INDIANAPOLIS — A 4-12-1 record during a season in which much was expected is reason to spur seismic changes within the Indianapolis Colts’ organization.
The first order of business: determining the head coach.
Frank Reich was fired nine games into his fifth season as the head man. To replace him, owner Jim Irsay brought in Jeff Saturday — who earned Ring of Honor recognition as a player but had never coached at the collegiate or professional ranks. Despite going 1-7 as interim head coach, Saturday is in the running for a long-term head coach contract and was interviewed on Thursday.
“He’ll go through the process like everyone else,” Ballard said during his end-of-season press conference. “It’ll be interesting to hear his vision, how he wants to build it.’’
But Saturday has competition. The team already has interviewed several candidates for the position, and several more will have their chance to impress the Colts’ brass. Ballard said the team will take their time with the process and doesn’t mind if the new coach isn’t hired until mid-February. This only makes sense considering there may be candidates on playoff teams that don’t wish to take interviews until their team’s season is over.
In addition to Saturday, here are the coaches Indianapolis has interviewed thus far:
Bubba Ventrone — Colts special teams coordinator
Saturday isn’t the only Colt being considered for the job. Ventrone, 40, who has been the team’s special teams coordinator since 2018, was interviewed on Wednesday. Ventrone’s unit has excelled under his tutelage and produced three All-Pros (Ashton Dulin, George Odum and Luke Rhodes). Ventrone believes his responsibilities that require him to be involved in every facet of the team are among his strengths for any head coaching position.
“I feel I’m in tune with both the offense, defense, because I coach the field goal and field goal block units, so I know all the personnel,’’ he said. “I know all the players pretty well.”
Ejiro Evero — Broncos defensive coordinator
Evero is a quickly-rising coaching star who is already taking head coach interviews after just one year of experience as a coordinator. Denver brought Evero in to lead their defense in 2022, and his unit finished 7th in yards allowed (320 per game), 14th in points allowed (21.1 per game), 14th in takeaways (23) and 23rd in sacks (36). The 42-year-old has been an assistant or position coach in the NFL since 2011 and has spent time with the Rams, Packers and 49ers.
Eric Bieniemy — Chiefs offensive coordinator
One of the more recognizable names on this list, Bieniemy, 53, has coordinated Kansas City’s high-flying offense since 2018 after Matt Nagy departed for the Bears’ head coach job. During those five years, the Chiefs have finished top six in both scoring and yards every season, and led the NFL in such categories in 2018 and 2022. The big question is: with head coach and offensive mastermind Andy Reid and superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes leading the charge, how much success can be attributed to Bieniemy? That’s for the Colts to decide.
Raheem Morris — Rams defensive coordinator
Second time’s a charm? That’s what Indianapolis must be asking themselves as they consider Morris for head coach. Morris, 46, served as head coach of the Buccaneers from 2009-2011. Tampa Bay went 17-31 during that time, with a 10-6 season in 2010. He was also named interim head coach of the Falcons in 2020 after the team fired Dan Quinn five weeks into the season. Winless under Quinn, Atlanta went 4-7 under Morris’ leadership. Morris brings with him 21 years of NFL coaching experience — on both sides of the ball — and has coordinated the Rams’ stout defense since 2021.
Ben Johnson — Lions offensive coordinator
UPDATE: Johnson informed teams he’s staying in Detroit, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.
The success of the Lions has turned heads across the league. After finishing 3-13-1 last year, Detroit accomplished a 9-8 record in 2022 — their first winning season since 2017. The Colts hope for that kind of jump next season and are considering poaching the coaches behind it. Johnson — who was named offensive coordinator in 2022 — has been with the Lions as since 2019 and coached in the NFL in some capacity since 2012. The 36-year-old’s lone year coordinating an offense was a resounding success, with Detroit finishing 4th in yards (380 per game) and 5th in scoring (26.6 points per game).
Aaron Glenn — Lions defensive coordinator
Johnson isn’t the only one benefitting from Detroit’s success. Glenn, 50, is also receiving head coaching looks after his unit saw vast improvement over the final stretch of the season. While the Lions finished last in yards allowed (392.4 per game) and 28th in points allowed (25.1 per game) on the year, they gave up just 19.5 points per contest over their last six games and went 5-1 during that span. Glenn has coordinated Detroit’s defense since 2021 and coached in the NFL since 2014. Before that, he played defensive back in the NFL from 1994-2008 and was named to the Pro Bowl three times.
