely in the games.

“They know better than me, I’m just a coach in the sideline, but things happen fast,” Philbin said. “So in the meeting room, what I do is coach fast as a training. Ask them a lot of questions, want to get them engaged. Want them to think of an answer like that, because in the game we’re going to need to make blocking-scheme adjustments at the snap of our fingers. That’s how I like to run practice. You want to get to the stage where they feel so well prepared when they go out there where it’s not easy -- nothing is ever easy in football -- but preparing in such that they’re very, very confident and play decisive.”