The coaching staff situation has been the single biggest story of the Colts’ offseason.
There has been a huge transition, with Jim Caldwell taking over for Tony Dungy, along with the retiring of offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd after a combined 75 years of NFL coaching experience. Both arrived in 1998, as did Peyton Manning, meaning he will be playing under only the second offensive coordinator of his career.
Scary to think about. However, with Manning being one of the best coaches on the field of any player around, the transition should go well.
As I wrote about a few days ago, much of the playcalling has been left up to Manning anyway. Clyde Christensen moves into the offensive coordinator role, which was part of the succession plan the Colts have had in place in anticipation of Moore’s retirement. Christensen has been the WR coach for seven years and knows the Colts' system very well; there’s no reason to think he won’t make a seamless transition to his new role, especially with a seasoned mind like Manning running the offense.
Jim Caldwell should also figure into the playcalling as well with his background as a WR coach, but I expect many of the decisions will be left up to Manning, especially because he runs the no-huddle a high percentage of the time.
As for the offensive line, a succession plan has been in place as well. Pete Metzelaars has been on the staff for five years working directly under Mudd, so his transition could go effortlessly as well. I expect business as usual with these moves.
On the offense, the bottom line is that Peyton will be very free to do what he wants. The defense is not so clear-cut.
The loss of Dungy will be felt in a big way. He molded the Colts defense in his image; they went from an atrocity that could not stop anyone under Jim Mora to a fast unit that smothered QBs if they dragged their feet and made the opposition’s passing game virtually non-existent much of the time.
Dungy left without a true successor to take his place at the D-coordinator position after Ron Meeks was let go, and Larry Coyer was brought in from Denver. I expect he will run a more aggressive defense, as evidenced by the fact that the Colts blitzed about as much as John Madden flew.
The linebacker position might be emphasized more, as guys like Ian Gold, Al Wilson, and D.J. Williams rose to positions of prominence under Coyer in Denver. Philip Wheeler and Clint Sessions might have breakout seasons under Coyer as they could be allowed more freedom as playmakers.
However, the defense is hard to handicap this early in the offseason with all of the shuffling in the staff. There’s no real pattern to look from. Coyer most likely will emphasize the same main principles that Dungy’s defense was founded upon because that’s the personnel in place at the moment, but some shifting wouldn’t surprise me. It will be interesting to see how much leeway Caldwell gives Coyer. This is a developing story.