Shane Steichen — Eagles offensive coordinator
No team won more regular season games than the Eagles this season, and their robust offense played a big part in that. Jalen Hurts raised his game to an MVP level, and Philadelphia ranked 3rd in both scoring (28.1 points per game) and yards (389.1 per game). Former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni named Steichen his OC when Sirianni became Philly’s head coach in 2021. Steichen, 37, worked with Sirianni and Reich with the Chargers, where he worked his way up from offensive quality control coach in 2014 to interim offensive coordinator in 2019 and then full-time offensive coordinator in 2020.
Rich Bisaccia — Packers special teams coordinator
Bisaccia and his success with the Raiders last year was one of the better stories in the NFL. He took over as interim head coach after the firing of Jon Gruden and led Las Vegas to a 7-5 record and their first playoff appearance since 2016. For whatever reason, the Raiders opted not to retain Bisaccia as head coach and instead brought in Josh McDaniels. At age 63, Bisaccia has coached in the NFL since 2002 and served as an assistant head coach for four different teams: Las Vegas, Dallas, San Diego and Tamp Bay. Most of his experience involves coaching special teams, including his most recent stop in Green Bay.
Brian Callahan — Bengals offensive coordinator
Callahan has coordinated the Bengals’ offense since 2019 when he was brought as part of head coach Zac Taylor’s staff. His experience working with a young quarterback — Cincinnati drafted Joe Burrow in 2020 — is something that should entice the Colts, who seek a long-term answer at the position and hold the fourth-overall pick in the draft. Pryor to his time in Cincinnati, Callahan served as the Oakland Raiders’ quarterbacks coach in 2018, the Detroit Lions’ quarterbacks coach in 2016 and 2017, and was on the Denver Broncos’ staff from 2010-2015, where he worked with Peyton Manning.
“I mentioned Brian Callahan because he has been huge for me this year,” Manning said ahead of Super Bowl 50. “He’s going to be a top offensive coordinator, maybe a head coach like his dad, sometime in the near future.”
Brian’s father, Bill Callahan, was the head coach of the Raiders from 2002-2003 and was Washington’s interim head coach in 2019. Bill currently coaches the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line.
Dan Quinn — Cowboys defensive coordinator
UPDATE: Quinn informed interested teams that he is staying in Dallas, reported Pelissero.
Dallas’ defense has improved greatly following Quinn’s arrival in 2021. The Cowboys went from 28th in points allowed in 2020 (29.6 per game), to 7th in 2021 (21.1 per game) and 5th this past season (20.1 per game). Quinn also brings head coaching experience. He was the head coach of the Falcons from 2015-2020 and led Atlanta to a Super Bowl during the 2016 season, when the team famously gave up a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots and lost in overtime. Overall, Quinn, 52, has coached in the NFL for 20 years, including his time as the defensive coordinator for Seattle’s Legion of Boom, which made two Super Bowl appearances of their own, of which they won one.
Mike Kafka — Giants offensive coordinator
Kafka is another young, offensive mind. The 35-year-old was brought to New York last offseason after the Giants hired Brian Daboll as head coach. The new coaching staff was able to get a career year out of quarterback Daniel Jones, and the Giants made the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season. Prior to his time in New York, Kafka coached in Kansas City under Andy Reid from 2017-2021. A former NFL quarterback himself, Kafka coached the position and became the Chiefs’ passing game coordinator in 2020.
Don “Wink” Martindale — Giants defensive coordinator
It wasn’t just the Giants’ offense that improved in 2022. New York went from 23rd in points allowed in 2021 (24.5 per game) to 18th this season (21.8 per game) and finished 13th in sacks (41). This is Martindale‘s third stop as a defensive coordinator. He coordinated Baltimore’s defense from 2017-2021 and Denver’s in 2010. The 59-year-old has 18 years of NFL coaching experience either as a linebackers coach or coordinator.
Who is next?
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Indianapolis put in a request to interview 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. Ryans canceled the interview he had scheduled with the Colts so he could focus on San Francisco’s playoff matchup with the Cowboys, reported FOX’s Jay Glazer. It is unclear if the interview will be rescheduled.
This story will be updated as news develops and the Colts continue to confirm coaching interviews.
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