By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts have hired Shane Steichen as their head coach.
The move announced Tuesday ends a search that took more than a month, involved more than a dozen candidates and finally gives the Colts some direction in what still appears to be a tumultuous offseason.
“Right now I’m a little emotional because this is a big day for me and my family,” Steichen said, explaining why he was choking up during his introductory news conference. “We want to get a lot of things done here, we’ve got to grind every single day.”
Each of Indy’s last two full-time hires were offensive coordinators for Philadelphia Eagles teams that made the Super Bowl. Frank Reich was hired in 2018 after the Eagles won their first championship since 1960 but was fired in October as the Colts’ season started to unravel
He was replaced by interim coach Jeff Saturday, who won his first game but lost the final seven to give Indy the No. 4 overall draft pick. Saturday was one of the finalists for the full-time job.
Now, though, the Colts seem to be changing directions again, this time likely with a young, promising quarterback. That’s a major reason team owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard, who led the lengthy search, sought out the 37-year-old Steichen.
Under Steichen’s tenure in Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts went from second-round draft pick in 2020 to solid starter in 2021 to NFL MVP runner-up in 2022.
But Hurts isn’t Steichen’s only prized pupil.
In 2020, as offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers, Steichen presided over Justin Herbert’s NFL offensive rookie of the year campaign. Before that, he worked with former Chargers star Philip Rivers, who played his final season in Indianapolis under the leadership of Reich and current Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni.
“Shane and I met in Philadelphia and had a long and thorough conversation and he was so impressive,” Irsay said, describing a Friday night meeting the week before the Super Bowl. “I know Philip had a lot of input, and he and I talked for a very long time about Shane. Shane was tremendous in the interview, showed incredible leadership, toughness, very fast mind to be able to process and disseminate information very quickly.”
The similarities between Steichen and Reich are striking.
Both climbed the coaching ladder with a franchise that previously called San Diego home, and both were college quarterbacks, though Steichen, unlike Reich, never took a snap in the NFL. And both left the Philadelphia staff just days after their teams played in the Super Bowl, though Reich was hired only after Josh McDaniels backed out of an agreement to take the job.
Still, Irsay is hoping for different results from Steichen, who becomes the league’s third-youngest coach behind two other 37-year-olds, Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams and Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.
McVay won last year’s Super Bowl title and O’Connell, who is two weeks younger than Steichen, won a division title in his first season with the Minnesota Vikings and finished sixth in coach of the year balloting.
Those success stories seemed especially appealing to a franchise that missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons and almost certainly will have a seventh different opening day starting quarterback in September. 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 the top overall pick.
First, though, Steichen must put together a staff. It’s unclear whether Saturday, who had no college or pro coaching experience when he was hired for the interim job, is interested in remaining in Indy as an assistant coach.
The choice of Saturday to replace Reich was widely panned by critics who thought there were more qualified candidates already on Indy’s staff and those who thought Irsay was skirting 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.
Still, they landed on 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.”
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 he plans to retire.
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