When you think of your favorite football team’s coaching staff, the head coach, the offensive coordinator, and the defensive coordinator are probably the people that come to mind, and if you're lucky, you can even name one or two of them.
But these guys are the three coaches that everyone else on the team takes their cues from (players and lower level coaches alike). They are the tripod that keeps the structure steady, and if any of these start to get shaky then a team could be in for trouble.
We’ll certainly have a chance to test this theory early on in the Colts 2009 season (perhaps even before the season begins).
The Colts enter the 2009 NFL season with new faces at all three positions, something that the players and Colts organization has not had to deal with for the past decade.
So it is somewhat uncertain how things will shake out and according to Peyton Manning’s recent media comments, it’s not going so smoothly thus far.
So let’s take a look at these guys and see if they have what it takes to fill the shoes of the giants of Colts past (Tony Dungy, Tom Moore, and Ron Meeks).
Name: Jim Caldwell
Home Town: Beloit, Wisc.
Years Coaching in the NFL: 9 years
Years with Colts: 7 Years (Entering 8)
Iowa 1977; Southern Illinois 1978-80; Northwestern 1981; Colorado 1982-84; Louisville 1985; Penn State 1986-92; Wake Forest (head coach) 1993-00; Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2001; Indianapolis Colts 2002-present.
Offensive or Defensive type of coach:
Caldwell has spent the entirety of his NFL career as a quarterbacks coach until being appointed to Assistant Head Coach and named the successor of Tony Dungy as Indianapolis Head coach.
He is an offensive-minded coach who has been very successful in building high-powered and balanced offensive attacks at the collegiate and professional level.
Although Jim Caldwell spent his college player years as a defensive back at Iowa, Caldwell has spent his coaching career on the offensive side of things. He has worked with Peyton Manning as the quarterbacks coach and has been successful at Tampa Bay and in the collegiate ranks building high power offenses.
With Peyton Manning running his offense and Caldwell being a quarterbacks coach the majority of his career, look for Coach Caldwell to try and break some records in passing attempts this year.
Jim Caldwell has been with the Colts for the past seven years now, which means he has already developed a rapport with the players, coaches, and organizational staff. He’s familiar with the offense, and he’s been Tony Dungy’s understudy for the past year, as he was named the successor to the head coaching position.
He takes the helm of one of the most exciting offensive units in football which includes one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, at least one Pro Bowl wide receiver, two great running backs, and an offensive line that is smart and powerful. Not even Matt Millen could mess this up (right?).
When Tony Dungy took over for the Colts, he didn’t have to make any changes to the offense or its coaching staff. This year, Caldwell will have a new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach that will have to live up to high expectations.
Perhaps Caldwell’s primary role will be maintaining communications with the offensive staff and players to make sure everything is up to par, and that Peyton Manning is happy. After all, he has spent the majority of his career doing just that.
Name: Clyde Christensen
Home Town: Covina, Calif.
Years Coaching in the NFL: 13 Years
Years with Colts: 8 Years
Mississippi 1979; East Tennessee State 1980-82; Temple 1983-85; East Carolina 1986-88; Holy Cross 1989-90; South Carolina 1991; Maryland 1992-93; Clemson 1994-95; Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1996-2001; Indianapolis Colts 2002-present.
Offensive or Defensive type of coach:
Christensen has spent his entire coaching career on the offensive side of the ball and has experience coaching in practically every skills position (QB, RB, WR, & TE) over a span of 13 years. He has also spent time as offensive coordinator in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
The pieces to this puzzle are already in place. Christensen is an offensive coach that knows how to air it out and is smart enough to know who his quarterback is and what he is capable of. He’ll continue with Tom Moore’s play book, but might also turn to the tandem running game with Addai and Brown a few times this year.
Christenson has been with the Colts offense for several years now as a receivers coach and assistant offensive coodinator's coach so the transition shouldn’t be that difficult. There’s no indication that the Colts plan to change the playbook and often times it is Manning that actually calls the plays, so there is no reason to believe that the offense should take a hit. The Colts will be explosive this year.
The hardest part about this job might be taking a back seat to Peyton Manning. Peyton has grown accustom to having a ton of input and calling his own plays.
Most coaches I know like to be the ones in charge and are usually in the position they are in because they think they know what is best. How Christensen handles this type of situation remains to be seen.
On a side note: If Manning goes down for the year with an injury or doesn’t take kindly to Christensen's style of coaching…this could be his first and only year as the Colts offensive Coordinator.
Name: Larry Coyer
Home Town: Huntington, W.Va.
Years Coaching in the NFL: 11 years
Marshall 1965-67; Bowling Green 1968-73; Iowa 1974-77; Oklahoma State 1978; Iowa State 1979-82; Michigan Panthers 1983-84; Memphis Showboats 1985; UCLA 1987-89; Houston 1990; Ohio State 1991-92; East Carolina 1993; New York Jets 1994; Iowa State 1995-96; Pittsburgh 1997-99; Denver Broncos 2000-06; Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2007-08; Indianapolis Colts 2009-present.
Offensive or Defensive type of coach:
Coyer has been on the defensive side of the ball for 45 years, coaching at the collegiate and professional levels. He most recently incorporated the Tampa-2 defense (also referred to as the Cover-2) which is the same defense that Tony Dungy installed in Indianapolis.
Coyer also coached the defensive line for the Tampa Bay Bucs and is a fan of blitzing the quarterback. This should work well with a Colts D-line that is known for it’s quick defensive ends of Freeney and Mathis.
Coyer will most likely stay with the Tampa-2 defense and bring the blitz often, just as Tony Dungy has set it up in Indianapolis already. Coyer appears to be a fan of Dungy’s teachings and it has worked for him in the past.
One of the greatest things about being a defensive coach this year is that there were very little changes in the players' roster.
The key players on defense have all been signed to long term deals and the Colts were able to draft some run stopping defensive tackles this year that should increase the output of the defensive unit.
The Colts have long been known for having a poor defense but in recent years, that trend has changed. If the Colts take too much of a dip in production, the Colts organization may look elsewhere next year for a new defensive coach.
Other Notable Coaching Concerns:
Offensive Line Coach:
Howard Mudd also resigned this year, leaving the Colts to fill yet another critical coaching spot. They have done so by promoting Pete Metzelaars from the offensive quality control/assistant offensive line coaching position into the Offensive Line Coach.
Because he has already been working with the Colts in this aspect, not much is expected to change in the production of the line.
Two new offensive coaches have received interim positions to fill the spots left open by Christensen and Metzelaars when they were promoted to the Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line coaches.
The receivers coaching position has been filled by Ron Johnson and the Assistant offensive line coaching position has been filled by Frank Winter.
So far, communications have not been working well with coaching staff and Peyton Manning recently commented on the situation and expressed his dissatisfaction with the organization and the coaches.
Specifically calling out the interim coaches saying that they were “Learning how to coach… while they are trying to coach.”
Look for those interim coaches to be replaced before training camp, if not sooner, and for Head Coach Jim Caldwell to quickly resolve any communication problems within the organization.
All in all, the Colts have quite a few new faces in their coaching staff, but many have been with the organization for years. The overall playbook (on both sides of the ball) should stay relatively the same.
Look for the Colts coaching staff to get their act together and be ready for training camp.