The clock in hisoffice had just crept past 11 p.m., yet Colts coach Jim Caldwell seemedoblivious to the hour. "I don't do this often," he said of working solate during the off-season. "But there are times when I've got to get a fewthings done." You might assume Caldwell was searching for ways to softenthe blow to his offense following the retirements of longtime coordinator TomMoore and line coach Howard Mudd. Instead, he was only fine-tuning a speech hewas scheduled to deliver over the weekend. "I'm trying to get ahead,"he said.
Getting ahead wasrarely an issue for the Colts under Tony Dungy, who coached them to a SuperBowl title, five AFC South titles and seven playoff appearances from 2002through '08. One reason for the success was coaching stability—thus, thepotential for upheaval once Dungy stepped down in January. Caldwell's promotionfrom associate head coach was one of six staff changes—one more than the totalturnover during Dungy's tenure.
But because Dungyhad signaled several years ago that his time on the sideline was drawing to aclose, the franchise could plan a seamless succession. Likewise, with Moore,70, and Mudd, 67, expected to step down at some point, Dungy and president BillPolian positioned assistants who could step up when called. Clyde Christensenmoved from receivers coach to offensive coordinator and Pete Metzelaars fromoffensive quality control to line coach. Frank Reich, an offensive assistant in2008, became QBs coach.
Of the twooutsiders, new special teams coach Ray Rychleski worked under Caldwell foreight years at Wake Forest. New defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, a 44-yearcoaching veteran at the pro and collegiate levels, was the assistant head coachat Tampa Bay last season. "Often the word change denotes abrupt alterationof direction," Caldwell says. "Transition is smoother. The things thathave happened with us have been rather smooth."
While Moore andMudd, who are expected to return as consultants, had been working with PeytonManning from Day One of his 11-year career, Caldwell has been with the Coltsfor the past seven seasons, directly overseeing the quarterbacks. Other thansome tweaks to the running game, as first-round pick Donald Brown joins thebackfield, any alterations on offense should be imperceptible.
The mostnoticeable changes will come on defense, with Coyer blending more blitzes andpressure packages into the Cover Two scheme. Indy also is looking to get biggeron the D-line. Last month the Colts drafted 305-pound USC tackle Fili Moala inthe second round and 319-pound Michigan tackle Terrance Taylor in the fourth,and the team re-signed 296-pound tackle Ed Johnson after cutting him early lastseason.
Veteran defensiveend Dwight Freeney sounds optimistic about the impact the coaching changes willhave. "You see changes, so you automatically think it's going to be for theworse. Maybe the changes bring something else—something good. Maybe it helpsguys be even more accountable and more responsible for what they do on thefield. Change is not always a bad thing."
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TROTTER'S TAKE Playing To Form
The Bengals are unable to open contract talks withfirst-round draft pick Andre Smith, the Outland Trophy--winning tackle fromAlabama, because Smith fired his representation, Priority Sports, in early May.Sources say he planned to rehire agent Alvin Keels, whom Smith (below) hadfired before the draft.
Smith's poor decision-making—before the agentmerry-go-round, there was his lack of conditioning and early departure from thecombine—gives the Bengals reason to seek financial protection along the linesof a pay-for-play clause in his contract. Keels would be unlikely to go forsuch a deal. The fact that in recent OTAs the coaches were not working Smith atleft tackle, his presumed position, could be a sign that they don't expect himfor the start of training camp.
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (MANNING)
NO BIG DEAL Manning should not miss a beat under Caldwell (inset), who's been with the Colts since '02.
[See caption above]
MARK LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (SMITH)