Known to make a few headline-worthy comments, Jim Irsay let another fly while introducing Shane Steichenas the Colts’ next head coach. The Colts have been linked to a potential trade-up for a quarterback — a scenario GM Chris Ballard said would be on the table last month — and Irsay kept such a maneuver front and center.
“Do you trade up? There’s so many things you can do,” Irsay said. “The [Eagles] took Jalen [Hurts] in the second round. … Although, the Alabama guy doesn’t look bad, I tell ya.”
Heisman winner Bryce Young has been viewed as a top-five prospect in the weeks leading up to the Combine. While Young’s 5-foot-10 frame makes him a unique talent to choose so early, ESPN.com’s Todd McShay slots him as his No. 1 overall prospect. McShay’s first mock draft features the Colts trading up from No. 4 to No. 1 with the Bears to draft Young. Housing a bevy of needs and a quarterback who nearly set the position’s single-season rushing record in Justin Fields, the Bears will undoubtedly entertain trading down.
“Knowing we’re going to have to find a young quarterback to develop,” Irsay said he favored an offense-oriented coach. Steichen’s pitch sold the outspoken owner. The former Eagles and Chargers OC laid out a specific blueprint for how he would develop a young quarterback, Stephen Holder of ESPN.com notes. This made a clear impact in Steichen landing the job, pointing to the Colts stopping their string of stopgap quarterbacks. Indianapolis has used veterans as primary starters at the position each year since Andrew Luck‘s surprise retirement, going from Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan.
Steichen played the lead role in developing Justin Herbert as a rookie, as Chargers offensive coordinator during Anthony Lynn‘s final season, and took over Eagles play-calling duties midway through the 2021 campaign. With Steichen calling plays throughout this past Eagles season, Hurts removed the doubt attached to his future as Philadelphia’s franchise quarterback. After the Eagles pursued bigger names in 2022, Hurts emerged as an MVP candidate and finished his season with 374 total yards in Super Bowl LVII.
Steichen met with Colts brass via Zoom, met with Irsay in Philadelphia and then met with Ballard and Co. for his official second interview. The Colts had ruled out Jeff Saturday by the time Steichen went through his second meeting, with Zak Keefer of The Athletic noting the team decided against keeping its interim coach weeks ago (subscription required).
Nick Sirianni handed play-calling duties to Shane Steichen midway through the 2021 season. Brian Daboll just won Coach of the Year honors after he named Mike Kafka as the Giants’ offensive play-caller. The Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy hire did not change Kellen Moore‘s status as the team’s play-caller for the past three seasons.
Steichen will, however, take the more traditional approach for offense-oriented head coaches in Indianapolis. The new Colts HC confirmed Tuesday he will call plays. The Colts will look for a non-play-calling OC in the coming days and, perhaps, weeks. But they will entrust their 37-year-old HC to right the ship offensively.
The Colts’ latest HC contract reflects their confidence in Steichen. The deal is for six years, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). This matches the Texans’ DeMeco Ryans pact. Indianapolis is not in the same boat as its AFC South rival, having finished over .500 in three of Frank Reich‘s four full seasons. But the Colts went through a rather turbulent year. A six-year offer — longer than Reich’s initial pact — makes for a more attractive sales pitch in the wake of that.
Gus Bradley attended Steichen’s Tuesday press conference, and Stephen Holder of ESPN.com tweets Indy’s defensive staff was at the presser en masse. Late in the lengthy search process, Bradley became a candidate to stay in Indy. Several candidates were believed to be high on Bradley, leading the Colts to block him from interviewing for another DC position. The Panthers were interested in Bradley, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. That would have reunited him with Reich, but with Bradley blocked, Carolina brought in popular HC candidateEjiro Evero.
The Colts not only blocked Bradley, but Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star notes the team prevented linebackers coach Richard Smith and defensive backs coach Ron Milus from exploring lateral moves. Of the Indy candidates, a connecting Bradley to Steichen was easiest. The two worked together with the Chargers for four years, finishing up that run as an OC-DC tandem. Milus and Smith worked with Bradley in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Steichen stopped short of committing to Bradley and his defensive staff, however, leaving his staff in limbo still.
“That’s the next process that I’m going to go through, is hiring a staff,” Steichen said of keeping Reich holdovers. “Those guys, we’ll have those conversations in the next few days.”
