Settling the muddled quarterback situation of the Indianapolis Colts is a top priority of Rod Dowhower, who was named coach of the National Football League team today.

"I want to go into the season with the quarterback spot settled," said Dowhower, 41, after the news conference announcing his selection.

Dowhower, the former St. Louis offensive coordinator, succeeds Frank Kush, who resigned before the final game of the regular season to become head coach of the U.S. Football League's Arizona team.

"I know the Colts used three quarterbacks last season," said Dowhower. "I want them to know that all three have a shot at the job and that there is no No. 1 at this point. It all depends on how hard they want to work, how they adapt to my plans and how they take directions."

The Colts, who moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis before the season, were 28th in the league in passing. The 239 points they scored were the fewest in the league and only two teams had fewer touchdowns.

Mike Pagel, who said earlier he wanted to be traded, started the first seven games and nine of 16 for Indianapolis (4-12). Mark Herrmann started two games and Art Schlichter the other five.

"In terms of my philosophy, the players are the focal point. I look at myself as a teacher," said Dowhower, who owner Robert Irsay said was the only man offered the job. Dowhower received a five-year contract, but other terms were not announced.

Redskins assistant coach Joe Bugel, who was interviewed twice for the job, said he got a telephone call this morning from the Colts telling him that they had chosen Dowhower. "I'm very happy here," said Bugel. "I've alway felt that when you don't get a job, I won't sit around and slash my wrists. I'm not in that big of a hurry to leave here.

"I'm going to stay here with the Redskins. We have things we want to get done here. My family loves it here. We've got good players and a great staff. I'm not in that big of a hurry to leave."

Dowhower's first NFL coaching experience was with St. Louis as a member of Don Coryell's staff in 1973. He was offensive coordinator at UCLA (under Dick Vermeil), Boise State, Stanford (under Bill Walsh) and the Denver Broncos. He rejoined the Cardinals in 1982.

"I've been with systems where we throw the ball a lot, and that's the type of offense I want here," he said. "I'm prone to the forward pass. I've been brought up that way.

"What's exciting about this team is you have two fine running backs (Curtis Dickey and Randy McMillan)," Dowhower said of the Colts.

Asked about working with Irsay, who has been known to visit the club's dressing room during a game to express his displeasure with events, Dowhower said:

"In meeting with Robert Irsay and his son, Jim (the club's general manager), I've become convinced we can have a good relationship. We had very professional negotiations and I'm taking this job with full confidence that we can each do our job effectively without creating problems."