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Shane Steichen Has Worked under Many Influential Offensive Minds

Indianapolis Colts head coach Shane Steichen has worked as a coach for the past 16 years of his life. In those 16 years, he has racked up a fairly impressive list of football minds that he has worked under/alongside.
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The Indianapolis Colts landed one of the more intriguing head coach candidates in this past cycle in Shane Steichen. Steichen, 38, may be a bit on the younger side, but he has been around football for all of his adult life. He graduated from UNLV in 2006, and immediately made the jump into coaching the following year.

From there, Steichen has jumped around numerous places in his path to Indianapolis. He spent some time with his alma mater (2007-2009) and even jumped to another team at the college ranks with a short stint with Louisville in 2010. Following those four introductory seasons into the world of coaching, Steichen was able to make the massive jump to the NFL ranks.

He began his coaching career with the San Diego Chargers in 2011 and served as a defensive assistant until 2012. He made a one season pit stop with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 before heading back to the Chargers in 2014. From 2014 to 2020, Steichen would go on to climb up the ladder in the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers organization. He would see himself promoted from quality control coach in 2014 all the way up to offensive coordinator in 2020.

Following his departure from the Chargers in 2020, Steichen found a home with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2021-2022. As the offensive coordinator in Philly, Steichen would go on to lead the team to a phenomenal two year run that would see the Eagles make it all the way to the Super Bowl this past season. The Colts took note of the young offensive phenom and hired him away to be their head coach following the season.

With this extensive coaching history for such a young coach, Shane Steichen is bound to have crossed paths with some keen offensive minds that have surely helped shape his overall philosophy as a play caller. So today, we are going to go back in time and look at some of those play callers that Steichen has learned from in the past and highlight what those coaches brought to the table in their careers.

Introduction to a Vertical Attack

Mike Sanford Sr

UNLV Head Coach (2005-2009), Louisville Offensive Coordinator (2010)

The man that is most likely responsible for the formative years of Shane Steichen's coaching career is none other than Mike Sanford Sr. Sanford Sr is far from a success story at the college ranks, as he finished his head coaching run at the level with a whopping 34-73 record across five seasons with UNLV and four seasons with Indiana State (2013-2016).

While it is hard to gauge exactly what style of offense Sanford Sr employed at the college level, by all accounts he did like to spread it out and attack defenses down the field with vertical shots. Obviously this is how much of the game is played at the college level, but Sanford Sr was able to find some success at times while deploying this type of strategy.

This type of offense was imprinted on Steichen early in his coaching career, as he even recalled a story from his playing days (under Sanford Sr) in an interview with Peter King this offseason. King asked Steichen about throwing five touchdowns in a game during his senior season and Steichen went into detail about how they were peppering the vertical passing game based on the depth of the outside corners all game long.

Norv Turner

San Diego Chargers Head Coach (2011-2012), Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator (2013)

Norv Turner is the coach that Steichen personally credits for giving him his first shot at the NFL level. Although Steichen primarily worked on the defensive side of the ball while working under Turner, it is easy to see the respect that Steichen has for the veteran coach. Arguably, Turner is the coach that has had the biggest influence on Steichen's career as a play caller and as an offensive mind.

Turner is famous for being a disciple of the Air Coryell system that was made famous by the 1970's and 1980's Chargers and perfected by the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams in the early 2000's. The most important aspects of this style of offense are creating explosive plays and staying multiple in how it attacks a defense.

The Air Coryell system is a reactive system that likes to bait defenses into running certain coverages and then carve those coverages up with route combinations designed to exploit them. This system features a heavy amount of motion and misdirection to create these isolated match-ups.

In a lot of ways, Norv Turner is one of the lead figures in the modern Air Coryell system that we see today and Steichen was lucky enough to learn under that mind for his first three seasons in the NFL.

The Importance of Diversity

Mike McCoy

San Diego Chargers Head Coach (2014-2016)

When Shane Steichen came back to the Chargers in 2014, he encountered a slightly different offensive style leading the way in San Diego. Experienced quarterback Philip Rivers had a strong few seasons under the vertical passing attack that Norv Turner deployed, but the interceptions began to pile up later in the tenure (Rivers threw 35 interceptions combined in 2011/2012). Mike McCoy was brought in to change that trend.

McCoy is a bit of interesting offensive mind that had experience in multiple systems during his career. He worked under Josh McDaniels with the Denver Broncos where he utilized a heavy rushing attack with read options to best use the athletic Tim Tebow. He also spent some time learning the west coast offense and even some Air Coryell principles in his early days with the Carolina Panthers.

