The main talking point over the past several months has been discussing Chuck Pagano in the past tense. Normally this would seem awfully presumptive, but when a fan base has been calling for his firing for the better part of his tenure and there’s a new general manager calling the shots, the writing appears to be on the wall.
Indianapolis Colts fans have been begging for relief from Pagano, and once this season mercifully comes to an end they are expecting to get it. With that, the next question obviously is ‘who will the new coach be?’ Instead, let’s look at this from another angle. Whether it’s the Colts job — which isn’t likely — or another opportunity down the road, which Colts assistant could be on the path to running the show as a head coach in the future?
Let’s take a look at a few of the possibilities that we see at this time.
The Former Head Coaches
It only makes sense that we start with the two on staff in Indianapolis who have already been the face of leadership for other teams in their past. Both Rob Chudzinski (1 season) and Joe Philbin (3-plus seasons) have had short stints in Cleveland and Miami respectively. But, aside from their work as offensive coordinators in other parts of the league, recency bias wouldn’t likely be in their favor with teams at this point in the process.
Chudzinski was credited with helping Cam Newton transition into the NFL during his time in Carolina as OC, but that success was short-lived as well. The 2012 version of the Panthers’ offense didn’t pop, but Chud moved on to get that shot as head coach in 2013 with the Browns.
As for Philbin, his big draw to a head coaching position was from his days in Green Bay where he was a part of winning a Super Bowl and top-10 offenses in each season as the offensive coordinator. Philbin was also pegged as an offensive line savant of sorts and the Miami Dolphins thought enough of him to make him their next head coach in 2012.
Philbin’s time in Miami came to a nasty end as he was succeeded by the team’s meathead tight ends coach after his management of the game, and the team’s lack of success became a hindrance to the team showing growth.
Conclusion: As I stated above, if we’re just looking at what Chudzinski and Philbin have done lately, neither appear to be on the radar of teams around the league in the near future. Chud’s offensive design has shown true faults even with a capable quarterback in Jacoby Brissett.
He was able to get by with some of these flaws while Andrew Luck was under center, but has shown an inability to gameplan around his talent at the position this season. The Colts are one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season despite having a quarterback that can sling it, mainly due to a massive failure in designing plays around Brissett’s strengths and getting him into a rhythm.
Again, for a guy who was supposed to be coming into a situation where he would be getting back to his bread and butter of running the Colts offensive line, Philbin’s resume hasn’t been so great. His lines have allowed an insane amount of sacks over the past two seasons. Currently sitting at 95 sacks (3.27 sacks allowed per game), there’s little to suggest that by year’s end the Colts won’t exceed the century mark in allowed sacks in the last 32 games. That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for a top job in the league.
Monachino deserves his own section in this discussion. Why? Well, mainly because he’s just too green at this point in his career. Not green as in he doesn’t have NFL coaching experience, rather that in spite of being in the league since 2006 in one form or another, he’s had long stretches of time as a first-year coordinator (in 2016) he showed major signs of the stage being too big for him — if I can use a Pagano-ism.
Monachino does appear to have the mindset, or maybe the tone when he speaks that says “I’m a future NFL head coach” but his background and future results will have to make significant strides in order for him to have any consideration in the future.
The ‘New Blood’
Despite the elders of the Colts coaching staff, there are two names that have the potential to at least draw interest from team’s in the future. Special teams coordinator Tom McMahon and quarterback’s coach Brian Schottenheimer, both of whom have more than a decade apiece of NFL coaching experience may be the staff’s rising stars of sorts.
McMahon has quickly become one of the league’s best special teams coordinators. The Colts have produced 3 top-10 units in McMahon’s four seasons at the position including where they currently stand this year. In fact, you could say that aside from the run defense, special teams has been the best facet of the team from week to week.
Special teams isn’t exactly the gold standard of prerequisite positions for NFL head coaches, however, John Harbaugh is notoriously the most talked about in terms of success. On the other hand Dave Toub, who has also been getting a lot of attention as a possible candidate for the Colts job — among others — is a special teams coordinator as well with the Kansas City Chiefs. There are others in the league and while it’s not exactly the norm, it certainly isn’t unheard of anymore.
The other interesting possibility is Schottenheimer. I have actually been quite impressed with what he has done in the last two seasons as the Colts QB coach. Last season Schottenheimer reworked some of Luck’s problem areas in the offseason and through the preseason — he brought a new focus of fundamentals and solid mechanics which seemed to propel Luck to having arguably his best all-around season as a pro.
Schottenheimer has an important lineage to think about as well. Throughout his years in the league, ‘Schotty’ took 3 New York Jets’ offenses to the playoffs (2 conference championships). His units were in the top-half of the league in scoring three times, with two more being ranked 17th and 18th throughout his 6 seasons as their offensive coordinator.
Additionally, Schottenheimer did most of his work with quarterbacks named Chad Pennington, who was rarely accused of having a strong arm, and Mark Sanchez who needs very little introduction at this point. To be fair, Schottenheimer struggled getting the Rams’ offense going from 2012-2014. He did have Sam Bradford, but he also had Kellen Clemons and Austin Davis to work with at the most important position on the team.
Had Bradford maintained his health, maybe things would have turned out differently — especially in 2013 — but the odds were stacked against him and the team’s offense in general. Similarly, Schottenheimer’s job in getting Brissett ready and up to speed so quickly after being acquired via trade. Though Brissett’s focus has fluctuated recently, I wouldn’t say that has detracted from what he’s done to smooth out the majority of his wrinkles.
Conclusion: McMahon is interesting to me, but in the end, I just don’t see him getting head coach-type attention. Often times there has to be more than just a coordinator under the veil to get a head coach opportunity. On the other hand, Schottenheimer definitely could get another shot as an OC in the very near future. In fact, I think his style with a quarterback such as Luck, for example, would be fun to watch.
Shotty employs some power schemes in terms of the running game, as well as some aspects of the Coryell style of the passing game. As we know very well by now, offensive and defensive coordinators are more primed to be interviewed for a head coaching position after a few good seasons.
My money would be on Schottenheimer to get a go at OC for either the Colts or another organization and make a run at a head coaching job as his next step. With his name, his NFL history and his understanding of what it takes to mold the most important position on the roster, it seems quite plausible that Schottenheimer could get his big shot at some point in the future.