New Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is wasting little time getting to his staff together in Indianapolis. ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the Colts have hired former Steelers assistant coach Bruce Arians to coordinate the offense. Schefter states the team is flying Arians to Indianapolis on Monday to sign his contract.
Now, hiring Arians is a VERY interesting move for three reasons.
1) He was, for all intents and purposes, fired from Pittsburgh by the Rooney family against the wishes of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was a strong advocate for Arians in the organization. The reports at the time of Arians leaving were that he was "retiring," but no one believed that, and for good reason. Prior to Arians showing up in Steeltown after Bill Cowher left, Roethlisberger was a "game manager." With Arians, Roethlisberger has played in two more Super Bowls, won Super Bowl XLIII, and has thrown for over 4,000 yards twice in four seasons. Mike Florio suggested today that the reason the Rooneys dumped Arians is because they want to go back to a run-first offense. They reason they want that style of offense is because they are cheap and don't want to pay big money to their trio of young wide receivers.
2) Arians has a strong relationship with Peyton Manning. He was Manning's quarterback coach from 1998-2000. He coached Peyton his rookie year, and was instrumental in his early development. I don't see this hire as a move to placate Peyton after a week of controversy involving him and owner Jim Irsay, but it is interesting.
3) The offense Arians ran in Pittsburgh was similar to the one the Colts have used since they drafted Peyton. It is extremely pass-heavy. Anyone wishing that Pagano was going to install a run-heavy offense just had had their hopes dynamited with C-4. Arians loves to throw, throw, and throw some more.
The hiring of Arians also means the firing of Clyde Christensen, who has been with the team since 2002. I have received no official word on Christensen's status with the team, but I trust Schefter's report. Christensen was the wide receiver coach before being promoted to OC in 2010 after the Colts ran Tom Moore out of town.
[UPDATE]: In a rather odd move, the Colts are reportedly retaining Christensen. He will be demoted back to wide receiver coach. On a personal level, I'm happy for this. Clyde is a nice guy, and he's done some great work with the Colts wideouts over the years. But, to be demoted like this doesn't speak well of Clyde's abilities as a coordinator. This is now the second time he's been, effectively, fired as an OC. He ran the Buccaneers offense in 2001. He and Tony Dungy were fired following that season. It's doubtful Clyde will ever get offered a coordinator job in the NFL again.
[UPDATE 2]: Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Christensen might go to the Bears as their quarterback coach. We'll see how this plays out, but if I'm Clyde, I take that Bears job. It's humiliating for a coach to accept a demotion, and if Clyde works wonders with Jay Cutler, he could get offered a coordinator job again one day.
The Arians hire strikes me as a bold one. It's also a move I like. Steelers fans seem to have mixed feels about Arians, but there is no denying that, without him, Ben Roethlisberger probably doesn't become an elite quarterback in this league. You might say the same thing about Peyton. Arians was critical in his development, and when the Colts draft Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick this April, he'll be working with an OC who knows a thing or two about developing young QBs.