Indianapolis conducted a thorough search, debating on third interviews with candidates. Although the franchise decided against that unexplored avenue, Steichen landed the job more than three months after the team fired Reich. Jim Irsay used Philip Rivers as a Steichen sounding board, Holder adds (on Twitter), with the longtime Charger QB and 2020 Colts passer calling the young coach “savant-like.” Rivers worked with Steichen for six seasons, the final four as his position coach.
The Eagles finished third in both points and yards on offense this season, after ranking outside the top 10 in each category in 2022. Steichen will head to Indiana after Jalen Hurts accounted for nearly 400 yards in Philadelphia’s narrow Super Bowl LVII loss.
For a while, it appeared Jeff Saturday was in play to stay on in this role. Irsay stunned the football world and angered many around the league by naming the former Pro Bowl center-turned-ESPNer as his interim HC. Despite going 1-7 during his first NFL or college coaching gig, Saturday interviewed twice for the full-time job. Saturday wished Steichen well and thanks Colts fans, including those that signed a petition for Irsay not to give him the full-time gig.
“I’m so grateful for the last eight weeks of the season and the opportunity to represent you guys,” Saturday said (video link). “I appreciate the coaches for all your time, energy and effort. … It was an absolute blessing. I look fondly upon it. Wish we would’ve done better. But ultimately, that is where it is.
“… So, for everybody out there — including however many thousand who signed a petition, which may have included my wife and son, not exactly sure. But in all honesty, I’m so grateful for Colts nation and who you are. To represent the horseshoe, it meant the world to me.”
Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers, Broncos and Texans’ hires, this year’s vacancy count sits at two. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.
Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:
The Colts have zeroed in on Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen as their top head coaching candidate, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). It seems Indianapolis is pretty confident it will land Steichen, as the club has told other candidates it is moving in a different direction.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirms that Jeff Saturday, who finished the 2022 season as the club’s interim head coach, has been told that he is out of the running (Twitter link). That will likely come as welcome news for those within the organization who have attempted todissuade owner Jim Irsay from removing the interim tag from Saturday’s title.
Irsay’s controversial Saturday hire was the precursor to a long and expansive head coaching search that at one time appeared as if it might lead to a rare third round of interviews. Earlier this week, we learned that the Colts were unlikely to go that route, and that the club had whittled its list to five finalists.
And if Indianapolis can land Steichen, it will be difficult to criticize the result, even if the process leading up to it was a bit unorthodox. Steichen, who also secured HC interviews with the Panthers and Texans in this year’s cycle, has quickly turned into a hot commodity on the head coaching market. The 37-year-old was the Chargers’ offensive coordinator in 2020 — which happened to be Justin Herbert‘s impressive rookie year — and he joined Philadelphia in the same capacity in 2021. Eagles HC Nick Sirianni handed Steichen the play-calling reins midway through the 2021 campaign, and the Eagles’ pivot to a run-heavy offense drove them to that season’s playoff bracket. Jalen Hurts’ progress as a passer this season helped the team secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed and a trip to today’s Super Bowl.
The Eagles finished the 2022 regular season third in both total offense and points per game, and Steichen’s work with Herbert and Hurts is surely viewed favorably by a Colts outfit that may well add a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft. Plus, it is clear that Indianapolis wants to retain incumbent defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and Steichen — who worked with Bradley when both men were on the Chargers’ coaching staff from 2017-20 — would presumably be amenable to that.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is in danger of losing both of its top coordinators. A report this morning indicated that the Cardinals have requested a head coaching interview with Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, and given that Arizona has waited until it could interview Gannon before naming a new bench boss, one has to assume that he is the favorite to land the post (interestingly, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported that Gannon was also on the radar for the Colts’ HC position, though it does not appear as if that is still the case).
If Steichen does indeed become Indianapolis’ new head coach, then Eagles quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson would likely become Philly’s OC, as Schefter adds in a follow-up tweet. Johnson interviewed with the Rams and Jets when those clubs were still looking for a new offensive coordinator, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reported before the Steichen news broke that the Ravens are expected to speak with him for their own OC vacancy (Twitter link).
Whether or not Johnson speaks with Baltimore in light of today’s developments remains to be seen.
The Colts have delivered this hiring period’s top non-Sean Payton-related headlines. Both the team’s steady interest in retaining Jeff Saturday and its connection with a third round of interviews have injected confusion into a drawn-out search.
As this process (presumably) hits the homestretch, neither may be in the equation any longer. Saturday is not expected to be named the full-time Colts head coach, Zak Keefer of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Colts are also unlikely to follow through with the rumored third sets of interviews. With the Colts’ second round of meetings lasting between 10 and 12 hours, it would seem unnecessary for the team to buck tradition and bring in candidates for third summits.
