Though the Colts didn't fire head coach Chuck Pagano this offseason like most expected, they did make huge changes on their coaching staff. They brought in a number of new assistant coaches, with no position being more notable than defensive coordinator.
Greg Manusky, who had been the Colts defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, was fired. Pagano then turned to his Baltimore roots to fill the role, hiring Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino to run the Colts' defense. It's Monachino's first opportunity to serve as a coordinator since 1994-95, when he was the defensive coordinator for Hannibal High School in Missouri (where he was also special teams coordinator and offensive line coach). It's safe to say that this job is a bit of a step up, and because of his lack of coordinator experience many have been wondering what to expect from the Colts' new defensive coordinator.
Ted Monachino answered that on Tuesday as he spoke publicly for the first time since he was hired.
“I think that what you should be able to expect, is you should be able to expect simple and sound," Monachino said, "you should be able to expect fast and physical, you should be able to expect that all of our guys are going to do what they do best most often, and you’re going to see that we play together really well. I think that when you have so many things in your system – and they did a great job up here in the past – (so) we have tried to clean up some things and take some of the gray out of the system and make it as clean as we could so they could play fast.”
As far as pressure goes, just know this: Monachino loves putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
“It does vary. We love pressure, but pressure can come from a variety of different ways, right?" he said. "We can come from three-man pressure – if we game plan it right and we scheme it up right, we can rush three and still affect quarterbacks. We can rush four and affect quarterbacks by forcing them to hold the football and getting a guy home. We can bring additional rushers, so we can bring additional rushers and drop guys that are typical rushers. But, yes, I’m a pressure guy. I think the best pass defense is a good pass rush, and that’s where we’re going to begin in the system. But there’s enough variety that you’re really not going to know who it is and from where they’re coming.”
And in terms of his system, it's primarily 3-4 but will incorporate some 4-3 as well - just like the Colts have done in past years.
“We’re a 3-4 system primarily," Monachino said. "We will play just as many 4-3 principles as 3-4 principles, as you’ve seen over the last four years here with Greg (Manusky), and you’ll see a variety of different pressures. You’ll see them from both edges, you’ll see them from all 11 players, you’ll see pressures that drop guys and pressures that keep guys in the rush. I think that the multiplicity of the system is what excites Coach (Pagano) and excites me. I think those are the things you’ll see. But you’ll also, at the end of the day, see two guys that are firmly on the same page about how the defense should be done.”
Everything that Ted Monachino said about his defense sounds good, but it's easy to sound good in May. The real test is how his defense is going to look on the field come September. If the Colts can actually play the way that Monachino described - simple, sound, fast, physical, getting pressure, mixing it up from where that pressure comes, playing well together, and allowing players to do what they do best - then it will mean good news for the unit. But again, it's up to them to prove it on-the-field, not in the media room.
Over the past four years, the Colts' average defensive ranks have been less than stellar: their average rank in terms of yards per game has been 20.75, while their average rank in terms of points per game has been slightly better at 18.5. Last year, the Colts ranked 26th in yards per game allowed and 25th in points per game allowed (though part of that was certainly affected by a poor offense). Clearly, the Colts are in need of improvement, and the hope is that Ted Monachino can bring that.
One thing that I really like about Monachino's comments is something he's actually mentioned before: his emphasis on pressure. That's the biggest area of focus for the Colts right now, and it's an area that Monachino does like to focus on. The Colts are in desperate need of finding consistent ways to generate pressure, so hopefully Monachino's commitment to doing so will create opportunities for some of the pass rushers like Robert Mathis.
Overall, there's not much to dislike about the new defensive coordinator's comments so far, but again, it's what happens on the field in the fall that really matters.