Colts players really like new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer

Larry Coyer as Tampa Bay's Assistant Head Coach last season.

Coaching football is all I want to do. I don't want to do anything else. I don't want to take time away from this game. I love this game. And I love coaching.

Larry Coyer said that back in January 2007, days after he was surprised by a call from then-Denver Broncos President and Head Football Coach Mike Shanahan informing Coyer he had been fired. Today, Mike Shanahan is mercifully unemployed, fired from his duties as head man in Denver after years of bad head football coaching and even worse personnel moves. Meanwhile, Larry Coyer has found a home in Indy, and his new players seem to very much like the change this old career coach has brought to the Colts.

To understand Coyer, look to further than his resume. It's a mile long. The resume stretches back to 1976, when he was a defensive coach at Iowa and had a young defensive back there by the name of Jim Caldwell. Today, Jim Caldwell is his boss as the new head coach of the Colts. And together, Coyer and Caldwell are working to rejuvenate a fast and talented Colts defense that was decimated by injuries in 2008.

Unlike other coordinators, Coyer does not think the defensive coordinator spot is one that reviews and critiques the jobs of the postions coaches beneath him. If anything, Coyer is the kind of guy who thinks a coordinator should be actually involved with the postiion coaches. From his 2007 interview:

Sometimes, when you're walking around as a "coordinator" you get perceived as a "critic at large." I don't like that. You need to be in there with everybody.

While at Denver from 2000-2002, Coyer coached the linebackers, helping the Broncos develop players like Al wilson and John Mobley. In 2002, he was promoted to defensive coordinator, but retained his linebacking position duties. This suited Coyer, as he felt it connected him more with players and staff:

It was difficult being a coordinator and coaching linebackers, but it also put you in a game. I don't know if you know what I'm talking about, but I think when you are coaching a position and you have a title like "coordinator," everybody is on equal footing. You're all accountable. I think sometimes when you become the coordinator you become the critic. And that's not the way I wanted to be because we are all together. This is a game of loyalty.

Coyer takes a lot of pride in loyalty, it seems; loyalty with players, coaches, and team staff. He also brings 44 years of football knowledge with him to Indianapolis, and already players are picking his brain about this and that:

Gary Brackett:

"Larry has a lot of energy. He’s an older gentleman, but he has a wealth of football knowledge," Brackett said. "You’re just blown away every time you meet with him. You’d better have a notebook because there will be a lot being said."

Bob Sanders:

"There's a lot of excitement," Sanders said Sunday, the final day of the team's 2009 mini-camp. "[Coyer's] a smart, intelligent coach. We're excited to have him here."

Dwight Freeney:

[Larry's] older. But he has a lot of experience and a lot of energy; new energy. And sometimes, change is a good thing.

As I have often noted, I cannot recall layers like Gary, Bob, or Dwight making such glowing statements about former defensive coordinator Ron Meeks. In the seven years Meeks coached Indy's defense, I cannot recall one comment from a player saying something similar to what players are now saying about Larry Coyer, and Coyer has only been on the job for a few months. That does not necessarily mean Ron Meeks was terrible, but those players very rarely said anything about him, good or bad. The praise often went to Dungy, or to their position coaches. It never went to Meeks.

Now, with Coyer as a coordinator and not as a coordinator and a position coach, he must work with a staff compromised of people who once worked for Meeks and Dungy. Alan Williams (secondary coach), Mike Murphy (linebackers coach), and John Teerlinck (defensive line coach) are all remaining, and Coyer must work with them and avoid becoming what he dislikes: A critic at large. All three position coaches command tremendous respect with the players, Teerlinck especially. Coyer and Teerlinck once worked together in Denver from 2000-2001. Teerlinck coached the defensive line while Coyer coached the linebackers.

The other challenge Coyer faces is improving a defense that has significant trouble getting off the field on third down. From John Oehser:

[Indy Star writer Mike Chappelle] also noted that the Colts’ offense averaged a league-low 10 possessions a game the past seven seasons, which was nearly two fewer than the league average. The Colts have had the fewest possessions in each of the past four seasons.

The reason the Colts offense averaged a league-low 10 possessions a game is because Indy's defense (according to stats work by our own mgrex03) was tied for dead last in 2008 in third down defense. the Colts defense, quite simply, could not get opponents off the field. We saw this in the Chicago Bears game, the first Jacksonville Jaguars game, the first Tennessee Titans game, and many more such games in 2008.

With the talent coyer has at his disposal, the key stat for him and his staff in 2009 is improving Indy's third down defense while, at the same time, keeping his positive energy high as he works the Colts players into this new "tweaked" Tampa 2 scheme.

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