Shane Steichen accepted his dream job on Tuesday.
Now, he’s waiting to see if he gets to rebuild the Indianapolis Colts around the quarterback of his dreams.
Team owner Jim Irsay ended a monthlong search that included interviews with more than a dozen candidates by hiring the 37-year-old, first-time head coach who has a penchant for turning promising young quarterbacks into stars.
“We felt Shane had a lot of that offensive magic that can be hard to find, knowing we’re going to have a young quarterback to develop,” Irsay said. “He had a presence and boy did it come through. Also his mind, thinking multiple things at once, disseminating those things quickly, I think he has a special mind for football.”
Indy certainly needs a new perspective—and some stability—after missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
Steichen becomes the Colts’ fourth coach since 2017 and they’re likely to be starting yet another different quarterback on opening day, extending their streak to seven straight seasons.
Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard are now pinning their hopes on a gruff-looking, tough-talking coach who worked previously with Philip Rivers and helped mentor Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers and Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.
But for a few minutes during his introductory news conference, Steichen couldn’t hide his emotions. His wife and two young children, along with a handful of current Indy players, watched Steichen choke back tears while offering thanks to everyone from family members to former players and coaching colleagues to team officials who employed him.
“Right now, I’m a little emotional because this is a big day for me and my family,” Steichen said. “We want to get a lot of things done here and we’ve got to grind it every single day.”
Steichen becomes the second straight former Eagles offensive coordinator to make a Super Bowl run and then leave days later for Indianapolis. Frank Reich took the same path in 2018 after Philadelphia won its first championship since 1960.
Reich was fired in October as the Colts’ season started to unravel and was replaced by interim coach Jeff Saturday, who won his first game but lost the final seven.
The unusual decision to bring Saturday out of the broadcast studio to replace Reich was widely panned by critics who contended more qualified candidates already were on Indy’s staff and those who thought Irsay skirted NFL rules to include minority candidates in the hiring process.
While those rules don’t apply to midseason changes, Ballard and Irsay promised to conduct an exhaustive, inclusive search that did meet the Rooney Rule requirements.
Yet in a candidate pool that included former NFL head coach Raheem Morris, former Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia and two internal candidates—Saturday and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone—Steichen was hired for one obvious reason.
Most draft analysts expect Indy to use the No. 4 overall draft pick on a quarterback, which drew some banter between Irsay and Ballard about their trading options and ended with a possible hint about Irsay’s intention.
“He (Ballard) likes picks, although the Alabama guy doesn’t look bad,” Irsay said, referring to Bryce Young.
Indy has drafted only two quarterbacks in the first round over the past 25 years—Peyton Manning in 1998 and Andrew Luck in 2012, both with the top overall pick.
There are also striking similarities between Steichen and Reich.
Both progressed through the coaching ranks in similar ways, working together in San Diego with Rivers, and both were college quarterbacks though Steichen, unlike Reich, never took a snap in the NFL. They even seem to have similar philosophies.
“I’m a gut-feeling guy especially on game day as a play-caller,” Steichen said. “We’re going to be aggressive, but my philosophy on offense is we’re going to throw to score points and run to win. That may look different from week to week; flow is going to dictate that.”
Still, Irsay wants different results.
Steichen takes over a team that went 4-12-1 and used three starting quarterbacks, two play-callers and two head coaches. He becomes the third 37-year-old head coach in the NFL, the youngest being Sean McVay, who won last year’s Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams.
The most immediate priority, though, is putting together a staff. Steichen declined to say whether he would keep Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator or Ventrone.
Steichen must figure out how to revamp an offensive line that had been among the league’s top units from 2018-21 but struggled mightily in 2022. Plus, Indy must decide what to do with veteran quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Nick Foles, who struggled last season.
Ryan is just six days younger than Steichen and would count $35.2 million against the salary cap if he returns. Indy could save about $17 million by releasing him. Cutting Foles, the Super Bowl 52 MVP, would save the Colts about $2 million off his $3.6 million cap charge in 2023.
Neither has said whether he plans to retire.
But the Colts believe in Steichen.
“High integrity, high character, brilliant football mind and philosophy,” Ballard said. “We see the game the same way and I think that’s important. We’re not going to always agree, we didn’t always agree in the interview, but we see the game the same way.”