Who deserves more credit for the Colts’ turnaround, Shane Steichen or Chris Ballard?

The Indianapolis Colts had an incredible turnaround in 2023. Who was the catalyst for the success, head coach Shane Steichen or general manager Chris Ballard?

Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
Indianapolis Colts Training Camp / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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The Case for Shane Steichen

Elite preparation

The biggest change we saw in the culture of this franchise with Shane Steichen was the elite preparation standard that he brought to the locker room. Steichen is an all-ball football junkie to likes that we have never seen. His predecessor was a single speed low key type of football coach. We rarely saw Frank Reich show much emotion on the sidelines and was unenthusiastic with the media. Steichen wants his locker room to be the most prepared players and coaches in the building.

In fact, he mentioned as one the four key foundations to his belief of how to be a successful head coach in this league. His attention to detail and unique approach to football would give them the added edge that this team was lacking. He has stuck to that promise. Steichen had this offense planned around the strengths of the players on the roster. He also showed the ability to adapt to different players all season with the most notable injuries to Richardson and Taylor early in the season. Steichen was able to bring this team to a 4th-and-1 conversion from securing the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs with a backup quarterback. This is something his predecessor proved he was unable to achieve.

Being adaptable

Colts Sports Illustrated contributor Zack Hicks called Shane a “Chameleon of a playcaller” because of his ability to adapt to whatever type of quarterback he has under center for the week. That was on full display this season after tailoring an entire offense around rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson to then having to shift course and alter the offense to Gardner Minshew. He did keep the RPO heavy scheme but had to change the designed quarterback runs a bit. He found great use of the tight ends this season, especially on short yard downs and his two-point plays were more complex iterations of plays we saw through both the professional and college ranks. For example, he used the jump pass with Minshew in the final game against Houston to tie the game up in the second half when he used Mo Alie-Cox to his advantage and converted the try with the jump pass.

The 2024 season will bring the return of Anthony Richardson and the scheme that we got teased during his short tenure as starting quarterback. It will continue to be a RPO heavy but we will see the designed runs back in the gameplan. This will bring a new dynamic to the offense and will allow less reliability on the short passes. We could see them open the deep ball to Alec Pierce as well.