INDIANAPOLIS – Here is our updated list of Colts head coaching candidates during the 2023 search.
The Colts continue to build their head coaching interest list, with several new names popping up in Week Two of the offseason.
With news that Ben Johnson has withdrawn from coaching openings to return to Detroit, that would leave the Colts with 14 reported candidates (including Jeff Saturday) still out there.
As of Sunday, the Colts had interviewed 13 candidates.
Saturday had his official interview this past Thursday.
In this Week 2 of the coaching search, the Colts reached out to names of coaches who played on Wild Card weekend, as they are now eligible for interviews.
A bit of ‘outside of the box’ interview came on Friday with the Colts interviewing Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. At 62, Bisaccia is now the oldest candidate to interview for this opening.
Later on Friday, the Colts interviewed Bengals OC-Brian Callahan and Cowboys DC-Dan Quinn.
On Sunday, the Colts interviewed Giants OC-Mike Kafka and Giants DC-Wink Martindale.
49ers DC-DeMeco Ryans is the lone reported candidate yet to interview.
Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone was the first head coaching interview last Wednesday. Ejiro Evero became the second interview last Thursday. Later on that Thursday night, Jim Irsay announced Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy became the third candidate to interview.
Then on Friday brought an interview for Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.
On Saturday, the Colts interviewed Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
Those candidates, minus Saturday, have the following history on sides of the ball: 6 defensive candidates, 5 offensive candidates, 2 special teams candidates.
Let’s get to know the candidates a little more:
Colts Interview Requests
–DeMeco Ryans (Age: 38, 49ers defensive coordinator): A 2006 second-round pick of the Texans, Ryans saw the Colts a lot as a player. After Ryans played a decade in the NFL, including 2 Pro Bowl seasons, he’s been with the 49ers coaching staff since 2017. This is his second season as the defensive coordinator, taking over for Robert Saleh. Ryans actually took his name out of the head coach opening in Minnesota last cycle, wanting to have more time as a coordinator to grow and prepare for a future HC gig. When people chat about Ryan, they laud his ability to lead. He also coordinates one of the NFL’s finest defensive units. It’s a group that has come over several key injuries throughout the season, helping San Francisco to potentially a second straight trip to the NFC Championship. Ryans will be a sought after candidate now that he’s eligible to begin interviews. The 49ers led the NFL in yards allowed and points allowed this season.
Colts Head Coach Interviews
-Bubba Ventrone (Age: 40, Colts special teams coordinator): When Frank Reich was fired, and assuming the Colts would hand over the interim role to someone on staff, Ventrone was the obvious choice. The couple of times Reich was away from the team (for COVID or personal reasons) it was Ventrone as the interim, running practices/overseeing the team. Hires of guys with extensive special teams background have some nice history in the NFL. Ventrone, who strikes a balance of calm behind the scenes, but fiery when needed, has a big fan in Bill Belichick. The Colts special teams units has been a pretty reliable group under Ventrone. Players love playing for Ventrone and he’s earned some respect from the Colts and Patriots to handle more responsibilities. The Colts special teams unit was constantly a strength under Ventrone. And his time as special teams coordinator offered him a glimpse into coaching players on both sides of the ball, plus a closer look at the roster gymnastics faced each week. As mentioned a few weeks back, Ventrone needed to be a priority for the Colts to retain in 2023.
-Ejiro Evero (Age: 41, Broncos defensive coordinator): Right now, Evero’s coaching future is very much up in the air. He’s on a Denver staff that saw head coach Nathaniel Hackett get fired during the 2022season. So along with interviewing for the open head coaching gig in Denver, Evero is on the Colts list. Evero came to Denver last year after winning a Super Bowl as the Rams defensive backs coach. With the Rams, Evero coached a secondary that included Jalen Ramsey. Evero’s first season as a coordinator saw him lead the Broncos defense to one of the few bright spots Denver experienced last year. Evero was born in the United Kingdom. He’s coached offense, defense and special teams in his career. He was an offensive assistant under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco from 2011-13.
