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Colts players say Bruce Arians ready for head-coaching job

Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts

Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts

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Updated: February 9, 2013 6:21AM



INDIANAPOLIS — For all the fuss about Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck this season, his 76.5 passer rating ranked 26th in the NFL. But he was good when he had to be. Luck led seven game-winning drives as a rookie, the most in the league.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians gets credit for that.

‘‘The trust he showed in me, putting young guys on the field, it was great to play in,’’ Luck said Monday at the Colts’ practice facility. ‘‘You can play confident. You can play comfortable because you know he trusts you. He, as much as any other guy, gave us chances to win.’’

Arians’ credentials as an offensive coordinator already were well-established before this season. It wasn’t until the Colts went 9-3 with Arians serving as interim coach while Chuck Pagano was battling leukemia that he emerged as a head-coaching candidate.

First things first, though, for Arians. He was released from a Baltimore hospital Monday and returned to Indianapolis after being admitted Sunday with an undisclosed illness, missing the Colts’ 24-9 loss to the Ravens in the process.

It was probably just a coincidence that Luck had no fourth-quarter magic and that the Colts failed to score a touchdown with Arians watching from a hospital bed. Still, it enhances one of the more intriguing story lines of the 2013 coaching derby.

It’s rare for a coach with 35 years in the game to get his first head-coaching job at 60. But the Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns plan to interview Arians, and the San Diego Chargers also are interested.

Arians’ experience as interim coach didn’t include hiring coordinators and assistants, installing a defense and making final cuts. But Colts players saw enough to think he can handle it.

‘‘He stepped in in a real difficult situation and did it exceptionally well,’’ kicker Adam Vinatieri said. ‘‘The way he game-planned all week, the way he coached on the field, the pregame and postgame meetings — it just seemed like he had done it before. He was very natural and comfortable in that role.

‘‘He’s got great leadership skills. He gets guys to play well. He gets guys motivated. The thing I like about him is he’s an aggressive coach. He’s not scared. And I appreciate coaches that go like that because they’re trying to win games.’’

Defensive end Robert Mathis said Arians commanded respect from everybody in the locker room.

‘‘Look at his fingers: He has two Super Bowl rings and three Super Bowl trips,’’ Mathis said, referring to Arians’ days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. ‘‘He knows what he’s
doing. He leads by example. He’s a no-nonsense guy. He’s highly
regarded here.’’

Backup quarterback Chandler Harnish said Arians was the same guy in the interim role that he was as offensive coordinator. Punter Pat McAfee said Arians’ communication skills helped unite the team in Pagano’s absence.

‘‘He’s a leader,’’ McAfee said. ‘‘And he’s one of the most competitive human beings I’ve ever met in my life. I mean, he talked trash to the defense when he was offensive coordinator.

‘‘But it was all in fun. He’s very friendly. And all those things
together instantly get respect from a team. If you get respect from players, they’ll work for you, and that’s what B.A. did. He earned our respect with how good he is. And that’s something to be said about a head coach.’’



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