Saturday, who went 1-7 after moving from an ESPN analyst role to coaching his former team, being out of the running would ensure a more experienced coach leads the Colts in 2023. Among a host of finalists, one name might be worth monitoring. Irsay is believed to have flown to Philadelphia to meet with Eagles OC Shane Steichen ahead of his interview with Ballard the next day, Keefer adds. Steichen cannot be hired until after Super Bowl LVII. With the Colts not expected to make a hire until after Sunday’s season-ender, Steichen should probably be considered a true finalist. The Colts are believed to have winnowed down their list to a few candidates this week.
Steichen is likely one of the candidates who would plan to retain DC Gus Bradley. The Colts have prevented Bradley from exploring outside opportunities due to multiple candidates wanting to retain him. Several, in fact, want to keep not only Bradley but his defensive staff, according to Keefer. Steichen coached alongside Bradley with the Chargers from 2017-20, with the duo finishing that stay as an OC-DC combo. Raheem Morris coached with Bradley with the Buccaneers from 2006-08 as well, though Morris being a defensive coach would make Bradley an interesting fit, and was with Bisaccia last season in Las Vegas.
The prospect of leaving much of their defensive staff intact would be an interesting call for a team that went 4-12-1, though Bradley’s unit obviously presented fewer problems than the offense this season. While Eric Bieniemy interviewed with the Colts — the Chiefs OC’s lone meeting thus far in this process — Steichen and Brian Callahan are the only former offensive coordinators to have interviewed for the Indianapolis gig twice. Among those two, only Steichen has called plays previously. Fellow finalists Morris, Rich Bisaccia, Aaron Glenn and Don Martindale have expertise on the defensive side.
Five years after their Josh McDaniels-to-Frank Reich pivot, the Colts are again conducting a rather interesting head coaching search. This process may well produce an unusual stage.
Indianapolis potentially planning a third round on HC interviews, after holding 12-hour meetings — in some cases — with candidates during the second round, adds a memorable wrinkle to its search to replace Reich. A third round of a coaching search has not happened in at least 40 years, Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star notes. GM Chris Ballard has run the search, but Jim Irsay will make the call. Where will this search end up?
Almost everyone involved in this Indy journey has been mentioned as a finalist or scheduled a second interview. Dan Quinnhopped off the ride midway through, doing so hours after he scheduled a second meeting about the position. Ben Johnson backed out after his virtual interview, staying with the Lions. Giants OC Mike Kafka also has not been mentioned as being summoned for a second meeting. DeMeco Ryanscancelled his virtual interview and chose the Texans over the Broncos. Jim Harbaugh was mentioned as a candidate in December, but the ex-Colts QB did not interview. Otherwise, this search remains one of the most wide open in memory.
Rich Bisaccia, Brian Callahan, Ejiro Evero, Aaron Glenn, Don Martindale, Raheem Morris, Jeff Saturday and Shane Steichen have either gone through a second interview or will do so soon. Eric Bieniemy and Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone have also been mentioned as potential finalists, though neither is believed to have scheduled a second meeting.
This search has produced the rare mix of all three phases, with Bisaccia and Ventrone representing the special teams wing. Ventrone, 40, was Reich’s ST coordinator throughout the latter’s HC tenure, while Bisaccia, 62, is the rare interim HC to have guided his team to the playoffs. The Raiders passed on Bisaccia, leading him to Green Bay. Could he join John Harbaugh as a former ST coordinator to become a head coach?
Irsay went offense twice in 2018, hiring McDaniels and then Reich. This year’s lot of OCs in contention includes Andy Reid‘s right-hand man. Ballard and Bieniemy worked together in Kansas City for four years, and since Ballard left for Indiana, Bieniemy has become Reid’s top lieutenant. Of course, that has famously not led to a head coaching opportunity. Both Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy earned HC chances as Reid’s HC, but teams have paused on Bieniemy, 53. After this latest Chiefs attack led the NFL in offensive DVOA despite trading Tyreek Hill, will the Colts be the team that goes with the oft-bypassed candidate?
