|Who are the likely coaching candidates now that Jim Caldwell is out in Indy? (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)|
By Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson
It's that time of year: head coaches get fired and we speculate as to who will replace them. On Tuesday, the Colts dismissed Jim Caldwell after a 2-14 effort this season. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that it took so long. Owner Jim Irsay got rid of Bill and Chris Polian early this month but Caldwell's future hung in the balance until Indianapolis hired a new general manager. The team announced Ryan Grigson in that role last Wednesday, and six days later, Caldwell was let go.
Which brings us to this: who's on our very early list of potential replacements? Glad you asked.
Brad ChildressAny other head-coaching gig and Childress probably wouldn't get much consideration. But the Colts are different. Whatever their plans are for Peyton Manning and/or Andrew Luck, the coach, at least in recent history, has served more as facilitator than a fire-and-brimstone motivator. Childress is best (and perhaps unfairly) remembered for selling his soul to convince Brett Favre to be Minnesota's quarterback.
That PR disaster aside, Childress was 39-35 in five years with Minnesota (including 10- and 12-win seasons in 2008 and 2009), and the Vikings were one Favre interception away from the Super Bowl in '09.
Before arriving in Minnesota, Childress served capably as Philadelphia's offensive coordinator (2003-05). Since the Colts already have a franchise QB (possibly two by late April), Childress won't have to worry about shuttling players to Mississippi to convince an over-the-hill quarterback to play one more season.
Marty MornhinwegSome might cringe at Mornhinwheg here considering he won five games in two seasons in a previous stint as an NFL head coach. But he's got an easy out: that was with the Lions. Also, he's worked for the Eagles since 2006, meaning he and Grigson have plenty of time as colleagues. Mornhinwheg's passing offenses have been consistently ranked in the top 10 or 15 in the NFL, and that's a huge plus for a team that's likely draft Andrew Luck first overall in three months. Mornhinwheg would go into a situation where the expectations would be low with a rebuilding franchise. Grigson running the show would mean that Mornhinwheg would get significantly more patience from his bosses than he might in a different situation.
Wade PhillipsMuch like Childress, Phillips wouldn't be the first name that came to mind for most head-coaching opportunities. But again, Indy's a different situation, and Phillips, while short on charisma, is long on experience. He's also a proven defensive coordinator, something the Colts are going to need if the Luck era begins this summer.
Plus, there's this: Grigson is 39 years old. Would Irsay want an unproven GM paired with an unproven head coach? One or the other, fine. Both, however, could delay a rebuilding process that Irsay has already admitted won't happen overnight.
Phillips withdrew his name for the Buccaneers head-coaching search last week, stating that he preferred to stay in Houston as the defensive coordinator. It was the right decision, but Indy ain't Tampa Bay. This is a team that, prior to 2011, had won at least 10 games in 11 of the last 12 seasons, appeared in the Super Bowl in '09 and won the Super Bowl in '06. There's a recent history of success there that most other organizations can't match.
Rob ChudzinskiIf we're Grigson and Irsay, we call up Chud and offer him a pile of money to run the offense and grow with Luck. Or, worst case, Chud comes in and works with Manning, if they keep him. The work that Chudzinski did in Carolina this year with Cam Newton can't be understated, and nothing's more important for the future of the Colts than preparing Luck to succeed going forward. Chud's shown that he can get a rookie quarterback up and running pretty quickly, and without requiring too much in the way of offensive weapons (grab some tight ends, sign a marquee, young wideout, draft an offensive lineman and you're good). The obvious exception to this, of course: Chud's unproven (see Phillips above).
Steve SpagnuoloShortly after Caldwell was dismissed Tuesday, FOX Sports' Jay Glazer reported that Spagnuolo interviewed for the Colts' defensive coordinator position earlier this week and Caldwell was one of the people Spagnuolo interviewed with. (We're immediately reminded of the Bobs asking "What would you say you do here?")
If the Colts thought enough of Spags for the DC gig, maybe they also think he deserves consideration for Caldwell's old job. Spagnuolo sandwiched one- and two-win seasons in St. Louis around a 7-9 effort, so his resume alone doesn't make him a particularly attractive candidate. But again, this isn't a typical head-coaching position and Spagnuolo appears to have the right demeanor for the situation. Which is to say that he's not a showman (see Ryan, Rex or Rob) or a screamer (Todd Haley, for example). We also shouldn't underestimate his ties to the Eagles -- just like Childress, Mornhinweg and Grigson.
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