A week ago, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck kiddingly said he would give Bruce Arians only bad reviews if teams like the Bears asked about his offensive coordinator.
''Terrible things. Terrible things,'' Luck said.
But after the Colts' season ended and the possibility that Arians would get a head coaching job in the NFL became a little more real, Luck couldn't hide the truth.
''Coach Arians has meant a lot to me, this offense and this organization all year,'' Luck said. ''Obviously I want him back. But you understand -- who wouldn't want a crack at a head job in the NFL? But selfishly, I hope he doesn't go anywhere.''
Arians, who was hospitalized for an undisclosed illness and missed the Colts' 24-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore, was not with the team after the Colts returned to Indianapolis -- and the Colts might have to get used to it. Arians is one of the cast-of-thousands up for the Bears coaching vacancy. And the Eagles, Browns and Chargers also have shown interest him. At 60, after 20 years as an NFL assistant -- a year after the Steelers had no use for him -- Arians finally might get the opportunity of a lifetime.
''The trust he showed in me -- putting young guys on the field, it was great to play in,'' said Luck, who had a 76.5 passer rating in his rookie season, but was credited with eight game-winning drives as the Colts finished 11-5. ''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. So I'll be forever grateful for this great season.''
Arians' credentials as an offensive coordinator, though, already were well-established prior to this season. It wasn't until the Colts went 9-3 with Arians serving as interim head coach while Chuck Pagano was battling leukemia that Arians emerged as an NFL head-coaching candidate.
And players on offense, defense, special teams and the practice squad talked about Arians as if he were ready for the opportunity.
''I'll hate to see him go if he does,'' veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri said. ''I've got huge admiration and the utmost respect for him. He stepped in in a real difficult situation and he did it exceptionally well.
''He's the type of guy that he's got great leadership skills. He gets guys to play well. He gets guys motivated. The thing I like about him, too, is he's an aggresssive coach. He's not scared. And I appreciate coaches that go like that, because they're trying to win games.
''I think he'll make a great head coach. I hate saying that, because he'll probably get lots of opportunities and we don't want to see him go anywhere. But he definitely deserves his opportunity.''
Colts linebacker 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. ''He knows what he's doing. He leads by example. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy. He gives it to you straight, with no chaser. He's highly regarded here.''
Colts punter Pat McAfee said Arians impressed him with how he so easily assumed the role of head coach when he replaced Pagano in Week 5 -- communicating with the defense and special teams as if he were their position coach.
''The thing about 'BA' is he was thrown into a role that was very touchy,'' McAfee said. ''He couldn't overstep his boundry because Chuck was the head coach. He was just the interim head coach. But he did such an amazing job.
''He's a leader. And he's one of the most competitive human beings I've ever met in my life. I mean, he talks trash to the defense when hen he was offensive coordinator.
''But it was all in fun. He's very friendly. And all those things that come together instantly get respect from a team. If you get respect for players, they'll work for you. And that's kind of what BA did. he came in. He earned with our respect with how good he is. He's a guy that players want to work for. And that's something to be said about a head coach.''