-Eric Bieniemy (Age: 53, Chiefs offensive coordinator): This one is a major Chris Ballard connection. Given the success of Kansas City, especially on offense, over the last handful of years, it’s been puzzling to see Eric Bieniemy not get a head coaching gig. Yes, you have some off the field incidents, stemming from multiple decades ago. And I’m sure teams are curious of how much success KC has had can be attributed to him, versus the combination of Andy Reid/Patrick Mahomes. From 2013-16, Ballard was in the KC organization, as Bieniemy coached the Chiefs running backs. Bieniemy then was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018, when Matt Nagy took the Bears job.
-Raheem Morris (Age: 46, Rams defensive coordinator): It’s been quite the NFL coaching career for Morris. He became a head coach at 32 with the Bucs (going 17-31). Morris has detailed many things he would change if he were to get another full-time look and has been a rumored candidate at several spots in recent years. Interestingly, Morris actually coached on the offensive side of the ball for a few years under Dan Quinn in Atlanta. Morris is held in high regard by the Shanahan coaching family. Most recently, Morris has been the DC under Sean McVay, so he’s been around some extremely respected offensive minds. Players laud Morris for the energy he brings and his ability to manage some pretty big names.
–Ben Johnson (Age: 36, Lions offensive coordinator, reportedly returning to Detroit): In Johnson, you have a resume that many NFL Owners have found intriguing in recent years. That’s the team with the massive QB need interested in a young offensive mind to hopefully pair together for years to come. Johnson actually has much more of an offensive background at other positions than quarterback. Dan Campbell had Johnson take over play-calling duties in the back half of last season and then promoted him to full-time OC this past offseason. The Lions finished this year 3rd in total offense and 5th in points. Like Glenn, Johnson obviously coached under Campbell. And the Colts saw Johnson up-close at Grand Park last August, and also when the Lions staff coached at the Senior Bowl last January. Johnson was a walk-on in his playing days at North Carolina, studying mathematics and computer engineering.
-Aaron Glenn (Age: 50, Lions defensive coordinator): Glenn, a former Pro Bowl cornerback, has been a head coaching candidate with the Jets, Broncos and Saints recently. Glenn’s Texas background, plus experience as both an NFL scout and coach probably intrigues Chris Ballard. There’s also the Dan Campbell connection, with Glenn also coaching with Campbell in New Orleans before Detroit. Remember, Ballard interviewed Campbell for head coach in 2018, after Josh McDaniels said no to Indy. Players have described Glenn as a ‘fiery’ presence. The Colts also got a look at Glenn during a joint practice training camp session this past August at Grand Park. Of course, with any defensive hire, how the offensive staff is assembled will be something to monitor.
-Shane Steichen (Age: 37, Eagles offensive coordinator): Steichen actually hails from the Frank Reich/Nick Sirianni coaching tree. Sirianni hired Steichen as his offensive coordinator in 2021, and handed him play-calling duties once he realized the head-coaching responsibilities were too much throughout the week, plus game day. Steichen was a collegiate quarterback in his playing days. In the NFL, he’s been the position coach and/or has coordinated the likes of Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts. That’s a good variety in age and playing styles. Given how Reich’s tenure ended in Indy and Sirianni’s emotional outburst, would Steichen have reservations about this opening? Does he have the clout around the league to be that picky?
-Jeff Saturday (Age: 47, former Colts interim head coach): Following a 1-7 stint as Colts interim head coach, Saturday got his chance to interview for the full-time gig, focusing on a bigger vision that would involve ‘significant change.’ Saturday has made it clear he walked into a terrible situation, which he believes massively contributed to one of the worst interim stints in NFL history. We know Jim Irsay has strong affinity for Saturday. Does Chris Ballard feel the same way? Does that matter? Ballard is running/leading this coaching search, but Irsay will get final say. That’s huge for Saturday. It would be fascinating to see the staff Saturday would assemble and how much a full offseason would do to the most inexperienced candidate on this list.
