The Jim Caldwell Era has gotten off to a much more raucous start than many had anticipated, especially considering the fact that the entire reason for naming a successor in advance is to keep assistants from speculating about their job security and to promote stability in the organization.
While he certainly hasn't gone on a mad rampage, he recently decided to let special teams coach Russ Purnell pursue other opportunities, and he also hired Frank Reich — Jim Kelly's former caddy and the man who authored the largest comeback in postseason history — to replace him at quarterbacks coach.
In his introductory press conference Tuesday, Caldwell had this to say regarding the future of everyone on the team:
"I'm in the process right now of visiting with each one of our staff members. It started this morning and will continue later on this afternoon. It may take me a couple of days just to talk with them about some of the issues, some of the things we have planned and the direction of the program, etc.
"I'm not ready at this point in time, certainly not capable of giving you any details in that area. At some point in time we will be able to give you a little bit more direction. There are a number of things that could occur. In this game there are some changes. We have a lot of quality coaches on our staff and some of them are being pursued by other organizations. That could play into it as well."
That's certainly not a ringing endorsement of anyone, but also not a damning statement for anyone, either. Bill Polian has hinted that Tom Moore, Ron Meeks, Howard Mudd, Gene Huey, and John Teerlinck are safe, but no one knows for sure. This leaves Colts fans with a number of questions.
Who else will get the ax?
If the ax was going to fall on someone else, it probably would have fallen already. If a coach leaves the organization, it will probably be as a result of something that Indianapolis cannot control — taking another opportunity or retiring.
Who else could be gone?
Moore isn't getting any younger and has already spent 11 years with the team. While that means he does not have a tie to Dungy, it also means that he may feel that he has taught Peyton Manning everything he can teach him and that it is time to hang them up. The smart money, though, is on Moore staying until Manning retires.
Meeks interviewed for the Jets head job, but he seems to have spent too much time in Dungy's shadow, and is probably at best second in line for the Jets job behind Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. If the defense performs well with Meeks at the controls, his stock will rise quickly. The secret suspicion of most front office folks is that Dungy pushed most of the buttons on defense and Meeks was more of an administrator.
Clyde Christensen interviewed for the 49ers offensive coordinator job but, if he hasn't gone anywhere yet, he probably isn't getting the job. Mike Singletary is looking for more of a physical, run-oriented coordinator and Christensen, being a receivers coach, would favor the passing game. That's not to say that he won't have other interviews and possibly field other offers as the coaching carousel continues to spin.
Two other men to keep your eyes on are defensive backs coach Alan Williams to get a bump to defensive coordinator and assistant offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars to get a bump to offensive line coach, or possibly pursue a coordinator position. Both men served their entire tenures under Dungy and must not feel any loyalty to the present administration, though they obviously know Caldwell and respect him.
Who replaces Caldwell as Assistant Head Coach?
Though Caldwell presided over the quarterback position during his time as an assistant, he was also the Assistant Head Coach for the Colts, which is a position of prestige, a position that would preclude a coordinator or assistant from changing teams, and a position that generally leads to a head job somewhere — in Caldwell's case, Indianapolis.
Meeks is the frontrunner for this job should the Colts fill it, but he could face stiff competition from a position coach — assistant head coaches usually share that responsibility with a position to coach — such as Williams, linebackers coach Mike Murphy, or Teerlinck.
A lot of this will come down to whether or not Caldwell feels as though he needs an assistant head coach and whether or not any of his position coaches he wants to keep are being ardently pursued by other teams. The best way to block a position coach or coordinator from moving to another team for a pay raise with the same title is to offer them slightly more and a better title, that of assistant head coach.
The team will be okay ... right?
Caldwell has been with the team for a long time, has the respect of everyone in the locker room — everyone he has come in contact with has given him rave reviews and recommended him for a head coaching position.
He knows Manning better than anyone else on the team. His background is on the offensive side of the ball, which will give Meeks, Williams, Teerlinck, and the other assistants more room in which to operate and allows the Colts to take advantage of all the talent they have on that side of the ball.
He has been a head coach before, at Wake Forest, so he will not be stepping into this situation blind. However, he has never held the top job at this level and, as several college coaches will attest, it's a completely different ball game when you get to the NFL level.
The biggest question is how Caldwell will respond to adversity. Throughout the past few seasons, Dungy has faced both personal and personnel adversity and met it with a calm, even temper that rubbed off on the players around him.
Dungy's biggest asset in times of disarray — which every NFL team faces during the course of a season — is his steady hand and demeanor. Will Caldwell be able to emulate that? Will he instead bring intensity that matches Dungy's calm with similar results? That is the biggest question. Unfortunately the only real way to know the answer to it is to wait and see.