The offseason moves just keep on coming for the Indianapolis Colts.
Two weeks ago, the Colts parted ways with team vice-chairman Bill Polian, vice-president/general manager Chris Polian and director of football operations Steve Champlin.
Late last week, Indianapolis hired former Philadelphia Eagles player personnel director Ryan Grigson to be its new general manager. And on Tuesday, after much speculation, the team confirmed that head coach Jim Caldwell had been dismissed after three seasons.
“I just want to thank Jim Caldwell and acknowledge all of the outstanding things that he has done for our franchise,” team owner Jim Irsay said during an afternoon press conference at the Colts’ West 56th Street headquarters.
“This was a difficult decision. I think it was based on the feeling that this was a direction the franchise needed to go. And I wanted to make sure that we took all the time we needed . . . to make sure that it was the right decision.”
Caldwell, who joined the Colts as quarterbacks coach in 2002, served as Indianapolis’ assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach in 2006-07 and was the associate head coach in 2008. He was promoted to the top job as the hand-picked successor to retiring head coach Tony Dungy a few weeks after the conclusion of the 2008 season.
In three seasons as head coach, Caldwell compiled an overall record of 26-22 (14-2, 10-6 and 2-14). He led Indianapolis to two AFC South crowns (2009, 2010), an AFC title in 2009 and an appearance in Super Bowl XLIV (losing 31-17 to New Orleans). The Colts dropped a 17-16 decision to the New York Jets in the 2010 AFC Divisional playoffs.
Injuries to key personnel played havoc with Indianapolis’ won-lost record the last two years. But it was the loss of several starters this season – most notably quarterback Peyton Manning – that contributed to the team’s overall collapse. The Colts dropped their first 13 games before rebounding with wins in two of their final three contests.
Manning underwent neck fusion surgery on Sept. 8, his third such medical procedure over a 19-month time period. While he remained on the Colts’ active roster all season, he did not practice with the team. The absence of the four-time NFL Most Valuable Player evolved into a revolving door at the quarterback position, with Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and, finally, Dan Orlovsky all getting work.
Indianapolis also played most of the season without the services of two veteran defensive stalwarts, middle linebacker Gary Brackett and strong safety Melvin Bullitt. They both sat out with shoulder injuries.
They were joined on the injury list for portions of the season by tight end Dallas Clark (broken fibula/pinched nerve in his neck), cornerback Jerraud Powers (dislocated elbow), rookie defensive tackle Drake Nevis (back), defensive tackle Eric Foster (ankle), rookie offensive tackle Ben Ijalana (knee) and rookie offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo (ankle). Powers, Nevis, Foster and Ijalana all joined Brackett and Bullitt on the team’s injured reserve list.
Defensive issues forced the firing of second-year coordinator Larry Coyer in mid-November. And continued special teams problems led to the dismissal of third-year coordinator Ray Rychelski at the end of the season.
Despite all of the tumult associated with this year’s meltdown, there was still plenty of discussion as to whether Caldwell would keep his job.
As recently as Monday evening, it appeared as if he would stay on in the short term. Caldwell participated with Grigson as they interviewed former St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo to be the Colts’ new defensive coordinator. And he had gone ahead and sent his coaching staff on vacation after assuming that their jobs were safe.
Less than 24 hours later, though, his tenure was over and a search began immediately to find his replacement. Caldwell learned of his fate Tuesday during a 2 p.m. meeting.
“We appreciate the job that Coach Caldwell has done for the organization and the Indianapolis community,” the new general manager said. “I was briefly able to get to know the kind of man he is and what he represents. But after consulting with Mr. Irsay, we knew we had to go in a different direction. I wish Coach Caldwell and his family all the best.”
• Deadline for new coach? – According to both Irsay and Grigson, there isn’t a set time for how long the interview process will take. It’s expected, however, that both the Colts and league officials would like things to be wrapped up before the start of Super Bowl week in Indianapolis.
“There are 600 or so coaches currently working in the NFL. We want to find the best one,” the general manager said. “We’re going to do this the right way. We’re not going to be hurried.”
The Colts owner agreed.
“You’re going to keep all your options open in terms of how this thing might go because you’re going to do whatever you think is best. There are a lot of things might happen that you don’t anticipate,” Irsay said.
“Look at what happened when we let Jim Mora go and nobody, even Tony Dungy, was going to be available. So you just don’t know sometimes how these things turn. You’re ready to seize the moment whatever the opportunity is.”
As for having a new coach on board before the Super Bowl, he refused to set a time frame.
“You’d like to get it done sooner than later. But you can’t rush it. So I don’t think that’s a factor. Two weeks from today is still before a lot of the big stuff is rolling into town here or anything like that,” Irsay voiced. “We’d like to get it done within the next couple weeks. That’s just a rough time frame because you just don’t know. It could be sooner. It could be a little later. But the sooner the better.”
• Possible candidates – Among the names being bandied about include Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Marc Trestman of the Montreal Alouettes (Canadian Football League) and Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Grigson and Mornhinweg worked together in Philadelphia. Arians is a former quarterbacks coach for the Colts, working with Manning during his first two seasons in the league. He went on to be the quarterbacks coach for Cleveland and Pittsburgh. He has been credited for his work with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
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