The Indianapolis Colts bypassed the perfect opportunity to test out one of the most intriguing coaching candidates in Bubba Ventrone.
On Monday, the entire league was befuddled at Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay’s decision to hire longtime Colts’ center, Jeff Saturday as the interim head coach after firing Frank Reich. Here’s not to say whether or not this decision is the right one, or even further, if this decision will work out; but regardless of the next decision Irsay decides to make in an attempt to fix the team, organizations around the league with leadership concerns are now frothing at the mouth. Because Frank Reich is now available? No, actually.
It’s because now that someone else was named as interim head coach, special teams coordinator, Bubba Ventrone, remains an option for other teams that will have coaching vacancies. This could end up being a missed opportunity by the Colts since they had the perfect chance to test out one of the most intriguing head coaching candidates in the NFL.
Raymond “Bubba” Ventrone is exactly what you’d think he’d be— a Bill Belichick disciple. This isn’t going as far as saying that Ventrone is the next Belichick, but he certainly picked up some tips and tricks from him during as time as a New England Patriot, both as a player and coach. Bubba has only ever worked directly with the special teams as a coach, which is fitting given he was a longtime special-teams standout during his 10 NFL seasons, but that hasn’t kept NFL front offices from being intrigued by his head coaching potential.
Bubba Ventrone’s NFL career began in 2005 when Bill Belichick signed Ventrone as an undrafted free agent, and per MSN, where he quickly earned a reputation for his fearless play, intensity, and leadership.
An underappreciated aspect of Ventrone’s NFL upbringing is that he personally took Patriots Matthew Slater under his wing upon his introduction to the league. Ahead of the Patriots and Colts’ most recent contest this past Sunday, Slater reminisced on their time together, “he was one of the guys that showed me how to be a pro…he was very serious with his approach to the craft, the kicking game, super competitive, very tough, very smart. And he was one of the guys really around here that instilled confidence in me that I could play well.” Fourteen years later, Slater is a five-time All-Pro special teamer and is widely regarded as the best special-teamer of the past decade.
This is much thanks to Ventrone’s tutelage, not only as a big brother figure when they were teammates for the lone season in 2008, but when Ventrone was hired as a special teams assistant in 2015, Slater went on to achieve his first All-Pro selection. This goes to show that Ventrone can indeed bring the best out of someone, and he has done so in regard to a whole unit over the past handful of seasons.
Bubba Ventrone made a lot of sense as interim coach for Colts
Through 4.5 years as the Colts’ special teams coordinator, Ventrone has managed to produce a top-10 to top-16 unit each year (per FO’s Team DVOA), all while having place-kicking inconsistencies to deal with. During his time, the unit has also seen five All-Pro selections collectively (Luke Rhodes ’20/’21, George Odum ’20, Matthew Adams ’21, and Ashton Dulin ’21). Just a couple more examples of Bubba Ventrone getting the most out of his players, a rather desirable trait that good head coaches typically possess.
This isn’t local speculation either, as even in the national media’s perspective, they too see Ventrone as a rising candidate for a head coaching gig. Back in November of 2021, one of the NFL media’s top insiders, Tom Pelissero, curated a list of young NFL coaching candidates to keep an eye out for ahead of this past offseason’s coaching carousel. This list included Ventrone and this is what Pelissero would go on to say about Ventrone as a head coaching candidate:
"He learned under the likes of Bill Belichick, Frank Reich and longtime NFL special teams coach Brad Seely. Ventrone is detailed. He has presence. He’s experienced in game management and is known as a good talent evaluator who understands big-picture roster management, in a job that already requires him to work with the entire team. Ventrone coaches players hard, and they respect him for it. Head-coaching hires from special teams posts are rare, but Ventrone is one to watch."
Fast forward to where we are now, amidst the most bizarre of mid-season shakeups in recent memory, Ventrone remains the special teams coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. It’s safe to say that regardless of which direction Jim Irsay plans to proceed with, his decision to bypass a rising candidate in Bubba Ventrone may end up coming back to bite him when he’s inevitably hired elsewhere in the near future, if not this next offseason.