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Breaking Down The New Colts Head Coaching Candidates

Three names have emerged as the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Let's take a closer look at the options for Chris Ballard and Jim Irsay.

Chris Trotman | Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS – Less than 24 hours after Josh McDaniels turned his back on the Indianapolis Colts, Chris Ballard was already moving forward.

Three names quickly emerged as interview candidates, with Ballard embarking on his ‘second’ head coach search.

New Orleans assistant head coach Dan Campbell interviewed on Thursday.

Off a Super Bowl Championship, Philadelphia offensive coordinator Frank Reich was scheduled to interview on Friday.

Current Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is supposed to interview over the weekend.

Ballard didn’t expect to reach back into the drawer for his head coaching candidate list, but here he is in a predicament no GM ever wishes to endure.

“We will get the right leader for the Indianapolis Colts,” Ballard said earlier this week.

“One that believes what we believe and wants to go where we want to go. I’m very confident in this.”

Let’s take a closer look at the 3 leading candidates for Chris Ballard:


-Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell: The former NFL tight end is an imposing figure who was the talk of the NFL for a couple of weeks in October of 2015.

Campbell was then the interim head coach of the Dolphins back in 2015, taking over for Joe Philbin. After 2 dominant wins to start his tenure, Campbell and the Dolphins were brought back down to reality a bit. Campbell still went 5-7 as Miami’s interim and a candidate for their head coaching position after the season, which eventually went to Adam Gase.

After that, the 41-year-old Campbell moved on to New Orleans, where he’s been the assistant head coach to Sean Payton for the last 2 seasons.

In Campbell, the Colts would be getting more of a ‘players' coach’ compared to McDaniels.

“No. 1, I think he’s a real good teacher,” Payton says, before adding, “I think he’s tough. I think he’s extremely talented. I think he’s someone that will be a head coach in our league.”

“I have really liked working with Dan,” Saints tight end Fleener adds. “As a former player, he understands it from a different perspective than a lot of guys do. But he’s also very intelligent and can explain things in a way that is a lot more in-depth than simple X's and O's. He gives a certain reason for why things go on or why we do things this way or that way, which I really appreciate.

“He is very passionate about what he does and I appreciate that. I appreciate the way he approaches his work and the way he approaches the players he’s coaching ... as intelligent men who can be self-sufficient, while giving us the support we need.”

But where Campbell differs from a Chuck Pagano is in the style of his ability to relate to players.

Think more Bruce Arians, or an ex-player, in Campbell’s relationship with his players.

The Dolphins loved Campbell’s aggressive playing style in 13 years as a NFL tight end and that certainly helped the young head coach earn the trust of his players.

While the X’s and O’s and high-major coordinating experience isn’t there for Campbell, he could be more of the Mike Vrabel-type of hire for the Colts.

Remember, the Colts thought very highly of Vrabel, before he took the job in Tennessee.


-Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich: The former Colts’ assistant coach has to be a favorite of Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, Bill Polian and even Jim Irsay.

Reich is the definite fan favorite right now, as well, after helping the Eagles beat the Patriots in last Sunday’s Super Bowl.

As a player and a coach, Reich has had 25 seasons in the NFL. He spent 7 of those with the Colts (from 2006-11) serving as a quarterbacks and wide receivers coach.

Next up were stints with the Cardinals and Chargers as a position coach. Reich then became San Diego’s offensive coordinator from 2014-15. Reich helped quarterback Philip Rivers to a pair of impressive seasons as the team’s OC.

After San Diego, Reich moved on to the Eagles, where he’s been the offensive coordinator each of the last 2 seasons.

There’s no question Reich has helped develop quarterbacks on a variety of levels with the Chargers and Eagles.

But he was not the play caller in Philadelphia during their Super Bowl run.

“He’s got the right demeanor,” Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson said of Reich to the Chicago Sun Times. “He’s a players’ coach. He relates well to the players. He does a great job with the offensive staff, and he’s got the right demeanor.

“He’s got the mindset, the mentality, the leadership qualities that you see. I think it is a matter of time. Obviously, the more success you have as a team, a lot of places are going to look. And I was fortunate a couple of years ago to be in that position. I see Frank maybe one day having another opportunity.”

With Matt Eberflus already in place as the Colts’ defensive coordinator, wouldn’t a more offensive-minded hire (i.e. Reich) make sense?


-Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier: Similar to Reich, Frazier definitely has the backing of the Dungy/Polian regime.

The 58-year-old Frazier has a long history as a defensive coach in this league.

He also was a head coach for 4 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, compiling a 21-31-1 record from 2010-13 .

Frazier’s time in Indianapolis was from 2005-06, part of the Super Bowl XLI defensive staff under Tony Dungy.

“Leslie is a special guy, in my book,” Dungy said in 2008. “He came with us for two years and helped us win a Super Bowl. So on top of personal friendship, I’m always going to be grateful for his role in helping us get to the top.”

Frazier played in the NFL for 5 seasons with the Chicago Bears before a knee injury in Super Bowl XX ended his career.

He’s been a defensive coordinator around the league for 8 seasons, taking over that side of the ball in Buffalo last year.

With Frazier, he does have the head coaching experience, but would Ballard want to hire a defensive coach with Matt Eberflus already locked in as the D-coordinator?


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