Callahan and Steichen are the only other offense-based candidates linked to having paths to the job. Steichen is just 37 and worked with Reich during the future Colts leader’s time as Chargers OC. Ex-Reich lieutenant Nick Sirianni gave Steichen the play-calling reins midway through last season, and it made a major difference in the Eagles’ trajectory. Philadelphia led the NFL in rushing in 2021 and has produced a top-three attack this year, as Jalen Hurts has made considerable strides as a passer. Callahan, 38, does not call plays in Cincinnati but is a candidate for both the Colts and Cardinals’ HC gigs. Joe Burrow is primed to book one of Zac Taylor‘s assistants a promotion, and Callahan is this year’s candidate.
Evero, 42, leads the league in connections to jobs during this year’s cycle, being summoned by all five HC-seeking teams for interviews and being pursued for DC gigs. It appears the Broncos’ DC will land on his feet, despite Nathaniel Hackett‘s one-and-done, and Denver remains interested in keeping him. The Rams also have Evero in mind as a Morris contingency plan. Morris, 46, would be a second-chance HC, but the ex-Buccaneers leader’s first chance came more than 10 years ago. He has rebuilt his stock in Los Angeles, helping the Rams to a Super Bowl LVI win, and Sean McVay staffers are quite popular on coaching carousels. Morris also has a near-three-month run as an interim leader under his belt, having replaced Quinn with the 2020 Falcons.
Martindale, 59 is believed to have interviewed well in his second meeting (the Irsay stage), and he played a key role in the Giants making a surprising surge to the divisional round. He coached the Ravens to three top-five defensive finishes in four DC seasons. Glenn, 50, started late in coaching due to his playing career spanning 16 seasons. The ex-cornerback joins Evero and Callahan as Cards candidates.
The Colts lost seven of their final eight games, finishing 4-12-1. The team had not lost seven games to close out a campaign since its inaugural season in 1953. But Jim Irsay still looks to be pushing to keep Jeff Saturday, the interim head coach he stunned the NFL by hiring in November.
Saturday is going through his second interview Wednesday, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, who adds as many as seven candidates will advance to the second round of interviews (Twitter link). That list includes Ejiro Evero, and ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano tweets Rams DC Raheem Morris will receive an in-person meeting. The Colts held virtual interviews with 13 candidates — the most of any HC-seeking team this year — but Irsay was not involved in those sessions. He will be there for the second interviews.
Irsay said in November he hoped Saturday would stay on as a full-time HC, and although no team has made an interim coach a full-time hire since the Jaguars removed Doug Marrone‘s interim tag in 2017, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson notes Irsay is still pushing for Saturday. More pushback has emerged, however. Just as Irsay confidants attempted to dissuade him from hiring Saturday two months ago, Anderson adds (via Twitter) those close to the owner are again attempting to convince him Saturday is the wrong choice.
Indianapolis should also be expected to meet with Eric Bieniemy and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone for a second time. Each remains in the mix, Graziano adds, though no second interviews with either have been scheduled. Bieniemy has generated extensive OC interest around the league, being connected to open jobs and likely on the radar for some that will soon be available, but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes the longtime Chiefs OC is focused on potential HC gigs. Only the Colts, however, have interviewed him for their job.
Some around the league believe this will come down to Bieniemy or Saturday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk adds. Considering the backlash both the Saturday hire and Bieniemy’s extended time on the HC carousel have each generated, the Colts choosing Saturday in that instance would create more controversy.
Andy Reid has been the Chiefs’ primary play-caller since 2013, and while Bieniemy has been labeled as a poor interviewer at points during his long run as Reid’s right-hand man, the fifth-year OC has been in place in this role throughout Patrick Mahomes‘ QB1 stay. Considering Mahomes is about to win a second MVP award and will do so after the Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill, that should reflect well on Bieniemy. Judging by the Arizona, Carolina, Denver and Houston searches, however, teams are not closely connecting the Reid lieutenant to such success. Bieniemy and Colts GM Chris Ballard worked together during the latter’s time in the Chiefs’ front office, though Fowler adds the Saturday-Irsay relationship continues to loom over this process.
Ballard ran the first set of Colts HC interviews, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes, adding that Carlie Irsay-Gordon (Jim’s daughter) has played a key role throughout this process as well. Ballard attempted to talk Irsay out of the Saturday hire in November and admitted as much this month. It should be expected the seventh-year GM will keep pushing for a different hire, but Irsay obviously will make the final call. This process should drag into next week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (video link).
Saturday promised extensive changes if he were to land the full-time job. He offered ex-Frank Reich staffers Scott Milanovich and Scottie Montgomery OC duties, but each turned down the job. That led to assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier receiving the opportunity. The Colts started three QBs during Saturday’s stay (Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger) but only won one game under interim coach. The team’s NFL-record collapse in Minnesota and other shaky performances did not exactly give Saturday momentum coming out of the season. If Irsay bucks staffers’ advice and goes in this direction again, it would make for one of the most interesting decisions in coaching history.
