The final two NFL teams with head coaching vacancies opted for coordinators from the Philadelphia Eagles in the aftermath of their Super Bowl loss.
Barring any unexpected changes, the NFL’s hiring cycle for head coaches is complete. Previously, the Carolina Panthers hired Frank Reich, the Denver Broncos hired Sean Payton, and the Houston Texans hired DeMeco Ryans.
The league’s diversity efforts produced disappointing results during this hiring cycle. Ryans was the only Black coach hired among the five new head coaches. He is one of three active Black head coaches in the NFL, joining the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Todd Bowles.
The hiring cycle occurred as the NFL and teams face a racial discrimination lawsuit filed last year by Brian Flores, the former coach of the Miami Dolphins. Two other Black coaches, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, joined Flores’s lawsuit in April.
Flores, who spent the 2022 season as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach for the Steelers, was a candidate for the Cardinals’ job. Instead, the Minnesota Vikings hired him last week as their defensive coordinator. Wilks finished the season as the Panthers’ interim coach, giving the NFL four Black head coaches for that stretch. But the Panthers passed him over in favor of Reich, and Wilks replaced Ryans as defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers.
The league’s final head coaching hires came two days after the Eagles’ 38-35 defeat Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz. It was a good performance by Steichen’s offense and an unimpressive outing by Gannon’s defense.
“It was a tremendous honor to get to [the Super Bowl],” Steichen said at a news conference in Indianapolis. “It took a lot of hard work to get there. Being in that game, I actually … turned it on about an hour ago and watched the first quarter, just to look at it, just to be in that moment and know how hard it is to get there. And it’s going to take a lot of hard work. Obviously the Colts organization … we want to get there as soon as we can.”
Steichen’s status as the Colts’ front-runner became apparent Sunday morning, hours ahead of the game. He traveled to Indianapolis on Monday, and the sides completed an agreement on a contract.
“It was a very thorough process,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said. “… We just felt that Shane had a lot of that offensive magic, which is hard to find in this league. … He had to show the leadership. He had to show that he had a presence. And, boy, did he come through in that with this interview.”
Steichen, 37, becomes an NFL head coach for the first time. He built his reputation with the Chargers, in San Diego and Los Angeles, and the Eagles, working with quarterbacks Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts.
“Obviously, being in charge of the whole football team is a big challenge — one I’m excited about,” Steichen said, adding that he will be the Colts’ play caller. “I’m looking forward to getting to know these players and building this culture the right way.”
The Colts interviewed more than a dozen candidates.
“We were going to take our time,” General Manager Chris Ballard said. “I never understand what the hurry is. It’s about getting it right. And if that meant we needed to interview 50 people, we’d have interviewed 50 people. I mean, you want to get the right person for the job, which we felt we’ve done.”
The candidates included Jeff Saturday, the former Colts center whom Irsay appointed as the team’s interim coach after he fired Reich in November. The Colts won their first game under Saturday, who had never coached above the high school level and was coming off a stint as an analyst for ESPN, but ended the season on a seven-game losing streak.
“This is still viewed, as it should be, as a good job, even though that was not always the way it was painted,” Ballard said. “… Shane kind of checked all the boxes. A few [other candidates] checked most of them.”
Colts Nation- love y’all! pic.twitter.com/7aFIy8jwUq— Jeff Saturday (@SaturdayJeff) February 14, 2023
Saturday said in a video posted to social media that he was grateful for the opportunity.
“It was an absolute blessing,” he said. “I look fondly upon it. Wish we would have done better. But ultimately that is where it is. And so I want to wish Coach Steichen the best of luck. I’m still a huge Colt fan and pulling for you guys, looking forward to hoisting some Lombardi Trophies and excited for your opportunity.”
Reich also was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator when the Colts hired him in 2018 following Philadelphia’s Super Bowl triumph; in that hiring cycle, Josh McDaniels spurned Indianapolis at the last minute.
“I thought about it,” Ballard said of the similarities. “It wasn’t for very long.”
Steichen’s prowess working with quarterbacks will be put to the test in Indianapolis. The Colts have gone through a string of starters that includes Andrew Luck in 2018, Jacoby Brissett in 2019 (following Luck’s abrupt retirement), Rivers in 2020, Carson Wentz in 2021 and Matt Ryan in 2022.
They have the No. 4 pick in the draft, so Steichen could be asked to develop a prized rookie.
“I think accuracy, decision-making and ability to create are the three things that I look at in a quarterback,” he said.
The Eagles could promote quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson to replace Steichen. Johnson is considered a rising star and had been an offensive coordinator candidate for other teams.
Welcome to the Valley, Coach!— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) February 14, 2023
We’ve agreed to terms with Jonathan Gannon to become our next head coach! pic.twitter.com/jDp9MezorO
In Arizona, Gannon replaces Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired following a season in which the Cardinals went 4-13. Gannon, 39, will work with Monti Ossenfort, the team’s recently hired general manager.
“I am super excited about the opportunity,” Gannon said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “I look forward to getting my hands on the players and putting a winning product on the field.”
The Cardinals have the third choice in the draft and could be without quarterback Kyler Murray at the outset of next season after Murray suffered a torn ACL and meniscus damage in his right knee during a December loss to the New England Patriots.
“When he came in [Monday] and put together his vision, his plan, it really seemed like it stood out,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said, per the team’s website. “We had tremendous candidates, but he stood out in terms of his energy and also what his plan is. Every time he has been in a position to lead, he has excelled.”