The prevailing sentiment since Chris Ballard’s hiring as the Indianapolis Colts’ new General Manager was that after this season he would get his pick of head coaches. Chuck Pagano has performed as poorly as we could have expected him to, and the writing is clearly on the wall for a major house-cleaning to take place.
While there have been many coaches talked about as potential hires for the Colts, the name that has continued to come up to fill the head coaching position has been Dave Toub.
Who is Dave Toub? That is what we are going to dive into, in an attempt to give you a look at who he is and how his background has shaped him from a would-be PE teacher into the outstanding special teams coach he is today. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether you think he’d make a good head coach or not.
Dave Toub is a problem solver. He doesn’t allow adversity and obstacles to keep him from finding success. From an early age, that kind of attitude defined him and has opened the door to the man he is today.
Listen to what B.J. Kissel, a reporter for the Chiefs, wrote about Toub’s early life:
“I was into weight lifting big time,” Toub explained of his younger days. “We didn't have a lot growing up, so I just made my own weight room. I made my own leg press, my own bench press, everything.
“I wanted to be the best I could be and I needed to get bigger and stronger. That’s how I had to do it.”
Toub got his start in coaching at his alma mater, the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP). He was drafted as a center by the Philadelphia Eagles, but released before the season began. After two years trying to make a roster, Toub returned to UTEP as a graduate assistant and then as the team’s strength and conditioning coach.
It was there, in 1987, that he met Andy Reid. It was a relationship that would have long-term ramifications on Toub’s career. Reid was coaching the offensive line, and Toub was doing what he enjoyed, coaching strength and conditioning.
In 1989, he made the move to the University of Missouri to follow Coach Bob Stull who had been offered the head coaching position there. Reid went as well, and both continued in their same roles with the new team. The position suited Toub well, as Kissel states:
Even though he was just 27 years old, Toub had already made a name for himself as a strength coach.
"He was phenomenal,” Reid explained. “You could put him as one of the top strength coaches in the nation at the collegiate level.” It was the right fit for Toub in Columbia.
“That was a great opportunity for me,” Toub explained. “I was really young and moving up, going to become the head strength coach at a Division I school at 27 years old.”
Toub was there as the head strength and conditioning coach until 1998. With the unexpected death of the team’s defensive line coach, an opportunity arose. Toub was asked to step into a role as the defensive line coach. He accepted it and said it changed the course of his career.
“Moe Ankney, the defensive coordinator, asked me if I would step in and take the D-line for a year.
“So that's how I ended up moving over to coaching.”
It’s the move that officially brought Toub over from a strength coach to a football coach, and while it transpired from a terrible event, the path it laid out for Toub changed his life.
"That changed my whole career,” Toub explained. “I was getting out of the weight room and out to the football field.
“It changed everything for me.”
Toub had worked closely with both offensive and defensive coaches as an assistant but had not been responsible for a positional coaching role himself. He took the responsibility on with his usual approach, throwing himself into the job completely. After three years, however, he was met with disappointment. He, along with the rest of the coaching staff was let go after the end of the 2000 season.
Fortunately for Toub, his old friend Andy Reid had been given the head coaching position with the Eagles the year before. In 2001, Toub was brought in as the Special Teams/Quality Control coach. This quote from Reid describes what that meant exactly:
“He was the first quality control special teams coach in the National Football League,” Reid noted. “So he worked under (the special teams coach) John Harbaugh and (the defensive line coach) Tommy Brasher at the same time, which was awesome.
“At that time, you could just tell he was going to be a good special teams coach. He could teach the fundamentals of bases and balance. You’re not born in a three or four-point stance, and I think if you can coach the offensive line and defensive line, you can probably teach anything.”
Toub himself talked about how significant that time spent in Philadelphia was in his development as a coach.
"I just like the fact that you work with the offense, defense and the kicking game,” Toub explained. “You're coaching blocking, tackling, everything about the game. Really and truly, it was a lot bigger than what I thought it was. The fact that I would talk to the whole team—that was big.
“You're your own coordinator and you run your own show—that was huge for me."
In 2004, Toub was offered the job as the special teams coordinator for the Chicago Bears. While there, he did some pretty amazing work. For example:
He helped develop Devin Hester into the NFL’s all-time leader in kick return touchdowns (17), while also compiling the fifth-best punt return average (12.1 avg.). Hester set an NFL single season record with 5 kick return touchdowns in his rookie campaign in 2006 and surpassed that mark one year later with 6.
Toub was named Special Teams Coach of the Year in 2006 as voted on by his NFL coaching peers. He guided five different Bears players to eight Pro Bowl berths, including Devin Hester’s three selections (2006-07 and 2010) Johnny Knox (2009), Brendon Ayanbadejo (2006-07), Robbie Gould (2006) and Corey Graham (2011).
Most importantly for our story, however, it was during this time that Toub worked with Chris Ballard. Ballard was working as a scout for the Bears at the time. He was promoted to director of pro scouting before both he and Toub left for the Chiefs in 2013.
Ballard worked as the director of player personnel for the Chiefs and later the director of football operations. Toub took his prodigious talents as a special teams coordinator to work alongside Reid once again.
Reid had nothing but good to say about the prospect of Toub becoming a head coach:
“He can do everything,” Reid said with a smile. “I mean, he’s a guy that builds his own homes. He built his house in Columbia from scratch, and it was a phenomenal house too. He'd be good at anything.
“If he was a head coach, he'd be good at that. That’s just how he’s built.”
What Toub has built is a successful career laid upon a foundation of hard work, dedication and a passion for what he’s doing.
It’s what separates the good coaches from the great coaches and Toub has it in spades.
What we have seen so far in Ballard is a keen eye for talent. He has had an opportunity to observe the way that Toub interacts with players, how he conducts himself, and the kind of man he is.
If results are the benchmark, Toub has them. The only question that remains then, is if Ballard feels he is the best option. Additionally, he may have to convince Colts owner Jim Irsay that going with a big-name coach is not necessarily the right move.
Reid seems to think that Toub would be a good fit as a head coach. We have seen what a difference a coaching change can have on a team as well. Now, all that remains is to see what the Colts do when the season ends.
For more on Dave Toub, check out this longform by B.J. Kissel and this article on the Mile High Report, that I pulled heavily from for this story.