Before we start, let’s be honest, is there anything better than trying to figure out who the Indianapolis Colts next head coach will be? There’s very little — outside of a top-3 draft pick of course — that could be more exciting for a fan base who seeks that next great leader to milk the most out of their current roster and to add the key pieces to create long-term success.
Now that we’ve gotten our giddiness out of the way, let’s talk about what Colts GM Chris Ballard is looking for in his first head coaching hire.
What do we know about Ballard? Well, we know his story about how he came up in the business, his affinity with scouting players and uncanny ability to discern between risk and reward with each individual player. We also understand that he comes off extremely honest, he doesn’t want any misunderstandings about what he conveys whether it be in public or behind closed doors.
He’s fair, so much so that his competition mantra is convincing despite the fact that every other team in the league aspires to create the same environment. Colts fans literally heard that word every 45 minutes throughout Ballard’s first couple months in the big chair and saw actions that granted credibility to it.
So, what is a guy like Ballard looking for in the next man to lead the Colts roster to bigger and better places than they’ve been in over a decade? Well, let’s just call a spade a spade and say that he wants his head coach to be... like him. How so? Relentlessly prepared, a man with a plan for anything and everything — including instances that he should not be expecting to deal with.
Without repeating what has already been stated elsewhere, Zak Keefer’s tweet below says it all.
One thing to know as this process starts: Chris Ballard has been preparing for this search for years. He showed Irsay an inches-thick binder during the interview last year, w/ a chapter included on what he’s looking for in a head coach and how the process should unfold.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) January 1, 2018
This exemplifies Chris Ballard and is exactly he is looking for in the next leader to take the into battle. He wants a coach who is prepared to be active in the war room with him dissecting each and every draft target, who is definitive in his convictions, but who also has the flexibility to pivot and re-design his approach when appropriate.
Ballard wants his coach to come in with his own ‘binder’ so to speak. To blow him away in the interview, to sell his respective methodology yet, to meld all of the above with Ballard’s vision without losing any of what makes the new coach unique. He is looking for a player developer, a leader, and someone who has his supporting cast already picked out — and has for some time now... who demonstrates thorough preparation.
Many will say that Josh McDaniels fits that mold. The young, brilliant offensive mind who can theoretically take a generational talent in Andrew Luck and pull out every ounce of his potential. He’s actually put a staff together from his first go-round as head coach in Denver and has had time to learn from any mistakes that he made with that experience.
But, will he and Ballard have the chemistry that Ballard wants to have with his coach? I truly believe that that may be the only piece of the puzzle that could leave McDaniels in second place to anyone currently on the Colts docket to be interviewed.
Also fitting that mold would be Dave Toub who may be a little bit older than others who are likely to be interviewed but if you’ve ever seen him in action you can’t miss the energy emitting from his pores. He roams the sideline as if he’s the head coach, fine-tuning each aspect of his perennial top-10 special teams units, reportedly the epitome of a ‘leader of men’ — not to mention a massive history with Ballard from their days in Kansas City and Chicago.
Matt Nagy can’t be overlooked. We don’t know a lot about him, but he also has a familiarity with Ballard. He’s been groomed by Andy Reid throughout his tenures in Philadelphia and Kansas City and has taken over the play calling for the Chiefs FROM Andy Reid which should honestly tell any of us all we need to know about how much his decision-making is respected internally.
The last guy to do that was someone named Doug Pederson. He’s now coaching the No. 1 seed in the NFC, so it’s fair to say that worked out pretty well. Not to mention, Nagy has been on the fast track up the ranks going from coaching intern in 2008, to OC and having the playbook handed to him in less than 10 years. That’s impressive.
Something else that has to keep us all intrigued is a guy like Kris Richard who is the defensive coordinator in Seattle. Again, we don’t know a ton about Richard who was drafted only 15 years ago, and like Nagy, isn’t 40 years old yet and has risen to his current platform in less than a decade of coaching.
If you add in Ed Dodds and the trust factor that he has earned with Ballard as well as some of the players who have come from the Seahawks’ system — assuming that Dodds has had Ballard’s ear to this point with those moves — maybe Richard is the young stud who can come in and shock the league with his knowledge and leadership.
For me, the excitement in this coaching search is palpable. Certain choices will be praised and criticized equally among the Colts faithful simply because some will complain no matter the decision but remember, whoever gets the job deserves some level of patience. It will require that fans trust in the process that Ballard and his supporting cast have put together in order to make a final decision from an exciting group of candidates — the same kind of trust Ballard will need to show his new coach when he arrives.