New Sheriffs in Town

Naming Jim Caldwell as Tony Dungy's successor in advance was supposed to prevent tumultuous situations like the one the Indianapolis Colts are currently facing. Where do they go from here and can Metzelaars and Christensen get them where they need to go?

Pete Metzelaars has a record as a player and assistant coach that cannot be questioned.  He played 16 seasons in the NFL, was named a Pro Bowl alternate three times, was named to the 50th anniversary team of the Buffalo Bills, and participated in four Super Bowls when Buffalo had their run in the early 90s.  He has also been to, and won, a Super Bowl as a coach.

Clyde Christensen
Getty Images

The title of offensive quality control coach — a position he held from 2004 through early May 2009 — is kind of nebulous and includes a number of different aspects of that side of the ball.

He was only named assistant offensive line coach for the 2008 season and is still fairly green as coaches go.  It's true that his experience as a player helps him in terms of coaching and relating to the players on the Colts, but it's also true that he played tight end at the NFL level, not offensive line, although there is a bit of overlap in the technique involved. Offensively, Indianapolis has been on quite a run since 2004, so he's obviously doing something right in terms of his work with Peyton Manning and company.

As far as Clyde Christensen is concerned, it would be unfair to characterize him as merely a position coach, considering that he was the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001 and also co-offensive coordinator at Auburn in 1994 and 1995.  While his experience is certainly not as extensive as Tom Moore's, it's also more extensive than that of Metzelaars.

Pete Metzelaars
Getty Images

In addition, Christensen has not only coached the incredibly successful receiver corps in Indianapolis for the past eight seasons, he has also coached tight ends, quarterbacks, and running backs throughout the course of his career, so he is familiar with all aspects and responsibilities of offensive positions and how they fit into the scheme.

However, even though Christensen is more qualified and experienced than Metzelaars, he does not have the kind of experience that Moore possesses, nor does he have the rapport with Manning that Moore has, especially considering that Manning has not known a different coordinator.

With the gaps in experience and familiarity, in addition to the fact that Tony Dungy's steady hand is not there to keep the Colts on the straight and narrow, certainly present a challenge to the organization and a particularly steep challenge to the new coaching staff.

After all, what was supposed to be a smooth transition between Dungy and Caldwell has now seen Indianapolis replace both coordinators, their offensive line coach, and their special teams coach, not mention the addition of Frank Reich, backfilling the position vacated when Caldwell took the head job.

Further muddying the waters is the fact that Christensen and Metzelaars needed to be elevated to their present positions, ostensibly, because Moore and Howard Mudd were retiring.  But, word has spread that both men could come back as "consultants" as early as the beginning of August or as late as the beginning of November.

The front office has been less that forthcoming with an exact timeline — with Manning even criticizing their tight-lipped behavior in a recent interview — but it sounds more and more that they're not sure themselves when or if Mudd and Moore could return to action.

Ultimately, though, there's no escaping the fact that Metzelaars and Christensen are now in charge of the offensive line and the offense, respectively.  It could be that the men were appointed simply as band-aids until such time as Moore and Mudd could return, but that seems like a very risky strategy for a highly conservative Colts front office to deploy.

With mini-camps, some OTAs, and the first few days of training camp awaiting the two newbies at the very least, it would be foolish for Indianapolis to undermine their authority and lose all that time.  And it would be catastrophic to let questions linger until past the midway point of the season.

Odds are that Moore and Mudd will only be what their new titles indicate: Consultants.  They will consult with Manning, the offensive line, and the skill position players on that side of the ball, providing feedback and some guidance, but not hands-on coaching.  Where they will be most valuable is in helping Metzelaars and, to a lesser extent, Christensen, transition to their new roles.

Both coaches will see a big jump in their workload, responsibilities, and pressure, and it will be no small feat for them to take those changes in stride.  Moore and Mudd can help them with that transition, as well as providing valuable information and guidance on how to coach and motivate the players that used to be under their tutelage.  

But, make no mistake, it would appear that Christensen and Metzelaars are here to say.  It's still a matter of when, or if, Moore and Mudd will be around to advise them.

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