Which Coach Can Help Andrew Luck Save the Colts?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 1, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 17:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on from the sideline against the Arizona Cardinals at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Black Monday in the NFL is already upon us, and it isn't even Monday. After the firings of Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis and Jack Del Rio in Oakland, it's possible we've only seen the beginning of a bloodbath in the coming days as a record number of NFL head coaches may be fired or retire.

That promises to leave a lot of openings, but the one some coaches believe is a step above the rest is the position now open in Indianapolis.

Why?

Two words: Andrew Luck.

With Sunday's announcement that Pagano and the Colts parted ways after six seasons, the question became who can save Luck and the Colts?

One of the potential candidates told me weeks ago he thought the Colts job is one of the best in football because of their injured three-time Pro Bowl quarterback. He added that the Colts have some offensive weapons around Luck and it likely wouldn't take too much to rebuild their offensive line (a necessity, as Luck was sacked 41 times last season). Luck could also be re-engineered to commit fewer turnovers. He had 16, 12 and 13 interceptions, respectively, from 2014-16, and about a cabillion fumbles.

Others with whom B/R spoke shared a similar overall belief: that the franchise could be fixed with the right head coach and it wouldn't actually take all that much to do so.

League sources believe there are only four or five serious candidates for the job.

But there's a wild-card element to the Colts' search, and it's owner Jim Irsay. What essentially makes sense to normal humans doesn't always to Irsay. In Irsay's world, up is sometimes down, and down is Black Mirror. He may allow general manager Chris Ballard to hire who he wants, but maybe he won't.

Colts owner Jim Irsay
Colts owner Jim IrsayMichael Conroy/Associated Press

So while league officials believe there's no way the team should hire a defensive-oriented head coach (like Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz), remember Irsay is the owner and conventional wisdom may not apply.

Still, someone will get the job. Here are the candidates the money is on at this early time, presented from most to least likely:

   

Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator: He was the head coach in Denver at age 33, but he struggled there. The McDaniels of today is far different: He's smarter, more experienced, more skilled in getting the nuances of a locker room, and he's gained even more experience under the best coach to ever do it in Bill Belichick.

McDaniels could have coached the 49ers this year but withdrew his name. I don't believe that will happen again, and I think the odds of him ending up in Indianapolis are far from small.

With Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator, Tom Brady led the NFL in passing yards and threw 32 touchdowns and only eight interceptions this season.
With Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator, Tom Brady led the NFL in passing yards and threw 32 touchdowns and only eight interceptions this season.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The question with McDaniels is how much of his success is because of a guy named Tom Brady and how much success can McDaniels engineer on his own?

   

Frank Reich, Eagles offensive coordinator: If McDaniels is the hottest coaching candidate this year, Reich is second. One general manager called Reich "the co-brains of that offense" along with head coach Doug Pederson.

Reich is superb in his ability to design offenses and plays that suit the quarterback and not force that quarterback into schemes that don't fit him.

   

Tom Cable, Seahawks offensive line coach: Mike Silver of the NFL Network was the first to report that Cable was a candidate for the Indianapolis job. I've heard the same thing.

It's a strange thing, to me, to hire the offensive line coach from a team whose quarterback is always scrambling for his life because of poor line play.

Yet around the league, Cable is seen as a guy who can salvage a situation that could be even worse. That's, um, debatable.

   

Todd Haley, Steelers offensive coordinator: Like McDaniels, Haley coaches an abundance of talent, and also like McDaniels, Haley has been penalized for doing that. While he's had some battles with Ben Roethlisberger, Haley is well-respected across the league.

There are others, a group that is sure to include the "surprise candidate." We'll also hear rumors about Nick Saban or Urban Meyer. Nope and nope. They're unlikely to leave college. Same with Stanford's David Shaw.

Indianapolis will be a hot destination this offseason. Maybe the hottest.

And that should warm Andrew Luck's heart.

   

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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