As we all know, the likelihood of Chuck Pagano coaching the Colts next season is slim. However, he’s like the cockroach of coaches so we never know. In the interest of wishful thinking, let’s take a look at a likely set of coaching candidates that could be options for Chris Ballard to choose from for the Colts.
Dave Toub - Special Teams Coordinator - Kansas City
Toub was the name most people associated with the Colts this past offseason when we all assumed Pagano would get the boot. Toub is rumored to be “Ballard’s guy.” He was with Ballard in Chicago as well, so there’s a long history there. Toub is easily one of the best special teams coaches in the league and has been for a long time. More importantly, his special teams have been consistently good regardless of talent. His coaching is not dependent on having the best player but rather dependent on developing players and maximizing their skills.
The biggest question mark some may have is regarding Toub’s lack of running an offense or a defense. This is valid but might be irrelevant. Yes, running an offense or defense can be important, but running a consistently top special teams unit may be a more difficult coaching challenge. These coaches, more than any other coaching position, deal with injuries and roster changes on a weekly or even daily basis.
Also, special teams coaches don’t get pigeon-holed into being a “defensive” or “offensive” minded. The best head coaches delegate responsibilities and let their coordinators do their jobs. A defensive or offensive minded head coach may be likely to get involved in game planning, which is a problem since they need to be focused on the entire team.
Why special teams coordinators don’t get more opportunities is a bit confusing, but Toub could be a great option for the Colts if/when Pagano is let go.
Josh McDaniels - Offensive Coordinator - New England
McDaniels is in a similar situation as Ballard was a year ago. He gets to wait for his Goldilocks opportunity, the one that’s just right. But is McDaniels a good fit for Indianapolis? He’s a retread who failed in his first shot as a head coach. McDaniels, to his credit, admits he made a mistake by not listening to those surrounding him. McDaniels is a fantastic coach. Like his mentor, McDaniels is well-prepared and disciplined. He’s been the architect of the Patriots offense for several years.
Here’s the caveat. McDaniels made some huge mistakes when he was in Denver. He traded his Pro-Bowl QB, Jay Cutler, and his Pro-Bowl WR, Brandon Marshall, away while in their prime. He fired his GM and was given total control. Maybe the worst mistake McDaniels made though was trading three draft picks in order to select Tim Tebow. However, he says he’s a changed man and given how spectacularly he failed before, I believe he is.
The biggest question: Is McDaniels willing to work with Ballard? My guess is he’d be much more willing but will likely want full control at some point. However, if he’s willing to play nice, the Colts couldn’t ask for a better retread.
Matt Patricia - Defensive Coordinator - New England
Patricia is a bit of the combination of the first two coaches listed. He’d be another first-time head coach and another Patriots coordinator. Patricia’s coaching resume is quite diverse. He’s coached on the offensive side and the defensive side of the ball. He’s excelled at both. One of Patricia’s best qualities happens to be one that current Colts head coach Chuck Pagano lacks, he makes fantastic halftime adjustments. The most prominent example is last year’s Super Bowl.
The question is would he be a good head coach? I’d say yes. Patricia doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who wants total control. He’s developed talent and kept the Patriots defense competitive despite not having big-name players. Having been on both sides of the ball is definitely a plus. His relationship with Belichick also provides him a foundation on how a coordinator should work with the head coach.
Out of the three guys discussed so far, Patricia likely would be the second option behind Toub.
Jim Bob Cooter - Offensive Coordinator - Detroit
First and foremost, Jim Bob is one of the better names in pro football today. Oh, he’s also highly regarded by many in the coaching world. What’s more, he is highly touted by none other than Peyton Manning himself. Cooter has been a driving force behind Matthew Stafford’s resurgence after the retirement of Calvin Johnson.
The biggest concern with Cooter is his age and inexperience. At 33, he would be one of the youngest head coaches in NFL history. He’s only been an offensive coordinator for one full season. While I have the utmost faith in Cooter exceeding at some point as a head coach, I’m not certain Jim Irsay is willing to take a chance on such a young, unproven and inexperienced commodity. I certainly wouldn’t be willing to risk the next few years of Andrew Luck on him.
Bruce Arians - Head Coach - Arizona
About the most known commodity for Colts fans, we’ve all seen Arians work his magic. Many of us, myself included, thought Irsay would be best to keep Arians and let Pagano step away. He’s the QB whisperer. He tells it like it is. Arians doesn’t use terrible cliches or sugar coat things like Pagano. He’s also a darn good coach and motivator of players. Arians likely still has some coaching life left in him but the question is how much?
However, as we all know, Arians is the current Arizona head coach so hiring him would require one of two things. Either the Colts trade a draft pick in order to get him or Arizona fires him. Since Ballard values draft picks, it would have to be the latter.
Arians undoubtedly would have his hands all over the offense so that goes against what I’d prefer in a head coach. How can you not want BA to make his return to Indianapolis if he truly develops Luck? The ideal situation would be to bring Arians back as an offensive coordinator and let him work with Luck on a daily basis. Arians may love the opportunity to work with Luck again.
Tom Cable - Offensive Line Coach - Seattle
The reason I bring up Cable is due to the connection with current Colts Co-Vice President of Player Personnel Ed Dobbs. Cable is well liked around the NFL, despite failing as the Raiders head coach over the course of three years. He recognizes he made mistakes and likely learned from them.
Cable has a unique way with players. He utilizes many of the philosophies Pete Carroll does. He tries to develop players on the football field and men off it. He’s all about building a culture, which resonates with Chris Ballard. He’s said before you can’t preach a culture, you have to live it. Sound familiar?
While Cable may not be the name you’d expect to be mentioned here, the Colts could do a whole lot worse.
Jim Schwartz - Defensive Coordinator - Philadelphia
Schwartz flamed out brilliantly in Detroit on his first go around with a 29-51 record. You’d like to think he learned from his mistakes, and like the other candidates, let’s assume he has.
Schwartz has been solid as a defensive coordinator for the Eagles. He’s credited with turning around the Eagles sieve of a defense in only a year. That’s no easy feat. His defense is similar to his personality, aggressive. This pays dividends on the field but can rub players the wrong way. Those qualities can be perfect for a defensive coordinator but can be tough for a head coach. However, if he’s calmed down and learned from his mistakes, he might be worth a second look.
In the end, the Colts could do a lot worse than Schwartz. However, I don’t think his personality and style would jive well in Indianapolis.
Jon Gruden - ESPN Analyst
Every year Gruden is mentioned for seemingly every head coaching vacancy. Every year Gruden says no. Jim Irsay is all about making a splash so Gruden makes sense. Well, except Gruden isn’t that great of a coach and would want control over the roster.
As I mentioned back in August, Gruden has a career record just over .500 and, after winning the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team, his teams consistently underperformed. He only made the playoffs two times in the remaining six years after winning the Super Bowl. Each of those years was after his team finished 4th in the NFC South so they had a fourth-place schedule.
Regardless, Gruden should not be seriously considered for the Colts head coaching position.
Who would you like to see take over as the next Colts head coach?