There are no shortages of questions from Indianapolis Colts fans when it comes to what will happen with the team’s head coach vacancy. Nearly everything in terms of filling out the staff, establishing targets for players who fit systems and getting on the same page in terms of draft preferences has to wait for that domino to fall first.
To say that the process has been a little strange to this point would be accurate, but a lot of that outlook hinges on what we know versus what is actually happening behind closed doors. One of the Colts targets for the job has already accepted the offer to become the next head coach of the Chicago Bears, but everything else has been processing at a snail’s pace.
With that there are a few questions that I continue to ask myself, about the coach hunt for the Colts, that we’ll likely all know in time.
What’s with the lack of Dave Toub interest around the league?
Nearly in the same breath of Chris Ballard being named the Colts next GM, the connections were made with Dave Toub likely being his favorite to replace Chuck Pagano who would surely be fired at season’s end. Those assumptions have become almost a certainty not just locally, but nationally as well.
Recently we saw an article about Toub by Conor Orr of MMQB, and we’ve seen some quotes about how well Toub is regarded in football circles as well.
Those who know Dave Toub hope that NFL owners will see that he’s a true football guy, a head coach decades in the making (by @ConorOrr) https://t.co/TqgHrhC7OM pic.twitter.com/A9G8zkseFM— The MMQB (@theMMQB) January 6, 2018
However, I don’t think we’ve heard a single thing about him accepting an interview for any of the current openings, let alone the Colts job. This strikes me as strange. If he’s so highly respected, then why aren’t any of the teams requesting him for an interview? Are NFL owners so out on a ‘special teams’ guy that they won’t even interview him? Are we somehow looking at a generational group of candidates right now? I don’t think so.
I mean, he’s already interviewed with the Dolphins back in 2012, the Bears following the firing of Lovie Smith in early 2013, but moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs and reportedly became the highest paid STC in the league. He also interviewed as recently as last season with the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos.
So, why aren’t we hearing anything — like, at all?
In the end, I think that it’s just as likely that some owners are looking for someone to specialize on one side of the ball or the other — and don’t find a STC to be all that sexy of a hire — as it is that he is getting interest, has been contacted for an interview and possibly has one already set up and it’s simply not getting reported.
Is the Colts job less attractive than previously perceived?
As I mentioned above, one of the Colts candidates has already accepted a job. Former Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy, was scooped up by the Bears which obviously takes one of their options off of the table. There was a report stating that the Colts were “all in” on Nagy, and the Bears swooped in to steal him of sorts.
Source tells me the Indianapolis Colts were all in on hiring Matt Nagy. Uncertainty on health of Andrew Luck vs Mitchell Trubisky + Nagy’s belief the Bears roster is much better made decision for him. “Pace landed him by convincing him sunny days are ahead for the Bears.”— David Kaplan (@thekapman) January 9, 2018
This was played down a little by Nagy in his introductory interview for as the Bears’ head coach describing it just as ‘a feel’ when referring to how he came to a decision. His statement included “it’s no slight to Indianapolis, they have a great team, great things are going to happen” which makes me feels as though it’s quite possible the Colts were ready to offer Nagy the job.
It does seem like an awkward way for Ballard to go completely against his own process of interviewing everyone, talking about everything with owner Jim Irsay and then coming to a decision. But, on the other end of that, Nagy suggested that he had a feeling about the process with the Bears which could have simply been the Bears offered him the job, he liked what he heard from Ryan Pace and jumped on the opportunity to take the reins for a historic organization — I get that too.
But, Josh McDaniels had his interview, Kris Richard and Mike Vrabel have had theirs too (I just can’t see those two as the Colts choice) and Steve Wilks is set to meet with the Colts on Thursday.
Some reports make it appear that Wilks is a favorite for other teams, but that he’s preparing for more interviews:
The #Giants interview with #Panthers DC Steve Wilks has concluded. What happens next will be telling: Does he get on the plane to AZ? ✈️— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 9, 2018
There are also some that make him appear to be higher on some lists than others, but won’t commit to saying Wilks is a favorite.
From the FWIW department: Giants chairman Steve Tisch will sit on on today’s interview with Steve Wilks, sources say. It’s his first. Doesn’t necessarily mean Wilks is the favorite. But unlike other candidates, Wilks has a shot to wow all key parties today.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 9, 2018
So, if Wilks is a heavy target for a couple teams, McDaniels is a commodity that is very unknown at this point, and Nagy accepted a job elsewhere — is the Colts job with Andrew Luck and a highly respected GM in Ballard somehow further down the list than most of us have perceived it to be? With an owner who is loyal to his coaches almost to a fault, the golden arm expected to return next season and a roster clearly in the thick of shedding its skin from the Pagano era, I find this hard to believe.
Ballard said that if a guy is coming to, or chooses not to come to Indianapolis solely because of Luck’s health then he is “not the right guy,” but who else could the Colts be targeting if, for instance, Nagy WAS their guy, Wilks is gone, they don’t like Richard for the job and McDaniels isn’t interested?
Don’t totally flip out.
There are more candidates — good ones too — who they haven’t been reported to have reached out to yet. We still don’t know what’s up with Toub, and I think the fact that the Colts job is absolutely a top job available right now. But, are the right candidates?
Are Colts left with no choice but to land McDaniels now?
When dodging Toub tweets, the rest were national analysts proclaiming that they believed McDaniels was the odds on favorite to land with the Colts.
If I had to guess...— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 9, 2018
Giants: Steve Wilks
Lions: Matt Patricia
Colts: Josh McDaniels
Cardinals: No clue
The Colts are interviewing Josh McDaniels tonight. He is a very, very strong candidate there. Pairing him with Luck could be potent— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 4, 2018
Josh McDaniels now down to Indy or the Giants. Indy likelier. https://t.co/4ObITbSnSj— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) January 8, 2018
If the Colts were only truly interested in Nagy and McDaniels of the group they sent interviews for, and the rest are just filler, then does Ballard have to hire the Patriots’ offensive coordinator to have a chance to knock this hire out of the park? Maybe.
Guys around the league with excellent offensive minds are still available if that’s the side of the ball you’re hoping to pair Luck with at coach. Pat Shurmur would be a great hire in my humble opinion, but the Colts haven’t — publicly anyhow — shown any interest in him. John DeFelipo is out there right now too if the Colts are wanting someone with a bright offensive mind, along with some other defensive guys as well if they aren’t impressed with who they’ve already interviewed.
The one thing that is understood among everyone involved, including Colts fans, is that Ballard HAS to knock this hire out of the park. Not just to appease the fan base for a month or two with a popular name, rather with someone who is actually a quality head coach and can prove it early, often and over time.
My sense on this, is that Ballard does prefer to pair Luck with an offensive guy. He has — since the beginning of the process — viewed McDaniels as the best of the best in that regard and is in waiting to make it official whenever the Patriots season comes to an end. On the other hand, if McDaniels has already passed on the Colts job, or is simply waiting to weigh all of his options, Ballard is going to need a rock solid backup plan.
Backup plans aren’t sexy picks for head coaches either. Fans would drag it, and it would be a difficult start to the Ballard era.