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Grading Steichen: First season recap

Here we are at the end, evaluating the first year of the new Colts’ head-coach

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Colts’ first year head-coach finished his debut season 9-8, a winning record, which taking into account the amount of setbacks that the team suffered and how they did last year is nothing short of impressive. One could also argue that if Minshew throws a better ball and Tyler Goodson catches it on 4th down, the Colts are now getting ready to host the Browns for the Wild Card game, but it is no used crying over spilled milk.

Offense

Scoring 11th / Passing 20th / Rushing 10th / Turnovers 16th

The offense was the unit that suffered the most incoveniences this year, starting off with All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor holding out for the first four games because of a contract dispute with the franchise, and on his first game back starting quarterback Anthony Richardson suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him the rest of the season. Further on, starting right tackle Braden Smith missed several games, #1 tight end Jelani Woods did not play a single game because of harmstring issues, and Taylor missed some games later because of a thumb injury. Keep in mind that this was already a thin unit, so how Steichen kept the offense running with so little material at his disposal is impressive.

Steichen had to adapt the gameplan from one of the most athletic quarterbacks, to Gardner Minshew, and he did so wonderfully. Taking into account Minshew’s evident limitations, he engineered the offense around his strengths, and kept things relatively simple for him, running a lot of RPO, and not asking too much of his backup quarterback. The gameplan relied on #1 wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who got over 25% of the target share, and running the ball with Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss. The running game was inconsistent, especially over the final stretch of the year, with complete duds against the Falcons and Bengals, but also dominant performances against the Steelers and Texans.

Overall I think Steichen showed something Reich could never in all his years as the Colts’ head-coach, and something I really value: adaptability. I cannot wait to see what he has in store with another offseason with Anthony Richardson, no contract drama and holdouts for JT, and Jelani Woods back with the team.

Defense / Special Teams

Scoring 28th / Passing 16th / Rushing 24th / Takeaways 16th

The defense is a weird case to judge, as they were mostly disappointing throughout the year, and were clearly missing talent both in the secondary and the linebacker core. I would even argue that even though they broke the team’s franchise record in sacks, the pass-rushing department was lacking. Colts ranked 22nd in pressure rate, and Bradley was clearly reticent at blitzing the quarterback probably because of fear at leaving the secondary too exposed.

The lack of talent, along with the releasing because of underperformance from Shaq Leonard, the suspension of Grover Stewart, and the absurd amount of injuries/suspensions at cornerback, meant that this was already a handicapped unit, and Bradley is not a defensive coordinator I would highlight from getting the most out of players. He is mostly a conservative DC, adept at limiting the big play, but sometimes being too conservative. The Colts finished near the bottom of the NFL in scoring defense, and are clearly needing reinforcements in several positions.

As for special teams, I don’t think this was a great year for Brian Mason, and that four game stretch with crucial mistakes is concerning.

Overall

I am definitely happy with how Steichen’s first year went, and think he was one play away from being the potential COTY. The Colts offense should of course be better next year with a healthy Anthony Richardson and a happy Jonathan Taylor, and I honestly would not mind a different DC, even though I don’t think Bradley is bad at his job.