Bruce Arians always wanted to coach his own NFL team.
The chance has arrived, but not the way he wanted. Arians will be replacing an old friend on an interim basis in the middle of a season because of a serious illness. The longtime NFL offensive coordinator has no illusions about the job as he tries to help the Colts get better while everyone hopes coach Chuck Pagano returns soon from leukemia treatments.
“This isn’t a head coaching job for me right now,” Arians said after being named Indy’s interim coach. “It’s just an expanded role as coordinator until Chuck comes back.”
The Colts’ front office followed Pagano’s advice and hired Arians, an assistant who had coached with or against Pagano for the better part of a decade. He’s someone who has mentored three quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall (Peyton Manning, Tim Couch and now Andrew Luck) and has the same kind of personality that hooked the Colts on Pagano.
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Team owner Jim Irsay and new general manager Ryan Grigson also liked his previous experience in Indy and his résumé.
Arians also played a key role in the development of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and won two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers – one as the receivers coach, the other as offensive coordinator. He spent two seasons as Paul “Bear” Bryant’s running backs coach at the University of Alabama and six seasons as Temple’s head coach.
“He’s a veteran. He knows this game well. He has a great synergy with the staff and with Chuck,” Grigson said. “He’s going to be able to bridge that gap between Chuck and himself and this team. … Bruce is the man to lead us forward while our leader is down.”
The Colts (1-2) face the Green Bay Packers (2-2) on Sunday in Indianapolis.
UNITAS’ SON SENDS LETTER TO BREES
With Drew Brees in position to break Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, Unitas’ son has sent words of encouragement to the New Orleans Saints quarterback.
A letter from Joe Unitas, which the Saints posted on a team website, congratulates Brees for tying the record of 47 straight games Sunday at Green Bay.
Joe Unitas said he’s a big fan of Brees and wishes him the best this Sunday against San Diego. Joe Unitas said he knows his father, who set the record from 1956 to 1960 with the Baltimore Colts, would want Brees to break it.
Johnny Unitas died in 2002.
Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey practiced for the first time since being hospitalized by a helmet-to-helmet hit Sept. 23, when he was knocked unconscious and crashed to the turf headfirst. He was hospitalized for a concussion and sprained neck. … Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney signed with the Dolphins, who terminated the contract of wide receiver Legedu Naanee. Gaffney, 31, had a career-high 68 catches for 947 yards and five scores last year for the Redskins. … The Jets signed fullback Lex Hilliard and waived wide receiver Patrick Turner.