What If Jim Caldwell Is a Bust? Who should the Colts Replace Him With?

Justin JavanCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2009

I was reading an article on nfl.com about how Mike Shanahan wants to coach again in 2010. It got me thinking about who I would want to coach the Colts if Jim Caldwell turns out to be a failure.

Here is the premise for this article: The Colts go 3-13 because of Caldwell. Polian and Irsay determine that they need a new coach.

I'm going to play general manager here—I want an experienced coach, who has a winning record in the NFL, and preferably one who has won a Super Bowl.

I have comprised my list of coaches that are available—in other words, men who are not coaching a team right now.

Regrettably, I forgot about Brian Billick and left him off the list.

So here are my list of candidates: 1. Bill Cowher  2. Mike Holmgren 3. Jon Gruden 4. Mike Shanahan 5. Marty Schottenheimer 6. Bill Parcells

Bill Cowher

Wow, what a coach. His record as a head coach including playoff games stands at 161-99-1.

Cowher won eight Division titles, 10 postseason playoff berths, played in 21 playoff games, went to six AFC Championship games, made two Super Bowl appearances, and won one Super Bowl.

Bill Cowher is one of my all-time favorite coaches. I watched the Pittsburgh Steelers play because of him. Whether the game was in the regular season or the playoffs, you knew it was going to be a good one because of him.

I love Cowher’s coaching philosophy: play great defense, get a lead, then run the ball down the other teams throat.

My Take: Cowher would be a terrible choice as head coach for the Colts. Why? Cowher’s coaching philosophy doesn’t match the Colts.

First off, Cowher likes to run a 3-4 defense. The Colts secondary would be great for the zone blitz scheme Cowher would likely deploy. However, the requirements of a front seven (which are so important in a 3-4 defense) don’t match the players the Colts have.

Second, can you imagine telling Peyton Manning that he’s only going to throw the ball 15 times a game? Cowher believes in a power run offense.

The Colts run the ace formation, which is a version of the spread offense. They are a vertical passing team first, with a little bit of the West Coast offense mixed in. With the exception of last year, the Colts' mix of run/pass is about 55 percent pass to 45 percent run.

When they do run, they like to use a single back and run stretch plays, counters, draws, and traps. You hardly ever see them in the I-formation, and when you do it’s the offset-I, usually with a DT playing the role of fullback.

This is not Cowher football, so as you can see, Cowher is not a good match for the Colts. It would take him years to re-create the team. Bill Polian wouldn’t hire him and neither would I.

Mike Holmgren

Okay—I'm only going to go into great deal about a coach if I am a big fan of him. I am ambivalent about Holmgren, so here is my quick take.

Holmgren has a great record as a head coach. He turned the Green Bay Packers around, took them to two Super Bowls, and won one of them. He also was one of the few coaches that could control Bret Favre.

He moved on to the Seattle Seahawks, made the brilliant move of bringing Matt Hasselbeck with him, and turned that franchise around.

When Holmgren was hired with the Seahawks, he was general manager and head coach. He was terminated in 2002 as general manager, but kept as head coach.

Holmgren was definitely a better coach than a GM. He took the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history and turned Hasselbeck and Shawn Alexander into Pro Bowlers.

My Take: Despite all of this, Holmgren doesn’t excite me. He runs the West Coast offense—very well, I might add—but this isn’t what the Colts are about. Again, you have the problem of a coach that would want to change what the team is built to do.

Plus he loses his temper with his QB’s. Can you imagine a coach yelling at Manning after a three-and-out series? I mean, it would make for a great YouTube video, but not a successful team.

Jon Gruden

I have respect for Gruden because of what he did for the Oakland Raiders. Despite constant interference by Al Davis, he took a franchise that wallowed in mediocrity for years into a Super Bowl contender. Make no mistake, the team that Bill Callahan took to the Super Bowl was Gruden’s team running Gruden’s offense.

In 2002, Al Davis traded Gruden to the Bucs because Davis is a lunatic (in my humble opinion).

In one of the oddest Super Bowls in my memory, Gruden took over the Bucs from Tony Dungy, brought some fresh ideas on offense, and took them to the Super Bowl, and beat the snot out of the Raiders. Talk about poetic justice.

The Raiders haven't had a winning season since that Super Bowl loss.

My Take: I have mixed feeling about Gruden. Anyone who can work for Davis and be successful is one hell of a coach. However, his record in Tampa is mixed, he likes the West Coast offense, and I don’t think he treats his players very well. Pass.

Bill Parcells

In my opinion, Parcells is one of the greatest minds in football today. He understands the game like no one else, and has turned around every franchise he has coached for. Oh, and he's won two Super Bowls along the way.

What he's done with the Miami Dolphins is amazing. He's another one of my favorite coaches. I really recommend reading about him.

My Take: Parcells doesn’t want to coach anymore. There's no way his ego and Pollian's ego would fit in the same room. His coaching philosophy is very similar to Cowher, except Parcells is the master. Not a good match for the Colts.

Plus, the Colts don’t need a guy that likes to mess with his player's psyches. They are already winners.

There is a reason I went out of order and left the last two coaches...last.

I think either of these guys would be really successful and would take the Colts to another Super Bowl.


Marty Schottenheimer

I love Schottenheimer. I have followed him since I was a little kid.

He has an incredible winning record of 205-139-1. He hasn’t been as fortunate in the postseason, only going 5-13.

That’s really the only knock against him. The most important quality that Schottenheimer has is that intangible thing which can’t be learned...he inspires his players, and they love to play for him. They will do anything for him.

My Take: If Schottenheimer could be coaxed out of retirement—and believe me, taking over the Colts would be awfully tempting—I think he would win his first Super Bowl, guaranteeing him a spot in Canton.

He is smart enough to know that you don’t fix what isn't broken. I think he would leave the coaching staff in place and be able to get along with Polian.

What he would bring to the table is the ability to inspire his players. With all of the Colts' talent, he could even win a couple of Super Bowls.

Alas, after speaking with him several times on Sirius NFL Radio, I don’t think anything will get him out of retirement.

What a shame!


Mike Shanahan

I have left Shanahan for last, so you obviously know what I am going to say. I would take Shanahan as coach of the Colts in a heartbeat.

He is an offensive guru. He has won two Super Bowls, and there is not another coach I know of that has perfected the zone blocking scheme, that for years no matter who the running back was they were going to put up big yards.

I think Shanahan would love to work with Manning. I think the two of them could come up with some new tweaks to the offense that might have Manning re-taking the title for most TD’s thrown in a season.

I guarantee you, the Colts' running game would be spectacular and Joe Addai would be going to some more Pro Bowls.

Plus, Shanahan would be re-united with Larry Coyer. I think Shanahan understands it was a mistake firing him. I’m sure if there is any bad blood there it would be cleared up.

This means that the Colts would be scary good on both sides of the ball.

The Colts would be a juggernaut under Shanahan. He would be the first head coach in NFL history to take two different franchises to at least one Super Bowl and win it.

So there it is, my fantasy pick for the Colts' head coach is Mike Shanahan.

What’s yours?

Since I forgot to put Brian Billick on here let me say a few words. Billick is an offensive genius, and a great coach.

I would still go with Shanahan, but it would be close.



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