Colts HC Shane Steichen deserves his flowers in NFL Coach of the Year race

Shane Steichen has cemented his status as one of the best up-and-coming head coaches in the NFL. Could the surprising success of the Colts lead to Steichen taking home the NFL Coach of the Year award?
Indianapolis Colts head coach Shane Steichen walks on the field Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, during a game
Indianapolis Colts head coach Shane Steichen walks on the field Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, during a game / Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY

The Indianapolis Colts are fresh off a 4-12-1 campaign in 2022. From the firing of Frank Reich to the hiring of interim head coach Jeff Saturday, it was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. Luckily for the fan base, general manager Chris Ballard finally got it right with the hire of Shane Steichen.

Shane Steichen Remains Calm In The Midst Of Disaster

Let’s perform an exercise. Go back in your mind and imagine this scenario for the Colts:
Anthony Richardson only plays for 2.5 games
•Jonathan Taylor only plays seven games
•Shaquille Leonard is released midseason
•Isaiah Rodgers is suspended all season
•Grover Stewart is suspended six games
•O-Line only starts a couple of games together

After a four-win season, if you told the average NFL fan everything that would go wrong for the Colts, they’d probably assume Indy would be a far cry from playoff contention. Even the most diehard Colts fans would likely echo this sentiment. And who could blame them? That is a storm few could weather.

But guess what? Shane Steichen and his never-say-die squad are doing exactly that. Not only have the Colts remained competitive with seemingly everything going wrong, but the team is currently in charge of its own destiny when it comes to postseason aspirations.

At 7-5, the Colts would earn entry into the playoff field if the season ended today. Going further, one could argue that the loss at the hands of the Browns should have gone Indy’s way. A couple of egregiously bad calls by the referee crew essentially handed the win to Cleveland. If things had gone differently, the Colts would be 8-4 with a full two games ahead of the Browns.

Alas, that’s not how the cookie crumbled. Although that cushion would have been nice, Indy still has a clear path toward seizing a wildcard spot. The schedule lines up particularly well with a handful of winnable games for the Colts.

The Colts Remaining Schedule Provides Optimism Toward Playoff Hopes

Week 14 — @ Bengals
Week 15 — vs. Steelers
Week 16 — @ Falcons
Week 17 — vs. Raiders
Week 18 — vs. Texans

Now, just because the schedule is favorable on paper, that doesn’t mean wins are a foregone conclusion. That’s not how the NFL works. The Colts must go out and prove they are worthy of a playoff spot by taking care of some teams they should defeat.

The Joe Burrow-less Bengals, the potentially Kenny Pickett-less Steelers, the Desmond Ridder-led Falcons, and the lowly Raiders should all have the Colts entering as the favorite. Or close to it. The showdown with the Texans in Week 18, who are also 7-5, could be a must-win for Indy.

All in all, the odds are in the Colts' favor. But, as a team still led by a backup quarterback, nothing is guaranteed. Regardless of the final five games, one thing is clear: Shane Steichen is deserving of the NFL Coach of the Year award. It’s hard to argue otherwise.

Steichen, a rookie in his own right, has steered his squad through setback after setback. After building an expansive, creative playbook around Anthony Richardson’s skillset, the first-time head coach had to completely adjust when Minshew took the reins. Since then, the offense is still humming and producing points at a top-10 clip.

Steichen is an aggressive playcaller who trusts his guys to make plays when called upon. He isn’t shy to go for it on fourth down, and he always keeps opposing defenses on their toes by blending a pass-happy approach with a steady dose of running the football. It is a complete difference in style from what Colts fans have grown accustomed to in the past decade.

Shane Steichen Deserves The NFL Coach of the Year Award

Perhaps most importantly, the players buy into Steichen’s coaching style. And that’s not exclusive to the offensive side of the ball, either. The 38-year-old head coach is often seen running around the field during pre-game, giving daps to any player he comes across. His excitement comes off genuine, and it helps keep the players locked in on a snap-to-snap basis.

Serving as the heart and soul of an offense led by a backup quarterback, Steichen’s ability to coach is not in question. Given how defensive players and special teamers feel toward their head coach, it’s fair to say his ability to lead a locker room of men is stamped as well.

At the end of the day, Shane Steichen cares more about victories on the field. Finding a way into the playoff field in Year 1 would be a ringing endorsement for the rest of his time in Indianapolis. It might also bring a win off the field. Steichen deserves consideration for the NFL Coach of the Year award. If the Colts make the postseason, there shouldn’t be a debate.