The Colts are moving on to second interviews with some head coaching candidates, but they’re still hoping to get one individual in the building for a first interview. According to Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, the Colts still want to speak with 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
The Colts have been trying to nail down an interview with Ryans for a few weeks. The organization was expected to finally speak with him on Sunday, but with the 49ers advancing to the NFC Championship Game, the coach once again put his interview on hold.
The coordinator already spoke with the Texans and Broncos about their HC jobs, and he also postponed an interview with the Cardinals. As Maaddi details, NFL rules allow Ryans to have second interviews with the Texans and Broncos next week, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s game. However, the NFL’s “window for first interviews” has close, so he’ll have to wait until the end of the 49ers’ season to speak with the Colts and Cardinals.
We heard earlier today that EjiroEvero will be getting a second interview with the Colts, and per Maaddi, the organization is expected to advance “six or seven other candidates” to the second round. Another name that should get a second meeting with the organization is interim head coach Jeff Saturday, according to Maaddi.
More coaching notes from around the NFL…
Sean McVay continues to shake up his coaching staff, and that’s led him to an assistant coach in Chicago. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter), the Rams have requested permission to interview Bears assistant offensive line coach Austin King. The former NFL player would presumably be eyeing a promotion in Los Angeles, and he could fill multiple roles considering his experience coaching tight ends with the Raiders.
Former Patriots lineman Adrian Klemm previously interviewed for New England’s offensive coordinator job, a position that ultimately went to Bill O’Brien. However, it sounds like the Patriots are still considering recruiting Klemm to their staff. According to TheMMQB’s Albert Breer (on Twitter), another meeting is anticipated between the coach and the Patriots. Klemm spent the 2022 season as Oregon’s associate head coach, run game coordinator, and offensive line coach. He previously spent time on the Steelers staff, serving as assistant OL coach before earning a promotion to OL coach in 2021.
With O’Brien back in New England, focus turns to the status of MattPatricia and JoeJudge after the duo led the Patriots‘ offense in 2022. ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes that Patricia should be able to carve out a role on New England’s staff in 2023 considering his familiarity with the organization and his relationship with BillBelichick. However, since the Lions are no longer picking up the tab, it remains to be seen if the Patriots will be willing to compensate the coach accordingly. Meanwhile, Reiss could see see Judge sticking around New England, but the writer is skeptical about the coach returning to his natural ST role. Judge officially spent last season as the Patriots quarterbacks coach, a designation that “surprised people both inside and outside the organization,” according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
There’s still no clarity on what Jerod Mayo‘s new role will be in New England, but he could be facing a significant promotion. Some pundits have suggested that Belichick could be preparing the former linebacker to eventually take over as head coach, and Breer tweets that Mayo was alongside his boss for all of the organization’s offensive coordinator interviews last week.
Chris Ballard confirmed November reports he did not backJim Irsay‘s decision to hire Jeff Saturday as the team’s interim head coach, but the six-year Colts GM also said Tuesday (via SI.com’s Albert Breer, on Twitter) that Saturday will be a candidate to stay on as the team’s full-time hire.
As that strange partnership persists, for the time being, the Colts find themselves in their best position to draft a quarterback in some time. While Josh Allen went off the board one spot after the Colts selected Quenton Nelson five years ago, Indianapolis was not exactly in need of a QB at that point. Since Andrew Luck‘s sudden retirement in 2019, the Colts have only made one first-round pick (Kwity Paye in 2021) and opted to make two trades to fill their starting QB post. Neither the Carson Wentz nor the Matt Ryan deal ended up working out.
The Colts will be a candidate to trade up for a passer, injecting more intrigue into the team’s highest draft choice (No. 4 overall) since Luck 11 years ago.
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Ballard said (via ESPN.com’s Stephen Holder) regarding a trade-up. “If we thought there’s a player that we’re driven to get that makes the franchise and the team better, that’s what we would do. We understand the importance of the position. To get one that you can win with and to be right is the most important thing — not if we take one or not. It’s being right.
“Looking back on it, when you’re changing quarterbacks every year, it’s tough. It’s tough on everybody. It’s tough on the team. Not getting that position settled has a little something to do with [the team’s tumble].”
