INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indianapolis Colts are in a holding pattern with Josh McDaniels, which is unusual but certainly not unique.
Even though general manager Chris Ballard has determined McDaniels is the appropriate successor for Chuck Pagano – an agreement is “close,’’ a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Indy Sports Central – the team is prohibited by NFL rules in making make it official as long as his New England Patriots remain alive in the postseason.
The Patriots entertain the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday in the AFC Championship game, and their pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy could reach Super Bowl LII Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. Under that scenario, the earliest McDaniels could be named head coach is Feb. 5.
“We’re going to take our time and we’re going to make sure,’’ Ballard said earlier this month. “I think it’s one of the good things that a lot of great teams do in this league is they take their time.
“You want to make sure it’s the right fit.’’
That means waiting while other teams fill vacancies: Chicago (Matt Nagy), Oakland (Jon Gruden). The Detroit Lions (Matt Patricia) and New York Giants (Pat Shurmur) reportedly have settled on successors, although they, too, must wait for the playoffs to unfold. Patricia is the Patriots’ defensive coordinator and Shurmur the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator. The Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans remain in search mode.
This potentially is the third time in four years a team with a coaching vacancy has opted to wait and wait and wait some more. That’s the patience-testing byproduct of locking onto a coordinator whose team reaches the Super Bowl.
Last year, the San Francisco 49ers decided early in its coaching search Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was their guy, and he actually played a role in the team’s pursuit of general manager John Lynch before his hiring was official. It became official Feb. 6, the day after the Falcons’ incredible meltdown in the 34-28 overtime loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
In 2015, Atlanta fired Mike Smith and focused on Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as his successor. The Falcons’ wait lasted until Feb. 2, the day after Seattle’s last-second 28-24 loss to New England in Super Bowl XLIX.
Ballard and McDaniels met Jan. 3, and a follow-up interview might occur next week even if the Patriots advance. The NFL allows access to assistant coaches in the Super Bowl during the bye week.
That meeting undoubtedly would include owner Jim Irsay but might only serve as a formality. Earlier this month Irsay emphasized the importance of an owner allowing his general manager to do his job without unwarranted intervention.
“My philosophy has always been the general manager is head of all football operations,’’ he said. “The general manager is in charge of leading the search, bringing in the candidates, eventually bringing the owner . . . the best candidate or two or three, depending the case, and making his recommendations.
“I’m sure there hasn’t been a time where I haven’t followed the recommendations of what the general manager had recommended to me. If it was something that I thought was, ‘Oh, this is really problematic. No, can’t do it,’ there would have to be a rare situation.
“Chris is going to go out, do a lot of the heavy lifting.’’
That heavy lifting has been done.
And now we wait.
Staff taking shape
It’s no surprise McDaniels has been getting a staff in line. According to national reports, he’s settled on two important hires: offensive and defensive coordinators.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Dallas linebackers coach/passing game coordinator Matt Eberflus will serve as McDaniels’ defensive coordinator. Jason La Canfora tweeted McDaniels will bring in Oakland quarterback coach Jake Peetz as offensive coordinator.
If you don’t believe national reports, how about a “source’’ close to one of the coordinator candidates? Kelly Amity Eberflus posted a picture on Facebook Monday of her and husband Matt that included a Colts logo.