INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are in the midst of likely needing to replace their entire defensive coaching staff for the first time since Frank Reich was hired in 2018.
Joel Erickson from the Indianapolis Star has been all over the defensive coordinator candidates, with his reporting here.
With such an important hire, the Colts’ focus on finding the replacement for Matt Eberflus needs to be in these three key areas.
Let’s look at a breakdown of the 6 candidates:
Jim Schwartz (Age: 55)
2021: Senior Defensive Assistant, Tennessee Titans
2016-20: Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles
2014: Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
2009-13: Head Coach, Detroit Lions
2001-08: Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans
2000: Linebackers/Third Down, Tennessee Titans
1999: Defensive Assistant, Tennessee Titans
1996-98: Defensive Assistant, Baltimore Ravens
1993-95: College/Pro Scout, Cleveland Browns
1992: Linebackers, Colgate
1991: Secondary, North Carolina Central
1990: Graduate Assistant, Minnesota
1989: Graduate Assistant, Maryland
Thoughts: Probably the most recognized name on this list, Schwartz has direct history with Frank Reich, which should help his candidacy. Schwartz and Reich were the defensive and offensive coordinators, respectively, for Doug Pederson and the Eagles from 2016-17. That group help lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl in the 2017 season. Schwartz has 14 years of coordinating NFL defenses. Will the fact that Reich has seen Schwartz operate on a daily practice basis for two years be a big factor in a potential pairing? In the 5 seasons in Philly, Schwartz’s defenses finished top-10 in yards allowed once (2017), finished top-10 in sacks (2020) one time and top-10 in points once (2017). The Eagles defenses under Schwartz routinely ranked high in creating pressure, which is something the Colts struggled with in the Eberflus era.
Chris Harris (Age: 39)
2020-21: Defensive Backs, Washington Football Team
2016-19: Assistant Defensive Backs, Los Angeles Chargers
2013-14: Defensive Quality Control, Chicago Bears
Thoughts: The connection here is Chris Ballard related. Ballard was an area scout for the Bears back when Chicago drafted Harris out of Louisiana Monroe in 2005. Harris played safety in the NFL for 8 seasons before joining the coaching ranks. It would be quite a jump for Harris going from just two years of being a position coach to having full autonomy of an NFL defense. But he’s clearly someone rising in the coaching world and Ballard has never shied away from looking into that former Chicago tree.
Joe Cullen (Age: 54)
2021: Defensive Coordinator, Jacksonville Jaguars
2016-20: Defensive Line, Baltimore Ravens
2014-15: Defensive Line, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2013: Defensive Line, Cleveland Browns
2010-12: Defensive Line, Jacksonville Jaguars
2009: Defensive Line, Idaho State
2006-08: Defensive Line, Detroit Lions
2005: Defensive Assistant, Illinois
2004: Defensive Coordinator, Indiana
2002-03: Defensive Line, Indiana
2001: Defensive Line, Memphis
1999: Defensive Line, LSU
1997-98, 2000: Defensive Coordinator, Richmond
1992-96: Defensive Line, Richmond
1991: Defensive Line, Massachusetts
1990: Running Backs, Massachusetts
Thoughts: Cullen brings rich history coaching the defensive line. He’s done it at the NFL level for the last decade, to go along with coordinating the Jaguars this past season. When you look at Cullen’s last handful of years with the Jaguars and Ravens, those two teams rank atop the list in having defensive lines that the Colts have really struggled to block. Could Cullen be a DL position coach option if the Colts decide to go with another coordinator bringing more of a secondary history?
Gus Bradley (Age: 55)
2021: Defensive Coordinator, Las Vegas Raiders
2017-20: Defensive Coordinator, Las Angeles Chargers
2013-16: Head Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars
2009-12: Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks
2006-08: Linebackers Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1996-2005: Defensive Coordinator, North Dakota State
1992-95: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach, Fort Lewis College
1990-91: Graduate Assistant, North Dakota State
Thoughts: The Seattle defense pedigree is something Chris Ballard has always had an eye on. That’s where Ed Dodds—Ballard’s right-hand man—hails from. Bradley was leading the Settle defense during their ‘Legion of Boom’ days. After an unsuccessful stint as the head coach of the Jaguars, Bradley has coordinated two defenses in the AFC West. Similar to Schwartz, Bradley has a long history coaching defense in the NFL. Bradley’s resume is more in the AFC-area with the Colts also playing the AFC West next season.
Kris Richard (Age: 42)
2021: Defensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints
2018-19: Defensive Backs Coach/Passing Game Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
2015-17: Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks
2012-14: Defensive Backs Coach, Seattle Seahawks
2011: Cornerbacks Coach, Seattle Seahawks
2010: Assistant Defensive Backs Coach, Seattle Seahawks
2008-09: Graduate Assistant, Southern California
Thoughts: A former third-round pick of the Seahawks (out of USC), Richard’s coaching career also comes from ample time spent in Seattle. Richard’s time in Seattle overlapped with Ed Dodds, so the Colts will have plenty of background right there. Remember, the Colts had interest in interviewing Richard for their head coach opening in 2018, too. After the Seahawks, Richard has spread out his defensive background to other systems, too, with the Cowboys and Saints. As you see with Richard and Whitt below, there’s a direct correlation to the passing game with the back end of the defense.
Joe Whitt, Jr. (Age: 44)
2021: Secondary Coach/Pass Game Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
2020: Secondary Coach/Pass Game Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons
2019: Secondary Coach/Pass Game Coordinator, Cleveland Browns
2018: Pass Game Coordinator, Green Bay Packers
2009-17: Cornerbacks Coach, Green Bay Packers
2008: Defensive Quality Control Coach, Green Bay Packers
2007: Assistant Defensive Backs Coach, Atlanta Falcons
2003-06: Cornerbacks Coach & Recruiting Coordinator, Louisville Cardinals
2002: Wide Receivers Coach, The Citadel
Thoughts: As I laid out in the keys for what the Colts should be looking for in their new defensive coordinator, a ‘pass game focus’ is a must. Whitt checks that box with coverages in the secondary. Whitt has been part of several different defensive styles. Most recently, Whitt has coached under Dan Quinn, the former Falcons head coach who was a HC candidate at several stops this hiring cycle. Whitt was a walk-on wide receiver at Auburn.