-Rich Bisaccia (Age: 62, Packers special teams coordinator): The now oldest candidate on the Colts growing list might fit as one of the more surprising names so far. Long-time special teams coach Rich Bisaccia has coached in the league for two decades, with some connections to the Colts. Those would include being with the Raiders last year, taking over as the interim head coach and leading them to the playoffs with a 7-5 finish to the year after taking over for Jon Gruden. On that Raiders staff included Gus Bradley (Colts defensive coordinator), Richard Smith (Colts linebackers coach), Ron Milus (Colts secondary coach). Rod Marinelli, one of Chris Ballard’s close confidants in the NFL, was on the same Cowboys staff with Bisaccia, so there’s a connection with a respected relationship. Ironically, part of Bisaccia’s background includes being the assistant head coach to Raheem Morris in 2009 with Tampa Bay. One thing to keep in mind with some of these interviews, the Colts will be trying to build an entire coaching staff in gathering intel with more than a dozen interviews, so some of these names could factor in there.
-Brian Callahan (Age: 38, Bengals offensive coordinator): This name falls into the new NFL age of the offensive/quarterback background. Callahan’s work with Joe Burrow has been well documented. But Callahan’s start in the NFL is something to note, too. He began his coaching career in Denver, working with Peyton Manning and the Broncos as an offensive quality control coach, and then an offensive assistant. One would think Manning’s opinion would be a factor here, especially for Jim Irsay and, potentially, Jeff Saturday. Callahan’s father is long-time NFL coach Bill Callahan. Along with Burrow and Manning, Callahan was a QB coach for Matthew Stafford and the Lions, as well as Derek Carr and the Raiders. Of all the names on this list, Callahan probably has the most impressive quarterback background list. Callahan joins the handful of candidates who will coach this weekend in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs, so interview time will be precious.
-Dan Quinn (Age: 52, Cowboys defensive coordinator): The most experienced former NFL coach on the current Colts interest list is Quinn. Along with Raheem Morris, Quinn is the only other candidate with previous NFL head coaching experience. Quinn went 43-42 in 6 seasons as the head man of the Falcons. Atlanta won at least 7 games in each of those 6 years, including a near Super Bowl victory in the 2016 campaign. Quinn has been with Dallas for the last two years, guiding the league’s 5th best scoring defense this season. The Colts have some connections to Quinn. Ed Dodds, the right-hand man to Chris Ballard, spent a couple of seasons in Seattle with Quinn, who was the defensive coordinator for Pete Carroll from 2013-14. Ballard was very fond of the defensive personnel/style Quinn helped put together in Atlanta for that Super Bowl run. Reports indicate Quinn will interview with the Broncos this Friday, before Dallas travels to San Francisco to take on the 49ers this Sunday.
-Mike Kafka (Age: 35, Giants offensive coordinator): Under first-year head coach Brian Daboll, the Giants put together arguably the most impressive turnaround in the NFL this year. And so much of it was coaching driven, with not a ton of roster turnover. Mike Kafka is the youngest name on the Colts HC interest list, so far, but you can see why there’s some intrigue. Kafka was Patrick Mahomes position coach form 2018-21, before Daboll hired him as his OC, along with serving as the team’s passing game coordinator in 2020 (Chris Ballard and Kafka missed each other by one year in Kansas City). Daboll entrusted Kafka to be a Day One play caller, with the Giants building an offense around an expanded run role for Daniel Jones, and finding consistency without any top-flight talent at the pass catching positions. Kafka was a quarterback in his playing days, having been drafted in the 4th round pick out of Northwestern, playing for 7 NFL teams, mainly on practice squads. With the Giants still in the playoffs (and playing Saturday night), the window to interview Kafka is tight. Kafka reportedly will not interview this week.
-Don ‘Wink’ Martindale: (Age: 59, Giants defensive coordinator): Known as one of the most aggressive/blitzing defensive coordinators in football, Martindale has not been a super popular name on the head coaching circuit. But the Colts have interest in the former truck driver, who spent 10 years on Baltimore’s staff, before running the defensive side of the ball for Giants first-year head coach Brian Daboll. A contract issue between ‘Wink’ and the Ravens put him in free agency last offseason after 4 years as John Harbaugh’s DC. So far, Wink would quality as the oldest Colts head coaching candidate. Again, similar to Mike Kafka with the Giants, how will a short week impact Martindale possibly interviewing with the divisional round game for New York coming on Saturday. With Daboll’s extensive offensive background, he handed the defensive leadership in his first season as head coach to Martindale and the results have been an impressive 180 for the Giants, as the only road team to win during the Wild Card round.