Since the Colts fired head coach Chuck Pagano, I have been an advocate of finding Andrew Luck an offensive-minded mentor.
It only makes sense, right? Luck is on his way to working with his fourth offensive coordinator since his young career started, which is absolutely ridiculous.
Luck needs some stability, and a head coach with a background in offensive play-calling would give him that stability.
Then I started thinking about the potential of a hiring someone with a specialty on the other side of the ball. By that, I mean a real defensive mastermind, not someone like Chuck Pagano who clapped his way to job security in Indy for far too long.
Of course, when I started to contemplate the possibility of hiring a coach with this type of background, this report came out:
#Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has no plans to interview with the #Colts for their HC job at this time, as they appear more focused on offensive candidates.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 12, 2018
So, the title of my article went from ‘Why the Colts should hire a defensive-minded coach’ to what it is now.
The reasoning behind this change of heart has a caveat, of course, and that qualification is the offensive coordinator.
The man that gets hired, in this scenario, has to be a young, creative mind that is open to learning how best to run an NFL offense alongside Luck.
Considering that’s probably what the Colts organization should want in general, let me explain a little further.
Luck has been with coordinators who have been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Rather than focusing on building an offense with and around Andrew Luck, they’ve been constructing their own vision of what an offense should look like, and Luck just happens to be the quarterback at the helm.
This has worked to some degree because of the superpowers that Luck possesses, bringing this offense to relevance through sheer will, but it’s time to get him some help.
If Luck and his coordinator work together to create an offense, then it becomes not just tailor-made for Andrew Luck but created by Andrew Luck. Essentially meaning, Luck becomes his own offensive coordinator.
This will put Luck’s greatest strengths on display and really allow the offense to take off.
The coordinator and a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback, like Luck, need to be cohorts who collaborate and learn alongside each other. Sure, this will probably create some speed bumps along the way, but these snags would become learning points rather than a sign of things to come.
This relationship is what will create the offense and allow it to bloom, rather than focusing on one individual who happens to own a pair of Bose headsets.
This may be similar to the roles Peyton Manning and Tom Moore had, as well as what the New England Patriots have done for Tom Brady.
From the outside looking in, it seems like Manning and Brady had a huge hand in creating the offenses that they have thrived in. This opened the door for continued success, even beyond their coordinator’s stints. Reason being, they fundamentally became the coordinators themselves and the team would simply promote a staff member in-house to keep the continuity.
Hell, Manning even kept his record-breaking numbers going on another team.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “isn’t all of this a solid argument as to why the Colts should hire an offensive-minded coach?”
Yes and no. With this kind of relationship, Luck and his coordinator can nurture this offense like it’s their own baby. And even if that coordinator leaves for a head coaching job, Luck is basically the showrunner, meaning that the offense continues to flourish.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, we have the head coach (Kris Richard?) creating a defensive dynasty the likes of which we’ve never seen in Indianapolis.
Now imagine a team with a Luck-created offense and a defensive mastermind taking care of opposing quarterbacks on the flip side? That sounds like the set-up for a historic decade of Super Bowl runs.
With all that said, and knowing that I will be thoroughly roasted for this list, let’s go through some potential offensive coordinator candidates that could fit this bill:
John DeFilippo, QB Coach, Philadelphia Eagles
The 39-year-old is probably the hottest non-coordinator name on the market. He is the QB coach that has overseen the development of the illuminating Carson Wentz. He has done a fantastic job in Philadelphia and even has experience calling plays, albeit in Cleveland. Though, his one-year stint with the Browns saw him produce 4,156 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with the likes of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis – that’s pretty impressive. The question is, will he leave his current job with Wentz for a non-head coaching gig?
Kevin Stefanski, QB Coach, Minnesota Vikings
Stefanski is the 35-year-old that created the unstoppable force that is Case Keenum. That’s a pretty impressive resume in and of itself. Before that he served as the running backs and tight ends coach for the Vikings. Stefanski would be a risky hire, but he’s exactly the type of candidate that may fit the mold we’re looking for here.
Tony Elliott, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
This is an outside-the-box candidate, that may be the epitome of what I mentioned earlier in the article. He’s a college coach, who runs a creative system at Clemson and has been part of the transcendence that is Deshaun Watson. He was the coordinator the two years Watson led his team to the national championship, and he was part of the staff that helped the Tigers decimate the legendary Alabama defense. The Colts haven’t had great success with college coordinators in the past, but the 38-year-old, ex-engineer Elliott may not be a terrible option.
Brian Schottenheimer, QB Coach, Indianapolis Colts
The 44-year-old has now worked with Luck and Jacoby Brissett the past two years (let’s pretend Scott Tolzien never happened) and he’s done a fine job. Before that, in 2015, he led a potent rushing attack in Georgia with a young Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. He also oversaw a few decent years of Sam Bradford’s development in St. Louis as the offensive coordinator. Schottenheimer isn’t the ideal choice, but he has rapport with Luck and that may be enough to create a cooperative and fruitful bond.
Wade Wilson, former QB Coach, Dallas Cowboys
Wilson was fired by the Cowboys at the end of the season after they missed the playoffs. This is after 10 years of cultivating an environment where an undrafted player, Tony Romo, and a 4th-round pick, Dak Prescott, could prosper in. At age 58, Wilson is the oldest of the bunch, but that kind of resume is hard to pass up. If the Colts decide to hire a young offensive mind for their head coaching vacancy, a vet like Wilson might be the best choice for the coordinator role.
Peyton Manning, OG, Indianapolis Colt for life
Ok, this one isn’t happening, but wouldn’t it be cool to see Luck and Peyton on the sidelines together? I think so.
Finally, a dark horse head coaching candidate:
Matt LaFleur, Offensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
I know he hasn’t been calling the plays in Los Angeles, but that’s what makes him an underdog candidate. Beyond being the offensive coordinator for the highest-scoring offense in the NFL in 2017, he was the quarterbacks coach under Kyle Shanahan during Matt Ryan’s MVP season and he was the QB coach at the beginning of Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins’ careers. He’s coached a MVP, a rookie of the year and he’s got the endorsement of the two greatest offensive minds in football, Sean McVay and Shanahan. LaFleur is going to be the next hot head coaching candidate, so why not jump the gun by a few years and give him a chance to right the ship in Indianapolis? This is clearly a dicey move, but so was simply interviewing Matt Rhule, so why not?
Two weeks in, here is a primer on the coaching carousel:— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 13, 2018
— #Colts cut their list to 2 finalists
— #Lions still have #Patriots DC Matt Patricia in their reach
— #Giants haven’t eliminated candidates
— #AZCardinals will bring back finalists https://t.co/eUycm9Dx3v
Coaching news: #Texans DC Mike Vrabel is still in the mix for two jobs; Josh McDaniels and the #Colts seem to be a match; A #Vikings loss could cause the #Giants to jump at OC Pat Shurmur; #Steelers coach Mike Munchak is a darkhorse for #AZCardinals https://t.co/eUycm9Dx3v— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 13, 2018