The Indianapolis Colts had their man — or so they thought. The hiring of Josh McDaniels was all but set in stone. They made the announcement, scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, and even sent out a notice to season ticket holders. By all accounts, hiring McDaniels was a done deal for weeks, and it was only after the New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl that the team could make it official.
Needless to say, the team was blindsided by McDaniels changing his mind and staying in New England. This shocking decision has pretty big reverberations from multiple angles. For starters, the Colts’ coaching search is back at square one, with free agency and the draft scouting process just a few weeks away. By this point, most teams are breaking down tape and analyzing roster needs, not looking for a new head coach altogether. It puts the Colts behind the eight ball on their offseason evaluation.
Colts GM Chris Ballard held a press conference on Wednesday, and told reporters, “We were disappointed, unquestionably we were disappointed and surprised. We had agreed to contract terms, we had an agreement in place. We followed all the rules, did everything right. two interviews, both of them went very well.”
McDaniels and Ballard had the same agent, Bob Lamonte up until Wednesday, when Lamonte ended his relationship with McDaniels over the indecision, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
He said McDaniels called him in the evening in what was a very short phone conversation. He added that the team has a list of candidates, and they will “get the right leader for the Indianapolis Colts.” He also declared the rivalry back on with the Patriots.
This also leaves the assistant coaches in a lurch. McDaniels already assembled a staff in Indy, most notably defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, before backing out on the Colts. Now the team has a handful of new assistants who don’t know who their head coaches are, and the new coach will have a staff he didn’t hire. Considering how many head coaches prefer to hire hand-picked assistants, this really narrows down the pool of potential candidates the Colts can pursue this late in the game.
While McDaniels’ motives aren’t completely known right now, we can stab at a few theories. Perhaps the Patriots offered to make him Bill Belichick’s heir apparent. Maybe the situation wasn’t right for his family. And while admittedly a stretch, it’s possible he looked into the prognosis of Andrew Luck — whose shoulder remains a major question mark at this point — and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.
Whatever the case, here’s what we know for sure — the Colts need a head coach, and they don’t have much time to find one before the offseason really gets going. But, hey, given McDaniels’ notorious personality clashes in the past, maybe general manager Chris Ballard can turn lemons into lemonade here. Here’s Stampede Blue, SB Nation’s Colts blog, on the situation:
His decision today flew in the face of the entire city of Indianapolis and Colts fans around the world. His decision stabbed his future coaching staff in the back.
His decision left an entire NFL franchise “out to dry” after dragging the process out for weeks. To make matters worse, he lacks integrity because he agreed to the terms of the Colts’ contract offer only to back out when the entire city and franchise welcomed him.
This is not the kind of man fans in Indianapolis want representing their team or their city. It is best the team moves on to find someone else who will lead with the kind of ethical compass and integrity that reflects the fabric of the city of Indianapolis and is compatible with the blue blood that runs through the entire Colts fan base.
Pro Football Talk reports the Colts already have three names they plan to interview over the next day or two. Let’s take a quick look at coaching candidates who might be a logical fit.
Dave Toub, Kansas City Chiefs special teams coach
Toub’s name seems to come up in coaching carousels every year, given the Chiefs’ strong special teams play under his watch. But special teams coaches rarely get a chance to jump to head coach, even after John Harbaugh’s success in Baltimore. Still, Toub is someone worth keeping an eye on.
Frank Reich, Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator
Working closely with Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and Doug Pederson, Reich did a great job building the offense around Nick Foles on the fly. He has coordinator experience with the San Diego Chargers and even worked for the Colts before, serving as QBs coach in 2009-10. It’s not a huge surprise Reich already has an interviewed lined up with the Colts.
John DeFilippo, Eagles QBs coach
The Eagles’ coaching staff is the toast of town after outfoxing Belichick and the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. DeFilippo got a lot of credit for developing Carson Wentz, and later coaching up Foles in the Eagles’ playoff run. A rising star in the coaching ranks, he’s interviewed with the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears, while the Minnesota Vikings are pursuing him as offensive coordinator. The one kink in negotiations is he can’t interview with the Colts until his contract expires Feb. 14, and if the Vikings have zeroed in on him, the Colts will probably have to look elsewhere.
For now, the Colts have requested to interview him ... for their OC job.
Dan Campbell, Saints assistant head coach/TEs coach
Campbell has experience as a head coach: He took over the Dolphins on an interim basis when they fired Joe Philbin in 2015. Campbell went 5-7, but Miami hired Adam Gase that offseason. Then Campbell, who played 10 seasons in the NFL as a tight end, was hired by the Saints. He’s spent the past two season as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach in a typically successful New Orleans offense, but didn’t receive much attention during hiring season. Still, the 41-year-old has an interview set up with the Colts.
Matt Rhule, Baylor head coach
Rhule interviewed with the Colts in early January before pulling his name from the search, back when everybody assumed McDaniels was taking the job. Now that it’s open again, maybe Indy takes another look, though it’ll be hard to hire a college coach at this point of the year with recruiting season wrapping up.
A wild Jeff Fisher appears!
We can never rule it out.