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11 Candidates to Replace Jim Caldwell as Colts Coach

by Mark Ross

Regardless of whether either Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck or both will be on the Indianapolis Colts’ roster next season, this much is clear — the head coach won’t be Jim Caldwell. Caldwell was fired earlier today, joining former Colts vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, Chris, who was general manager, as a casualty of a disastrous 2-14 season.

Overall, Caldwell was 26-22 in three seasons as the Colts’ head coach, taking over the reigns when Tony Dungy retired in January 2009, but a winning record and 10 years with the team wasn’t enough to save his job. Owner Jim Irsay hired Ryan Grigson to be the new general manager last week, and just as may be the case at quarterback, the Colts will be under new leadership next season.

So just who will be calling the shots for the Colts next year? Here are some names to consider:

Pete Carmichael, New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator — long-time assistant coach with offensive pedigree, Carmichael’s spent the last six seasons working with Drew Brees. That alone makes him a solid candidate to either direct Manning’s comeback attempt or tutor the Colts’ next franchise quarterback, presumably Luck.

Clyde Christensen, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator — with the departure of Caldwell, who began his tenure with the Colts as quarterbacks coach in 2002, Christensen is one of the longest tenured coaches remaining on staff and the one who knows the offense the best. With the questions surrounding the quarterback position, Irsay could turn to Christensen for continuity, or he could be looking to wipe the slate clean and go in a completely different direction.

Tom Clements, Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach — like Carmichael, Clements has spent the past six seasons working with two elite quarterbacks of his own, first Brett Favre and currently, Aaron Rodgers. Clements also spent two seasons (2004-05) as the Bills’ offensive coordinator, so the “jump” to head coach wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.

Bill Cowher, current CBS Sports commentator — Cowher’s name has been mentioned with other openings and every time he has publicly stated he’s content in his current working situation. Still, until he shuts the door completely, you have to at least throw his name out there, don’t you?

Jack Del Rio, former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach — Del Rio is certainly familiar with the division and the Colts’ roster, and if anything, he would bring a lot more “personality” to the sideline than Caldwell ever displayed.

Tony Dungy, current NBC Sports commentator — I know, I know – been there, done that. But if you’re Irsay, don’t you at least have to reach out to Dungy to see if there’s any interest in a second tour of duty? I don’t think Colts fans would mind if he did.

Jon Gruden, ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst — like Cowher, Gruden has expressed in the past he’s happy in his current situation. However, “Chucky” also has professed in the past his respect and admiration for Manning, and to a degree, Luck, so would this be the opportunity to lure him back to the sidelines?

Hue Jackson, former Oakland Raiders head coach — offensive-minded and highly respected, many think Jackson got a raw deal in Oakland. Would Irsay be willing to give him a second chance?

Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator — one of the hot names in the NFL coaching search circles these days thanks to his work with Tim Tebow. How curious is Irsay in seeing what McCoy could do with Manning and/or Luck, both of which are more “polished” passers.

Marty Mornhinweg, offensive coordinator Philadelphia Eagles — former Lions head coach, Mornhinweg also has ties to new Colts GM Grigson, who came from the Eagles organization. Could second time be the charm?

Jim Tressel, Indianapolis Colts consultant — Tressel may seem like the longest shot on the list, but with Irsay calling the shots, I don’t think you can rule it out. He has head coaching experience, albeit on the college level, but really it comes down to one thing. Who doesn’t want to see the sweater vest (Ditka anyone?) return to the NFL?