Colts hire Shane Steichen as head coach: Big questions, what's next

There must be something about offensive coordinators who help lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl that appeals to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, because for the second time in five years, Irsay hired one to be his head coach.

Indy made it official Tuesday, hiring Shane Steichen to succeed Frank Reich. Steichen helped guide the Eagles to Super Bowl LVII, where they lost 38-35 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Reich helped lead Philly to the Super Bowl LII title, beating the New England Patriots 41-33.

Reich was 40-33-1 in four-plus seasons in Indy before being fired in November and replaced on an interim basis by Jeff Saturday.

Steichen will be tasked with fixing the Colts' offense, particularly the quarterback position, which featured a different starter each year under Reich. Since Andrew Luck retired in the 2019 preseason, Reich went from Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan. There's a good chance that revolving door will take another spin next season, as Ryan, who struggled terribly this season, may retire, be released or come back to mentor a young starter.

In Philly, Steichen helped quarterback Jalen Hurts turn into one of the game's most dynamic players in just his third season. He was fourth in QBR at 66.3, which was nearly 12 points higher than his previous season. The Super Bowl marked his second game in which he had at least 300 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. No other player in NFL history has done that once. And his 80% completion rate Sunday was the fourth highest in Super Bowl history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Will Steichen get another young QB to work with in 2023? The Colts have the No. 4 pick in the draft and may try to trade up. The Chicago Bears have the top pick but don't need a quarterback and might be enticed to trade down.

In the meantime, Steichen will build his staff and try to figure out how to breathe life into a team that woefully underachieved, finishing 4-12-1 in 2022.

ESPN Eagles reporter Tim McManus, Colts reporter Stephen Holder and NFL draft analyst Jordan Reid break down the hire from various angles.

Who is Shane Steichen?

Steichen spent the last three years as an offensive coordinator -- the last two in Philadelphia and the season before that with the Chargers. Prior to that, he served four years as the Chargers' quarterbacks coach. He's had success working with Rivers, Justin Herbert and, most recently, Hurts -- three quarterbacks with different skill sets. Steichen took over as the playcaller for coach Nick Sirianni around the midway point of last season, and the Eagles' offense has been one of the best in football since that point.

He has a knack for knowing which plays will work in the flow of the game and helped tailor the system to maximize Hurts' gifts. -- McManus

Why did the Colts see him as the best choice?

Steichen bears similarities to Reich, but he brings a different sort of approach and personality than Reich, one that is more like the intensity of Sirianni. It's typical of teams to seek a different kind of leadership when making a coaching change, and Irsay made it clear this was an important element when he named Saturday as the team's interim coach in November. Saturday had no prior college or NFL coaching experience, but Irsay cited his passion and intensity. Players also noted this was the biggest difference from Reich during Saturday's eight-game stint at the helm.

Just as important is Steichen's work with quarterbacks, from Rivers to Herbert to Hurts. His success in this area meshes nicely with the Colts' need to establish some continuity there. -- Holder

How will he impact the QB position?

Steichen's work with Herbert and Hurts, in particular, makes a strong statement about his ability to mold young quarterbacks. Both had great success in very early stages of their careers while working in Steichen's offense. Steichen also took very different approaches with those quarterbacks but still enjoyed a great deal of success. The Chargers were among the NFL's leaders in pass attempts under Steichen in 2020 (Herbert's rookie season). In 2021, Steichen's first season in Philadelphia, the Eagles were second in the NFL in rushing attempts.

When it comes to working with young quarterbacks, Steichen offered the following insight during the 2020 season: "A lot of it is getting to know him as a person and how he learns, and once you find out how players learn -- because everyone learns differently -- then it helps the process moving forward. ... To understand how he sees the game and processes information is big and helps you as a coach. Ultimately, we're teachers." -- Holder

What does this hire say about Irsay's role and the process?

Irsay's stunning move to install Saturday as the interim coach despite his complete lack of experience was jarring. His continued defense of the move, which was made despite objections from general manager Chris Ballard and others, suggested Saturday had a decent shot at the permanent job despite going 1-7.

But this search was conducted in the exact fashion promised by Ballard after the conclusion of the regular season, indicating Ballard was in control of the process.

Irsay had several well-documented instances during the past year when he acted uncharacteristically, making decisions about quarterbacks and the coaching change that were counter to the advice of his subordinates. Irsay has privately taken exception to how he has been characterized as a result of those moves. The way things played out here indicate Irsay yielded to Ballard and others and followed their advice despite his affection for Saturday. Team sources have said Irsay's recent decision-making was a result of the Colts' epic struggles last season and not indicative of how he'll proceed in the future. -- Holder

How far are the Colts from returning to contender status?

That depends on how quickly they can settle their quarterback situation. The Eagles are a perfect example of how the right move at quarterback can lead to a massive shift in fortunes. Hurts' progression during the past two seasons shows what is possible. Steichen, obviously, will have to play a significant role in this, too.

But there is another lesson to take away from the Eagles: They not only benefited from the growth of their quarterback but also from building around him in an aggressive fashion. The trade for receiver A.J. Brown and several additions on defense helped bolster the Eagles and propel them to the Super Bowl.

The Colts' roster is solid, but the 2022 season revealed some of its weaknesses. The team could benefit from more playmaking on offense, as it currently lacks an elite pass-catcher. If the Colts can reestablish their running game with a healthy Jonathan Taylor, that will give them a head start on getting their offense back on track. But the Colts need to crawl before they walk: They've won just one playoff game since 2014, so the Super Bowl isn't currently a realistic conversation. -- Holder

What QB in the 2023 draft would be the best fit in Indy?

Kentucky's Will Levis. After working with Herbert as a rookie and then Hurts, Steichen has a proven track record with QB development. And Levis has similar traits to both of those passers: strong arm, good mobility and quick decision-making. After experimenting with retread veteran passers, the Colts obviously need a long-term solution under center, and while Levis' development didn't take the next step in 2022, many scouts believe he shows a lot of promise and can be a solid NFL starter. The biggest question will be whether a coaching staff can fix his turnover issues (23 interceptions over the past two years). Steichen could be the right guy for the job. -- Reid