Colts still looking for new head coach, but they’ve got new defense

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 23: Linebacker coach, Matt Eberflus of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This is not the normal progression for a team in serious transition mode, but this is where the Indianapolis Colts find themselves.

They have a new defense and a new defensive coordinator.

They don’t have a new head coach.

A not-so-insignificant byproduct of Chris Ballard’s failed pursuit of Josh McDaniels as Chuck Pagano’s successor was the decision to start putting McDaniels’ staff in place. While McDaniels reneged Tuesday evening on an agreement to be the Colts’ head coach, three assistants already had signed contracts: defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, defensive line coach Mike Phair and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.

“We will not abandon them,’’ Ballard said Wednesday. “They’re good coaches. They’re good people.

“They’re good developer of men and that’s what we want.’’

Dominos falling in this order is extremely rare in the NFL. The incoming head coach wants his own guys. He wants to surround himself with coaches – in many instances friends – who share his vision.

But in this case, the new head coach inherits Eberflus, who will oversee a dramatic defensive shift. Pagano’s 3-4 scheme followed him out the door Dec. 31. With Eberflus, the Colts return to a 4-3 base defense, one that likely mirrors Tony Dungy Tampa-2 with expected tweaks.

This is one of those connect-the-dot situations.

Eberflus has been on Dallas’ staff the last seven seasons, and worked with Rod Marinelli since 2013. Marinelli was in Chicago from 2009-12 – he was defensive coordinator for three seasons – and his stint with the Bears overlapped with Ballard’s. From 1996-2001, Marinelli was a trusted confidant of Dungy in Tampa.

“Rod Marinelli is a close friend and mentor that I trust and value his opinion,’’ Ballard said. “I got to know Matt Eberflus a few years ago and was blown away by Matt.

“Matt was a coveted coach. He’s a very talented defensive coordinator. I feel very luck to have Matt Eberflus in the building running a scheme that I think fits our team that we can scout for and that fits our building.’’

The Colts, he added, play the bulk of their games either indoors or in ideal weather and the defense is “going to be based on athletic ability and speed. That’s how this defense is built.’’

Again, allow your mind to drift back to the Dungy era. The defense was all about speed, athleticism, flying to the football.

“It’s easy for young players to play because it’s simple and it allows them to play fast and physical and that’s what we want to be,’’ Ballard said.

Several components already in place. The front seven includes Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Al Woods, Henry Anderson and Hassan Ridgeway. The back end could feature Malik Hooker, Matthias Farley, Clayton Geathers, Rashaan Melvin, Nate Hairston, Quincy Wilson and Pierre Desir.

What’s missing in the pass-rush threat that made Dungy’s defense so effective, a Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis.

April’s NFL draft could remedy that. The Colts hold the third overall pick and undoubtedly will give serious consideration to North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb.

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