Ranking the Colts’ head coaching candidates after first interviews

The Indianapolis Colts have gotten through their first round of interviews as they search for a new head coach entering the 2023 season.

The process is going to take as long as it takes, but the Colts seem to be leaning on the thorough side of the search when it comes to the number of candidates. We’ve got you covered with the latest updates in the coaching search via our tracker.

In total, the Colts have interviewed 13 candidates since the end of the regular season, two of which were in-house interviews (Bubba Ventrone, Jeff Saturday). One candidate, DeMeco Ryans, was scheduled to interview but canceled/postponed it as the San Francisco 49ers were preparing for their playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. It isn’t clear if the interview will take place.

The Colts also interviewed Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, but he informed the team he’s remaining with his current role.

The search includes a wide variety of minds. There seems to be no emphasis on either side of the ball, and several of the candidates have experience working both with offense and defense.

As the Colts look to finalize their search, here’s a ranking of the candidates following the first round of interviews.

Jeff Saturday

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In any other situation, Saturday wouldn’t even be considered for this role. His connection with Jim Irsay is the only reason he’s still in the running and the reason why he could be a finalist. Saturday’s lack of coaching experience, and his struggles as an interim head coach leading the Colts to a 1-7 record over the final eight games—with the second-worst point differential in the league—should be enough to keep him off the list. However, Irsay’s recent string of impulsive decisions makes Saturday’s candidacy unpredictable even if he shouldn’t be considered for the job.

Wink Martindale

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Martindale being ranked this low on the list isn’t about him as a coach or a leader. It’s about the fact that he’s unlikely to take a head coaching job, and the interview may have been more so the Colts could continue to cover as much ground as possible in their search. Martindale is a fantastic defensive mind and a strong leader. He has the qualities necessary to be a head coach in the NFL, and hiring him would be intriguing, but his seeming lack of desire to hold that role is why he’s so low on this list.

Eric Bieniemy

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It is a bit odd as to why Bieniemy hasn’t gotten a head coaching opportunity considering his recent success as the offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs. How much we should attribute that success to Bieniemy, considering the influences of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, isn’t all that clear. Bieniemy also has been interviewed several times in recent offseasons but still hasn’t been hired so that’s an element that needs to be considered. However, there is a connection with Chris Ballard from his days with the Chiefs so we shouldn’t rule this one out entirely.

Rich Bisaccia

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Learning that Bisaccia was interviewed was a bit of a surprise, but it’s understandable that the Colts would want to bring him in. Though he’s a special teams mind, Bisaccia is highly regarded around the league. He’s been coaching in the NFL since 2002 and has held roles such as assistant head coach and interim head coach throughout his career. He was the interim head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders after Jon Gruden was fired in 2021, leading the team to a 7-5 record and a playoff berth. He was the first interim to lead his team to a playoff berth since Bruce Arians did it with the Colts in 2012.

Dan Quinn

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Another seasoned, yet mildly uninspiring option, Quinn has been gaining steam as a head coach candidate around the league after many saw what he did for the Dallas Cowboys defense. He has prior head coaching experience and while his team did blow the biggest lead in Super Bowl history, he did get his team there. That’s worth something. Quinn is a smart defensive mind and has the ability to connect with his players. There are worse options, even if this would be a bit less exciting.

Aaron Glenn

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Glenn may not be the most popular candidate for the Colts, but it’s easy to see why the front office wanted to get him in for an interview. An exceptional leader and motivator, Glenn was a star on “Hard Knocks” this season. He’s proven to be an intense coach, but there are few questions about his ability to lead and his ability to get his players to buy in. While some may scoff at how the numbers look for the Detroit Lions defense, they played much better in the second half of the season, showing Glenn is willing to make adjustments regardless of his prior notions. Glenn would likely hire an offensive and defensive coordinator, but if the Colts wanted a strong leader, it’s understandable why he’s in consideration.

Mike Kafka

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Kafka has been rising quickly in the conversations as an up-and-coming name in the head coaching circle. Though extremely young, 35, Kafka was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010 and only started coaching in the NFL in 2017. However, he spent four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs working closely with Patrick Mahomes as the quarterbacks coach (2018-2021) while adding pass-game coordinator duties for his final two seasons there(2020-2021). He was the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants in 2022 and was one of the leading reasons behind the comeback seasons of  Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.

Bubba Ventrone

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Ventrone was officially the first interview the Colts conducted this offseason, and it was long overdue considering most believed he would take over for Frank Reich after the latter was fired midseason. Ventrone has been the special teams coordinator for the Colts since 2018 and has had a lot of success in recent seasons. Though more of a leader/motivator from a schematics standpoint, Ventrone is highly regarded in the Colts locker room and throughout the organization. He would need to hire an offensive and defensive coordinator, but Ventrone would be an intriguing hire, especially since we already know he fits in the locker room.

Brian Callahan

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This would certainly be a risky hire, but the upside could be huge. Callahan’s resume speaks for itself, especially when looking at the quarterbacks he’s worked with throughout his career and the recent success he’s had as the Bengals offensive coordinator. The son of Cleveland Browns offensive line coach, Bill Callahan, Brian has had close working relationships with Peyton Manning during his stint with the Denver Broncos while serving as the quarterbacks coach for Matthew Stafford (2016-2017) and Derek Carr (2018). His last three seasons have been with Joe Burrow as the Bengals lead one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the NFL.

Ejiro Evero

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Though Evero is young, 42, he has plenty of experience coaching the NFL ranks to back up his resume. He’s been coaching in the NFL since 2007, and his recent stints with the Rams and Broncos have proven he’s a strong coach on the defensive side of the ball. He has plenty of connections around the league to build a strong staff, and he’s been highly regarded in terms of character and leadership.

DeMeco Ryans

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We’re going to include Ryans here in the off-chance he returns to the running. Another defensive-minded option, Ryans would be a fantastic hire as a young coach looking for an opportunity to prove himself at a higher level. He spent 10 seasons in the NFL as a players (2006-2015) and has been quickly rising through the coaching ranks with the San Francisco 49ers. As their defensive coordinator over the last two seasons, the 49ers have been one of the best in the NFL.

Raheem Morris

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Morris is certainly an intriguing candidate. He has prior head coaching experience (2009-2011) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It didn’t go so well, but he was a young coach and has a decade’s worth of experience and learning since then. Morris is a defensive mind but has worked extensively as a pass-game coordinator in the past. He has a lot of connections around the league and all reports seem to be that his players love competing for him.

Shane Steichen

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If the Colts want to get their offense back into shape, Steichen could very well be the man to get the job done. Though he’s young, 37, Steichen has been around plenty of winning organizations and has had success working with different quarterbacks (Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts) during his coaching career. Whether Nick Sirianni will dissuade Steichen isn’t clear, but this hire would make a ton of sense for both sides, especially with a rookie quarterback expected to come.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire