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Ballard Has Been Meticulous, Thorough in Colts’ Quiet Coaching Search

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Chris Ballard won’t be making any knee-jerk decisions; he will be methodical as always.

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The national narrative regarding the Colts’ coaching search has taken a strange turn. With uncertainty abound regarding Andrew Luck’s health, it is at least somewhat understandable. However, after the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was hired, news quickly came out that the Colts were highly interested in Nagy but that he passed on them because he was more comfortable with the Bears organization.

We have talked about this already on Stampede Blue. Jake Arthur’s story and Brett Mock’s both went into detail on the reasons this did not hold up as a story, at least not the one claiming that the Bears snatched the guy Ballard wanted right out from under him. Today, Greg Gabriel, a scouting director who worked closely with Ballard debunked that idea entirely.

However, with a hint of an idea that the Colts might not be a premiere landing spot, questions snowballed about who the Colts will be able to get or if they will get the guy they actually want at all. There was some hope that surfaced when it was discovered that they had interviewed an unknown candidate in secret earlier this week. I heard several names like Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer, and David Shaw bandied about.

When the news broke that they had interviewed Matt Rhule of Baylor, more doubt crept into the discussion about what type of quality candidate Chris Ballard could actually get. If they were interviewing a coach who just went 1-11 at the collegiate level, are they in serious trouble as far as the coaching talent they can draw?

Josh McDaniels immediately came up in conversations as well. What if he had already turned the Colts down? Maybe he would withdraw his name from consideration, just as he did last year. Where would that leave the Colts?

Today, reportedly, they are set to interview Panthers’ defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who is also a target for the Cardinals and Giants jobs. After that interview is over, they will have conducted the last of their known interviews. Our shallow well of information will have run dry.

The general feeling coming from many media outlets is that the Colts have had their candidates stripped away, leaving them with the scraps. Is that legitimate? Should we be seriously concerned that the Colts won’t field a quality coaching candidate?

We shouldn’t. Here’s why:

First, let’s talk about Matt Rhule. He was kind of a letdown for many, myself included. His name was not on my short list. What’s more, on its face, the idea of hiring a coach that just went 1-11 seems like a step in the wrong direction. However, that doesn’t provide a lot of context because Baylor is not going through a normal situation. With the sexual assault scandal that took place and with Rhule taking on what is essentially a complete rebuild, it isn’t surprising to see poor results. I don’t know if he is a good coach, but he certainly deserves the credit of context for his abysmal record.

Many have expressed the feeling that talking to Rhule is somehow beneath the Colts. However, while Rhule wasn’t on my short list or yours, he might be on a lot more executives’ than we think. Just over a month ago, NFL Insider Peter Schrager talked about the real possibility that Rhule could be in the running for the Giants’ head coaching job.

It is important that we not take for granted that NFL franchises have teams of scouts at their disposal and form connections with executives and coaches at both the college and NFL level.

I am not advocating for Matt Rhule to be hired. I don’t know near enough about the guy to think he is right at all. What I want to stress is that contrary to this subtly spun narrative that the Colts were cast aside by their first choice and are now clinging desperately to the hope that McDaniels will agree to coach them, perhaps something else is going on. Ballard’s list might not look like yours or mine. Given the fact that he knows a lot more about both football and his players than we do, that is just fine.

Second, while Nagy took the Bears job, it has been reported more than once that the Colts did not and were not ready to extend an offer. This seems to indicate that Colts weren’t snubbed by the candidate that coveted most, but they are actually just doing what Ballard said they would. They are taking the kind of deliberate and detailed approach we have come to expect from Ballard.

On the Chopping Wood podcast this week, Stephen Holder and Zak Keefer of the Indy Star talked specifically about the kind of person that Chris Ballard is. Flighty, desperate, and reactionary are not words people use to describe him. Things like calm, methodical, deliberate, and prepared definitely are. If he had felt that Matt Nagy was the best guy for the job, there would have been an offer. It seems like he still had questions. Given that he had worked with Nagy, that might be telling.

The last thing that I cannot help shaking is the idea that we don’t really have any clue just how many candidates the Colts have interviewed. Given the Colts’ tendency toward secrecy and their ability to keep a lot of things quiet when they choose, it is tough to believe that we have the full picture about the goings on in their interview process.

Add in that there is this wide gap in between known interviews. They interviewed Matt Nagy on Sunday. This afternoon they are set to interview Steve Wilks. When you are in the process of interviewing a head coach and hiring him so he can begin hiring his staff and getting to work, does it make sense that between Sunday and Thursday you would interview just one other candidate? It doesn’t to me.

The conclusion I am left with is that while we are all anxious to get this process over and get some answers, Ballard is not. He is going to conduct interviews with all the candidates he has uncovered and may go through a second round as well. While we know that Kris Richard, Matt Nagy, Josh McDaniels, Matt Rhule have interviewed for the job, I would bet there have been others.

When the time comes to make the decision, it will be with the knowledge that the coach is going to be the right guy who will be in lockstep with Ballard about how to run the organization and win football games. Ballard has a plan and regardless of what is said at the national level, it seems to be going just fine.