The Indianapolis Colts have witnessed several missteps in the Chris Ballard era. However, even with a tumultuous few years, the fan base should rejoice that Shane Steichen is the team’s head coach. In the wake of the Josh McDaniels and Frank Reich firings, it’s clear Indy avoided disaster.
Shane Steichen Is A Breath Of Fresh Air For The Colts
Now, to be fair to Reich in particular, he wasn’t a terrible head coach with the Colts. In a stint marred by uncertainty at quarterback, the first-time coach kept the roster afloat, even logging a postseason berth with the corpse of Philip Rivers. But his schtick soon grew old as the blown leads continued piling up.
The Carson Wentz move, whomever you pin that decision on, was the first crack in the foundation. Although Reich wasn’t the only voice pining for Wentz, it’s fair to assume he was the leader in the clubhouse. The two had just created magic in Philadelphia a short time before the Colts acquired the former MVP candidate.
Even amidst a rocky ride, Indy controlled its own destiny toward a playoff berth that season before Wentz suffered an all-time collapse in the final weeks. While this miscalculation led some in the fan base to bash Reich, moving on from the former Charger and Eagle assistant wasn’t in the cards for Ballard and Co.
Instead, the front office pivoted to the polar opposite of Wentz — a statuesque pocket passer in Matt Ryan. The thought? Mirror what the Colts did with Rivers, using the steady leadership of Ryan to supplement an already stout roster. As we all know, this was the final straw in the Reich era.
The Colts, against all odds, sat at 3-2-1 through six weeks of the season. A playoff spot was still firmly within reach, but that is when the avalanche began. From the benching of Ryan to the firing of Reich to the hiring of Jeff Saturday — it was a mess of epic proportions.
From Josh McDaniels To Frank Reich, Indy Has Dodged Bullet After Bullet
Indy would end the season with a 4-12-1 record, with the lone victory in the final 12 weeks coming against the Raiders and Josh McDaniels. Truly a full circle moment, as McDaniels was the original choice to replace Chuck Pagano several years ago. The “offensive guru” famously accepted the Colts’ job before leaving them at the altar.
Following a hysterically bad tenure in Vegas, which lasted less than a season-and-a-half, McDaniels was fired on Halloween night in 2023. He is currently without a job, and the odds are against an NFL organization ever giving him the head-coaching keys again. That represents a bullet dodged by the Colts.
Going further, Reich landed on his feet after being fired by Indianapolis. He assumed the role of head coach with the Carolina Panthers and was thought of as the ideal option to groom a rookie quarterback. Alas, this proved to be wrong, as Reich and Bryce Young never gelled.
For a franchise that traded a haul to move up the draft board, all eggs went in the Reich-Young basket. Only 12 weeks into the 2023 campaign, Carolina hit the abort button. Reich received his pink slip, ironically joining McDaniels as the two head coaches fired during the season. That sound you hear is the entirety of Colts Nation breathing a sigh of relief.
As for The Shoe, whether it be by a stroke of luck or otherwise, the team found a much better option at head coach than Reich or McDaniels could ever provide. Shane Steichen, a first-time head coach in his own right, has taken the reins of a 4-12-1 roster and catapulted them into playoff contention — without his starting quarterback for nearly the entire season.
Just Wait Until Steichen Can Use 100 Percent Of The Playbook
The ability to win, even in spite of countless injuries, highlights what makes Steichen so special. The elite of the elite in the NFL can win games on any given Sunday, no matter how much the deck is stacked against them. With Steichen, that has never been more true. Just look at what this Gardner Minshew-led offense has been able to do.
The Colts rank in the top 10 for most points scored on the year, ahead of several teams with elite quarterbacks and infinitely better supporting casts. Even better, the team sits at 6-5 and would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. That’s without Anthony Richardson, not even half a season from Jonathan Taylor, without Grover Stewart and Isaiah Rodgers, and includes the shocking release of Shaquille Leonard.
Simply put, the Colts have no business being as competitive as they are in 2023. The fact the postseason is within reach says all that needs to be said about Steichen’s ability as a leader.
He instills confidence in his entire roster, not just the offense in which he calls each play. Before the team’s most recent contest vs. the Buccaneers, Steichen could be found running around pre-game, hyping up any Colts player he came in contact with. From DeForest Buckner to Zack Moss to Jaylon Jones, everyone was getting dapped up by the Indy head coach.
Steichen’s coaching style is a breath of fresh air for a fan base that has largely been subject to archaic play calling on offense. As great as Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell were and as respectable of humans as Chuck Pagano and Frank Reich are, it’s always been skewed toward the old-school methodology on offense.
Finally, The Colts Get A “Modern” Head Coach
That couldn’t be further from the case for Steichen’s crew. He is never shy to go for it on fourth down, and the creativity he displays by alternating between the ground attack and the passing game is in line with the new-age style of the NFL. In a league constantly evolving, it’s truly an “adapt or die” mentality.
Thankfully, through all the trials and tribulations, the Colts have finally landed a brilliant offensive mind who isn’t afraid to shake the status quo. Sure, it’s not been perfect in Year 1. But the fan base must remember this key fact — Shane Steichen is a rookie, too. He has never been the leading voice in a locker room. The 38-year-old head coach will only improve; just wait until he can fully open the playbook with Anthony Richardson.
All in all, the Colts must count their lucky stars every night that things worked out the way they did. If the McDaniels hire had gone through, it’s hard to tell how far back that would have set the franchise. Reich served his purpose in Indy but was never “the guy” to take them back to their Super Bowl heights.
Not Perfect, But The Progress For The Colts Is Clear As Day
Now, although plenty of work remains, the Colts have a HC many around the league tab as a true up-and-comer. If 2023 is any indication, this is merely the beginning of a successful stint for Steichen in Indianapolis.
A playoff berth would serve as the perfect jumping-off point for this young roster. With ample draft capital and droves of cap space, the Colts are in prime position to spruce up the roster. Hopefully, around a healthy Anthony Richardson. Cliches are best saved for Hallmark cards. But, if one was ever fitting, it’s this: The sky is the limit with Shane Steichen in Indianapolis.
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