Is Indianapolis Colts history going to repeat itself? It’s only been five years since Jim Irsay’s Colts were publicly humiliated by Josh McDaniels when he accepted and then withdrew from the head coaching job after he was hired following an extensive interview process. The Colts ran through a long list of candidates, as any team would, and had extensive interest in Matt Rhule, Steve Wilks, Matt Nagy, Mike Vrabel, and Kris Richard, eventually coming to an agreement with McDaniels.
After agreeing to contract terms and hiring assistant coaches, the Colts scheduled an introductory press conference for the following day. Before they got there, McDaniels changed his mind. A lot of the blame was placed on McDaniels—not unexpected for anyone who comes from the hated Patriots and who had previously been a head coach laughingstock during a short stint with the Broncos—but does Indianapolis owner Irsay really have any idea what he’s doing? Or what he wants? Or who is in charge?
The situation was such a mess in 2018 that after finally hiring Frank Reich following a second round of the search, which included Leslie Frazier and Dan Campbell, the new head coach still had to agree to work with defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and several other assistants regardless of who he wanted to hire because Irsay already put them under contract for McDaniels.
And the team only landed on Reich because they were too late to go back to the other five people they interviewed as they had already been hired. Probably not a bad thing for most of the candidates, although Vrabel has certainly had success.
Could it be as simple as Josh McDaniels realizing that as badly as he wanted to be a head coach in the NFL again that working for Irsay could be a bad career move, that Andrew Luck was maybe not as committed to playing football as everyone assumed, and that even if he posted winning seasons in three of the next four years (as Reich did) that he could still be blamed for the losing once the team was rotating through underwhelming quarterback options if Luck indeed wasn’t built for the long haul?
McDaniels knows that as a previously-fired head coach, he almost certainly will not get a third chance. He went back to New England and won the Super Bowl that year, getting two more seasons with Tom Brady. It would be easier for him to survive a PR nightmare than getting dragged through the Indianapolis mess.
Of course, the Las Vegas Raiders have their own set of ownership questions, but at least there McDaniels could choose his own general manager, teaming up with former Patriots executive Dave Ziegler and getting an opportunity now to choose his own quarterback, presumably. He’ll never escape his decision to have the Broncos draft Tim Tebow. But McDaniels surely prefers having some choice and we know that with the Colts, Irsay doesn’t want to be left out of decisions.
That’s one reason why Jeff Saturday became the interim head coach instead of somebody with experience. Irsay wants control.
Will Raheem Morris be the person that’s okay with sharing control of the Colts with Jim Irsay?
Though Morris was recently thought to be one of the final candidates for the Indianapolis head coaching job, it seems that the list is growing longer, not shorter. Much longer. As Blaine Grisak wrote on Thursday, this is an increasingly frustrating situation for Irsay to be putting the Rams, Morris, and the rest of the NFL in right now, extending his own haphazard decisions beyond stealing ESPN correspondents for jobs and into delaying decisions by other teams.
#Colts GM Chris Ballard and owner Jim Irsay are conducting one of the more thorough searches we’ve seen. Lots of candidates and long in-person interviews (around 12 hours in some cases), so another round to make sure they’re comfortable with their pick would fit.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 2, 2023
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio names seven candidates, including Morris, who could be moving into a rare third round of interviews. That list includes Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who can’t be interviewed until Saturday as he’s busy preparing for the Super Bowl. Other candidates include Ejiro Evero, Aaron Glenn, Wink Martindale, Brian Callahan, and Rich Bisaccia. Notably, Florio doesn’t list Saturday, but we have to assume that Irsay is perfectly capable of hiring Jeff Saturday.
That’s eight names. Eight. After the Panthers hired Reich, the Texans hired DeMeco Ryans, and the Broncos hired Sean Payton already. And keep in mind that teams determine who quality coaching candidates are just as much as quality coaching candidates reveal what the desirable jobs actually are.
Ryans and Payton were the two biggest names out there and they still think that Houston and Denver are BETTER jobs than the Colts.
That’s an emphatic statement. And the same goes for the nonsense organization that is the Arizona Cardinals.
The reason that the #Cardinals head coaching search is taking a long time to fill is related to QB Kyler Murray’s contract, per @PFN365— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 2, 2023
“Many of the desired candidates
don't want to take the job knowing they'll be tied to the hip of Murray for the next four seasons.” pic.twitter.com/xWW9L85h1j
Interestingly, the Colts are waiting out longtime Philip Rivers coach Steichen, as if Irsay feels that’s a road worthy of a second trip.
Morris could be offered the Colts head coaching job and that could be good for him. In the cases of many coordinators, you can never assume that you’re going to get another chance. We did see some coordinators turn down interviews this year, such as the Lions Ben Johnson and the Cowboys Dan Quinn, and there’s a good reason for that.
A good lesson for all football coaches: Even if you don’t get another chance to become a head coach by turning down an offer, that could still be better for your career than working for Jim Irsay.
We’ll find out the fate of Raheem Morris sometime before Week 1. Probably.