Colts Offseason Checklist Series: Coaching Staff Hires

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With the arrival of Shane Steichen as the new head coach, we have seen the completion of his offensive staff. Steichen announced that Gus Bradley and his entire defensive staff will return next season so there will be zero turnover on that staff and they can continue to grow those players. The defense and special teams were the only bright light on this team last season. Let’s discuss the major hirings as the staff has essentially been filled out now.

Offensive Coordinator

Jim Bob Cooter
Previous: Jaguars Passing Game Coordinator

At age 38, Cooter gets his second opportunity as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. He returns to Indy, the site of his first NFL assistant job. This will be his 7th stop as an assistant but the resume of the coaches he has worked under is impressive. He has worked with the likes of Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Jalen Hurts, and most recently, Trevor Lawrence. He has learned from notable head coaches as well with the likes of Philip Fulmer, Jim Caldwell and Doug Pederson. Cooter is a great choice for this job because of his familiarity with Steichen’s scheme. He is known around the league as a coach with great attention to detail and his ability to get the most out of the quarterback position. Hurts and Lawrence both saw great leaps in their second years when Cooter was on the staff. While not unexpected, this hire tips the Colts hand a bit for the draft as they are setting up the infrastructure to take a quarterback in April’s Draft.

Quarterbacks Coach

Cam Turner
Previous: Arizona Cardinals Quarterbacks Coach/Passing Game Coordinator

This one came as a bit of a surprise as many fans felt Steichen would try to convince his former QB Philip Rivers back onto this sideline but this time as a coach and not a player. This is not the case, as Turner has accepted the position. Cameron Turner is Norv Turner’s nephew and Steichen named his greatest mentor as Norv Turner. So, the connections continue within this staff. Turner is a very young up-and-coming assistant. He has coached Cam Newton and most recently, Kyler Murray. Not sure the Murray endorsement is one to cheer about so far but you are starting to see the direction that Steichen is going with this offensive coaching staff with this hire. This confirms that they will draft a young and mobile quarterback with their first-round pick in April’s draft.

Running Backs Coach

DeAndre Smith
Previous: New York Giants Running Backs Coach

Steichen grabs a veteran coach to oversee the continued development of star RB Jonathon Taylor. With Taylor in a contract year, it makes this hire very important. He just recently got into NFL coaching spending the majority of his time in college. Most recently, he coached Saquon Barkley on Brian Daboll’s staff in New York. Any coach would jump at the opportunity to coach Taylor, but if Taylor will be here beyond this season is unknown right now. Either way, this sets the Colts up for success as they can have a seasoned coach to further Taylor’s development or if they cannot re-sign him, they have someone that can coach the new RB from the draft.

Offensive Line Coach

Tony Sparano Jr.
Previous: New York Giants Assistant Offensive Line Coach

The son of the late Tony Sparano gets his first assistant job coaching his own unit. On top of that, this is the second assistant that Steichen has plucked from Brian Daboll’s staff in New York. This is arguably the 2nd most important hire that Steichen has made behind the hiring of Jim Bob Cooter for an offensive coordinator. Sparano will be tasked with fixing a broken Colts offensive line. They showed immense regression this season from their past successes. This will be a key part of the team with the expected franchise QB arriving in April.

Tight Ends Coach

Tom Manning
Previous: Iowa State Offensive Coordinator (Was hired as Cincinnati OC for the upcoming season)

Manning returns to the franchise under the same title he had in 2018 with Frank Reich’s inaugural staff. He later left Indy to take on the OC position at Iowa State along with other assistant coaching duties on top of that. Manning was a consecutive 2-time Broyles Award (top college assistant) nominee at Iowa State. His tight end room was always strong and you did see him coach some notable players at Iowa State including RB David Montgomery, RB Breece Hall and QB Brock Purdy.

Wide Receivers Coach

Reggie Wayne
Retained from Frank Reich’s Staff

No surprise here, but Reggie Wayne will return to the staff. He is still under contract and the receivers showed continued growth this past season. There were some unconfirmed reports that Reggie Wayne has been working with Steichen to help assist in the hiring process of the new coaches. Might we see Wayne get a small promotion to Passing Game Coordinator as well? The progress of Alec Pierce will be one to watch as they will need to prevent him from having a sophomore slump. With Pittman in a contract season, his development will continue to be crucial.

Special Teams Coordinator

Brian Mason
Previous: University of Notre Dame Special Teams Coordinator

With the unexpected departure of former Colts ST Coordinator Bubba Ventrone to Cleveland, Steichen goes outside the box with a known college coordinator. Mason claims this is his “dream job” and is ready for the challenge. A former college running back from D3 Denison University brings 15 years of college coaching experience after his playing days were cut short by injury. He has ties to the area as a graduate of a local Indiana high school and during his time at Notre Dame. Like Tom Manning, Mason was a Broyles Award (top college assistant) nominee and was one of only two ST Coordinators with that distinction last season. The unit at Notre Dame had a record of seven punt blocks last season and Mason’s strength is player development, which is the key pillar of Chris Ballard’s belief during his time in Indianapolis.

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