It might take moving up to the No. 1 spot to select Alabama’s Bryce Young, whom the Texans will likely covet at No. 2 overall. ESPN.com’s Todd McShay has both C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) and Will Levis (Kentucky) going in the top six. Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. slots Stroud as the No. 4 overall prospect and Levis outside the top 10.
While the Colts have experienced good fortune after bad seasons, falling into the Luck and Peyton Manning draft slots. Nabbing Nelson at No. 6, following a 2017 season Luck missed all of due to a shoulder injury, has also worked out well. But Luck’s retirement thrust the Colts into a tailspin. They may be connected to yet another veteran — after the Philip Rivers-Wentz-Ryan carousel — this offseason, but strong consideration will be given to reinvesting via the draft.
Ballard said he told Irsay just before the Saturday hire: “This is unprecedented, and we’re putting him into a really tough situation here.” The longtime GM added that he will lead the search for the team’s next head coach, but Irsay will make the final call.
Ballard’s first coaching search produced a historically unusual twist, with Josh McDaniels backing out of a verbal agreement. The Colts’ Reich hire produced two playoff berths, but Irsay — in a rather eventful year for the outspoken owner — pulled the plug on that as the team struggled to start this season. Despite Indy’s woes intensifying under Saturday, he is expected to be interviewed soon.
“He knows the internal workings and he’s been able to see the inside of what he wants to fix,” Ballard said when asked if Saturday has a leg up on the outside HC candidates. “But we will have a process that will be equal for everybody.”
On display knocking the Packers out of the playoff race, the Lions finished off a remarkable turnaround this season. Early interest is coming in for Dan Campbell‘s coordinators.
Following a Texans interview request, OC Ben Johnson received another from the Colts, whom Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) are interested in speaking with Lions DC Aaron Glenn. Jeff Saturday is believed to remain in the equation for Jim Irsay‘s team, but the owner said last month he looked forward to meeting with a host of candidates for the gig. The Colts will also attempt to meet with Rams DC Raheem Morris, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter), and Eagles OC Shane Steichen, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
This run of HC interest represents quite the rise for Johnson, who started last season as Detroit’s tight ends coach. For Glenn, the HC interest comes a few months after rumors of his potential ouster as Detroit’s DC surfaced. The Lions, however, completed an incredible bounce-back effort by going from 1-6 to 9-8.
Glenn’s defense did not cross the finish line with particularly strong marks. The Lions’ late-season surge still ended with their defense in last place in yards allowed and 28th in scoring. A crucial December loss to the Panthers ended with Carolina setting franchise records in total yards and on the ground. Still, the development of players like Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston, Jeff Okudah and Kerby Joseph reflects well on Glenn, who was up for the Saints’ HC job that went to Dennis Allen last year. Glenn, 50, took over Lions DC duties in 2021 but spent the previous five years on Sean Payton‘s staff.
Jared Goff finished the season fifth in QBR — by far the highest placement of his career — and closed his second Lions campaign with a 29-7 TD-INT ratio. Behind one of the league’s better offensive lines, Jamaal Williams also put together a 1,000-yard season that ended with him leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns (17 — a number that broke Barry Sanders‘ 31-year-old Lions record). Johnson, 36, has gone from never calling plays at any level prior to 2022 to being a sought-after interviewee.
Morris, a former Buccaneers coach and Falcons interim HC, wrapped his second season as the Rams’ DC. While 2022 proved to be a rough year for the defending Super Bowl champions, Morris’ work shaping the 2021 Rams’ defense will still make him an intriguing candidate. Morris, 46, has experience coaching on both sides of the ball at the NFL level. Mostly a defensive coach, he helmed the Falcons’ wide receivers from 2016-19.
The Texans also requested a Steichen meeting, but the Eagles’ continued growth on offense — as Jalen Hurts morphs from a player with long-term questions to a surefire extension candidate — has been expected to generate looks for their play-caller. Ex-Colts OC Nick Sirianni gave Steichen play-calling duties midway through last season, and the 37-year-old assistant drove the team to becoming the league’s top rushing attack. The Eagles rank third in total yards and points this season, and Hurts took a major leap as a passer.
Despite the Colts completing their worst regular season in at least 11 years, Irsay has stumped for Saturday on multiple occasions since making the controversial hire. Saturday wants to stay on as head coach, Mike Chappell of CBS4 notes, adding that while no interview has been scheduled one should be expected. It would be odd (and wildly unpopular) for the coach in charge of the Colts’ first seven-game losing streak to end a season since the team’s 1953 expansion year would stay on, but that scenario remains in play.