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Is Colts Head Coaching Search Starting To Narrow?

Has the Colts head coaching search started to narrow with nearly 2 weeks complete in Chris Ballard’s quest?

Jeffrey Brown | Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS – Is the field of coaching candidates for the Colts starting to narrow?

It appears that way after this report from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The latest news on the Colts’ coaching front comes from the surprising interview of Baylor head coach Matt Rhule and Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks apparently no longer in the running.

On Thursday, Baylor AD Mark Rhoades confirmed that Rhule would be staying at Baylor after the head coach held a team meeting with his players.

While Rhule was never viewed as a legitimate candidate, Baylor fans (and Colts fans) were obviously a little startled by him even interviewing.

The Wilks’ news comes after the former colleague of Chris Ballard’s (the two were together in Chicago from 2006-08) interviewed this week with the Giants and Cardinals.

If the Rapoport news of the Colts now more “focused on offensive candidates” is true this means Josh McDaniels is the most realistic current option, unless Ballard has kept things quiet with another offensive mind.

McDaniels is the only offensive coach to have reportedly interviewed for the job, and still is on the open market.

Defensive guys Kris Richard (Seattle defensive coordinator) and Mike Vrabel (Houston defensive coordinator) interviewed last week.

Matt Nagy (former Kansas City offensive coordinator) interviewed this past Sunday, but decided to take the Chicago job.

And Rhule looks to be returning to Baylor, without knowing how serious the Colts’ interest was in the inexperienced college coach.

So, who are the other offensive candidates besides McDaniels?

The Colts could have interviewed the other 3 offensive coordinators on bye week teams last week, but elected not to sit down with Minnesota’s Pat Shurmur, Philadelphia’s Frank Reich or Pittsburgh’s Todd Haley.  

Is there another, not-publically known, candidate with an offensive background that Ballard is interested in?

If not, then McDaniels is the guy that fits Rapoport’s criteria.

But if the Colts do have McDaniels as their top option, they might need to hunker down and wait.

An official coaching hire with a coach still in the playoffs cannot be agreed upon until that team is out of the postseason.

New England hosts Tennessee on Saturday night in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs.

If the 13-point favored Patriots win on Saturday, the next time the Colts could even speak with McDaniels is a week from Monday (during the Super Bowl bye week).

Ballard has said he would be patient in this process. He is going to have to be that if McDaniels is his guy, and the Patriots do what they typically do in the month of January.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the 7 rumored candidates for the Colts head coaching job:

  • Josh McDaniels (New England offensive coordinator): The interview for McDaniels came last week, with New England on their bye. Unless the Patriots lose on Saturday, no team can interview the New England offensive coordinator again until Super Bowl bye week. So we might not hear much more on McDaniels for the next week or so. McDaniels is a coveted name and has been extremely selective in turning down jobs in recent years. If the Colts really want McDaniels, they might have to be patient, similar to what we saw from Atlanta (Dan Quinn) and San Francisco (Kyle Shanahan) when their coaching candidates made Super Bowl runs in the past few years. The Giants reportedly have interest in McDaniels, too, as did the Bears.
  • Kris Richard (Seattle defensive coordinator): With Seattle missing the playoffs, Richard could make some interview rounds late last week. Richard’s interview with the Colts came after McDaniels. The 38-year-old Richard has been a rumored candidate in other stops besides Indianapolis. Richard was one of three people the Colts interviewed last week.
  • Matt Rhule (Baylor head coach): Here’s your major surprise candidate. The Colts interviewed the 42-year-old Rhule earlier this week. The resume for Rhule has one year as an NFL coach (a 2012 assistant offensive line coach for the Giants) and one year as a major college coach (where Baylor went 1-11). Rhule also has no direct connection to the Indy staff. Before Baylor, Rhule did take Temple to impressive heights with two 10-win seasons there in 4 years. Even though Rhule is a name to watch in the coming years, he does not have anywhere near the resume to merit an NFL hiring in 2018. On Thursday, Baylor AD Mark Rhoades said that Rhule would be returning as the Bears head coach.
  • Dave Toub (Kansas City special teams coordinator): Things are really, really quiet on the Toub front. Some thought Toub was the favorite for this job. But hardly anything has been reported on an interview for him since New Year’s Day. Of course, with the Chiefs in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Colts could not have interviewed Toub until this past weekend. With the Chiefs’ season now over, we still haven’t see Toub’s name resurface with long-time colleague Chris Ballard.
  • Steve Wilks (Carolina defensive coordinator): Carolina’s loss on Sunday evening meant Wilks could go into full interview mode this coming week. He did with the Giants and the Cardinals, but not the Colts. Chris Ballard worked with Wilks for three years in Chicago. But it sounds like the mutual interest between Wilks and the Colts has vanished.
  • Mike Vrabel (Houston defensive coordinator): Like McDaniels and Richard, Vrabel was able to interview with the Colts last week. On paper, any team that hires Vrabel will have some explaining to do as the resume does not add up to him being head coach ready. Vrabel has been the defensive coordinator for just one season in Houston, where the Texans finished 32nd in scoring defense.


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