INDIANAPOLIS – We’ve been given the answer – finally – to the first significant question the Indianapolis Colts faced during their transformational offseason.
Another hangs in the air.
Who will Steichen, named the 11th full-time head coach of the Colts’ Indy era Tuesday, bring in as coordinator to help reshape a flawed offense?
Then comes the biggie.
Which quarterback will general manager Chris Ballard, Steichen and their support staff target with a top-4 pick in the April NFL Draft?
And let’s not kid ourselves. The Colts absolutely, positively, without a doubt must target someone to be their quarterback of the future.
“The roster is not that far away, and we’re not hiding,’’ owner Jim Irsay said Tuesday. “No one can shy away from the fact what a quarterback means in this league and how we have to look going forward, where Shane and Chris really dig into this draft and really see where you’re at.
“Do you stay put? Do you trade up? There are many things that you can do. (The Eagles) took Jalen (Hurts) in the second round.’’
Ballard was seated to Irsay’s left and couldn’t resist injecting a bit of humor into a serious issue.
“Trade back,’’ he said, laughing. “That’ll be a Twitter freaking quote.’’
Ballard has earned a reputation for trading back and accumulating additional picks. He and Quenton Nelson (Run The Damn Ball) could open a T-shirt business.
Ballard’s top seller: Like Them Picks.
“He likes picks,’’ Irsay said.
Then, he might have made known how he’d invest that top-4 pick, or No. 1 overall if a trade with Chicago is deemed necessary.
“The Alabama guy doesn’t look bad, I tell you,’’ Irsay said with a chuckle.
That would be Bryce Young. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is among the cluster of quarterbacks deemed worthy of first-round – even top 4 – consideration, along with Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson.
Ballard and his staff already have done a ton of legwork for the upcoming draft. Now, they’ll be joined by Steichen, whose offensive-based career as a coach/coordinator has included working with Philip Rivers and Justin Herbert with the Chargers and Hurts with the Philadelphia Eagles.
What’s undeniable is he’s had success working with differing styles: the true pocket QB (Rivers), one with good mobility (Herbert), one with great mobility (Hurts).
“We’ll go through that process,’’ Steichen said. “Me and Chris will talk about that in the next few days, but looking forward to all those things.’’
Ballard and the Colts’ extensive search committee were looking for a variety of traits in a new head coach. Considering the crossroads the team finds itself at, settling on one with an offensive background and history of developing QBs was at least a preferred requirement.
“Is it an added bonus? Yes,’’ Ballard said. “Was is the final defining factor? No.
“We wanted to get the best fit for us.’’
Irsay was more direct.
“We just felt that Shane had a lot of that offensive magic, which is hard to find in this league,’’ he said. “Offense in my mind can be a little more complex and takes a longer time to develop.
“Knowing that we’re going to find a young quarterback to develop, that’s a key factor.’’
Steichen will call plays, and made it clear he’ll tailor his offense to whomever is under center.
“The offense is going to be dictated on who’s playing quarterback,’’ he said. “That’s how you build the system. What does he do well? What is their strength?
“But not only the quarterback. It’s the players, too. What does (Michael) Pittman Jr. run well receiver-wise? The tight ends, the backs, Jonathan Taylor, the offensive line? What do they do well? We want to do a helluva job trying to put our guys in position to make plays.’’
As Steichen emphasized, it starts with the quarterback.
Frank Reich posted a winning record (41-35-1) with two playoff appearances before being fired nine games into his fifth year and did so despite constant instability at QB. He adjusted on the fly every season with a different full-time starter – Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan – and last season the Colts started three different quarterbacks for just the third time since 1998.
They were an offensive eyesore last season, ranking near the bottom of the league in most meaningful categories. They were tied-31st in scoring (17 points per game) and scored just 25 touchdowns, the franchise’s fewest since 2017 (24). At one point, the offense went 30 possessions without a TD.
That must end, and the brake needs to be the quarterback from the upcoming draft. Steichen’s core offensive philosophy – throw to score, run to win – is predicated on the player with the football in his hands every play doing his job at a high level.
The preferred skillset?
“I think accuracy, decision-making and the ability to create are the three things that I look at in a quarterback,’’ Steichen said. “I think those three things are very important, but obviously, above the neck, the players I’ve been around – Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert and Philip Rivers – they all have one thing in common: They’re all obsessed with their craft.
“If you can find that in a quarterback, you’ll probably have some success.’’
The Colts had that with Peyton Manning and Luck. Since 1998, they’re 194-100 (.660) with 15 playoff appearances with the two No. 1 overall picks running things. And they’re 43-61-1 (.403) with one playoff berth with 13 other starters.
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