INDIANAPOLIS – It was a day rife with emotion.
Once, twice, at least a dozen times Shane Steichen was this close to losing it. He would be in mid-sentence, pause, and fight to keep those deepest feelings from escaping and reducing him to a puddle of goo in front of an audience he didn’t know but had come to welcome him into their corner of the world.
And Stella didn’t help things. Not one bit.
But first there was the obligatory praise as the Indianapolis Colts brought their 11th full-time head coach into the fold Tuesday.
First, Jim Irsay.
The owner flew to Philadelphia Feb. 3 as the tip of the spear for the team’s extensive search committee. Steichen and the Eagles were preparing for their Feb. 12 meeting with Kansas City in Super Bowl LVII, but first he and Irsay would spend that Friday evening together.
“We had an incredible conversation,’’ Irsay said. “Showed incredible leadership, toughness, very fast mind, able to process information and disseminate information very quickly.’’
Before Chris Ballard and the rest of the interview group met with Steichen the next day, owner and GM huddled.
Irsay to Ballard: Boy, Shane just knocked it out of the park.
The owner didn’t elaborate to allow Ballard to enter the interview with an open mind, but essentially had made up his mind.
Steichen, Irsay insisted, “really showed qualities that put him above the whole process as our man.’’
When Irsay and Ballard shared thoughts that Saturday evening, they knew.
“After talking to Shane, Chris and I both felt, ‘Wow, he’s clearly our guy above the pack,’’ Irsay said.
The Colts would go with Steichen, 37. They would sign him to a six-year contract, according to NFL Network, and he would be the second-youngest coach in franchise history and the NFL’s third-youngest.
“High integrity, high character, brilliant football mind, and philosophically we see the game the same way, which I think is important,’’ he said. “You want to get the right person for the job, which we’ve felt we have done.’’
The six-week search encompassed 13 candidates and involved 21 interviews. A few of the individuals checked most of the boxes the Colts were seeking in a successor for Frank Reich.
“Shane checked all of them,’’ Ballard insisted.
Finally, it was time for Steichen to be front and center. It’s been a busy few days for the former Eagles’ offensive coordinator: Sunday’s 38-35 loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz., climbing on Irsay’s private jet with his family Monday evening, finalizing his first contract as a head coach, then dealing with Tuesday’s introductory press conference.
He looked the part of travel-weary coach.
And Steichen did his best to keep it together, which was made more difficult with wife Nina and young children Hudson and Stella in the front row of the audience.
At least he tried.
“I’d like to thank my family, my mom, my day, my brothers for your guys’ support on my journey. I love you guys,’’ he said.
The words had been prepared but came slow. The emotions clearly were bubbling to the surface.
Hudson sat next to his mom, and behaved.
Stella had other ideas.
Several times as her dad talked about things she neither understood nor cared about, she escaped her mom’s grasp and stood on the floor in front of the raised stage that held Steichen, Irsay and Ballard. She waved her arms in one of those ‘Hi, daddy’ moments.
“Lastly,’’ Steichen said in his halted comments, “thank you to my beautiful wife Nina and our two kids, Hudson and Stella.’’
Fighting the emotions.
“Thank you for sacrificing everything you do day-in and day-out so I can live out my dream. I love you guys more than you know.’’
Fighting the emotions.
That was the riveting conclusion as Steichen took time to thank everyone who helped make Tuesday possible.
He began with the Irsays – Jim and daughters Carlie, Casey and Kalen – and Ballard.
“I’m beyond grateful and can’t wait to work with you and the rest of the personnel department.’’
He thanked the Chargers and the Spanos family, and Eagles and owner Jeff Lurie.
“I will always be grateful for those memories and friendships that I’ll cherish forever.’’
Fighting the emotions.
He cited Chris Jones, his high school coach, for “teaching me the game and making me foster a love for the game.’’
And Norv Turner, Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn for opening the coaching door at the NFL level with the Chargers.
And Nick Sirianni, the former Colts’ offensive coordinator who hired Steichen for the same job after he became the Eagles’ head coach in 2021.
“It was a helluva ride and one I will cherish forever,’’ he said. “More importantly, the friendship that we built over the last nine years . . . thank you.’’
And the deep pool of players who’ve been instrumental in Steichen’s accelerated rise as a coordinator: Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert, Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Jalen Hurts and so many others.
“I would not be sitting here today if it wasn’t for you,’’ he said. “It’s all about the players and it will always be about the players.’’
Fighting the emotions.
Finally, the ‘Thank you’ tank was dry.
Finally, Steichen was able to address issues that didn’t tug at his heart.
Yes, he will call plays.
“My philosophy is we’re going to throw to score points and run to win,’’ he said.
Yes, the next order of business is forming his staff. There’s a good chance defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and most of his assistants return, and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone is back as well.
Yes, it will be vastly different overseeing an entire team rather than focusing on quarterbacks or the offense.
“Obviously being in charge of the whole football team is a big challenge, one I’m excited about,’’ he said. “Looking forward to getting to know these players and building this culture the right way.’’
Sitting in the audience were several of those players: Quenton Nelson, Michael Pittman Jr., Tyquan Lewis, Bernard Raimann. Bradley, Ventrone and other assistants also were on hand.
Steichen has helped develop a slew of quarterbacks. Rivers and Herbert with the Chargers, and Hurts with the Eagles. That was at least a consideration as Ballard and Irsay whittled down the list of candidates.
As important as was the hiring of Steichen, it’s critical the Colts find their quarterback of the future in the April draft. Find him with a top-4 pick, and allow Steichen and his staff to develop him.
“I mean, is it an added bonus? Yes,’’ Ballard said. “Was it the final defining factor? No. We wanted to get the best fit for us and for the Colts organization. Shane fit that.’’
And it was fitting Steichen coming face-to-face with his immediate future ran the gamut. From being choked up to being in the right place.
“Right now,’’ he conceded, “I’m a little bit emotional. Obviously this is a big day for me and my family. But again, we want to get some things done here as an organization.
“This is a special place. There’s a lot of rich tradition here. We’ve got a lot of good players in place. It’s going to be a day-by-day process that we have to grind every single day and we have to be relentless in our pursuit to get done what we want to get done.’’
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