By all accounts, McCoy seemed like a coach that liked to play to his players' strengths. It may not have always been successful, but that is likely the biggest lesson that Steichen learned from McCoy early in his career. McCoy and his system were able to coach Philip Rivers into one of the best overall seasons of his career in 2013, where he completed nearly 70% of his passes and threw for nearly 4,500 yards.

Frank Reich

San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator (2014-2015)

This section will further emphasize Mike McCoy's willingness to adjust to his players' strengths by featuring an offensive coordinator that is as multiple as they come. Yes, I know that a lot of people in Indy soured on Frank Reich during his later years as a head coach with the Colts, but the man certainly gets props for being as multiple and as diverse as it comes.

Frank Reich should be the poster child in adaptive offenses in the NFL. He came to the Chargers with experience in multiple offensive systems in 2014 and he has only added to his palette ever since. He famously pivoted from Carson Wentz in 2017 (due to a torn ACL) to backup quarterback Nick Foles and crafted a very different offense for the reserve QB to lead the team to the Super Bowl.

Reich also had to deal with multiple quarterbacks with the Colts, generating unique offenses for the different styles he had to work with year after year. This may not be what Steichen was exposed to way back in 2014, but he got to work first hand with a coach that understood how to be multiple and that understood how to tailor things to his players.

Did Reich tend to overcomplicate things at times? Yes, but I would argue that Steichen's early career exposure to coaches like Reich and McCoy helped him exponentially in finding an offense that worked for Jalen Hurts with the Eagles.

Rhythmic Passing is Good Too

Ken Whisenhunt

San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Coordinator (2016-2020)

Up to this point in his career, Shane Steichen has predominantly worked under digit style vertical offenses that emphasized multiplicity and adaptability. Ken Whisenhunt, while still featuring some spread tendencies, liked to rely more on rhythmic passing and ball control in his passing offense.

If Norv Turner and Frank Reich perfected the overcomplicated, then Ken Whisenhunt is the master of the simplified. Whisenhunt's offensive tenets are rhythm, timing, and yards after the catch. Those simple objectives can't easily be achieved through an Air Coryell system, so Whisenhunt leaned more into west coast tendencies in his coaching career. 

At this point in Shane Steichen's career, he was the Chargers' Quarterbacks Coach so he had a pretty big hand in everything the Whisenhunt offenses were doing during this run. While I still maintain that Steichen is an Air Coryell guy at his core, it was easy to see some west coast timing principles with the Eagles this past season.

Nick Sirianni

San Diego Chargers Offensive QC Coach/QB Coach/WR Coach (2013-2017), Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach (2021-Present)

The last, and certainly not least, entry on this list is the endearing and lovable Nick Sirianni. Sirianni is the coach that has worked with Shane Steichen the most in his NFL coaching career, spending a whopping seven years alongside the Colts' newest head coach. While the two certainly differ in philosophy, and in personality, Sirianni's influence could be seen in so many ways with the Eagles.

Nick Sirianni comes from the Mike McCoy/Frank Reich way of thinking when it comes to multiplicity, but he is also a heavy believer in the Whisenhunt brand of getting the ball out quickly to the playmakers on the outside. This was seen pretty heavily early on in his Eagles' coaching tenure when he called the plays to start the 2021 season. Although the Eagles offense shifted to more of a vertical style when Steichen took over play calling duties, Sirianni's influence in the quick game was always there.

When the Eagles' offense hit their peak this past season, they were able to do so by being efficient in the vertical passing game but also by staying in rhythm underneath in the short game. I'd like to think that Nick Sirianni (and in turn Ken Whisenhunt) had some impact on that.

The Bottom Line

So what can we learn with this vast amount of coaching knowledge that Shane Steichen has built up since entering the profession in 2007? Well I'd argue that much of who he is today as a play caller stems from his work with these other talented offensive minds. 

Let's look at the 2022 Eagles offense as the perfect example of a Shane Steichen offense. That offense was immensely successful because it was diverse/multiple, it was extremely effective in the vertical passing game, and the short game was almost always on time and in rhythm. Each one of those aspects are specialties of coaches in his past that he has worked with. 

Each one of those coaches may have been flawed in their own ways, but Steichen was able to grab the good from those offensive minds and infuse them into his style. He is like the Avatar perfecting all the elements in order to save the world. Okay it may not be that dramatic, but you get the point of what I am saying. 

Shane Steichen may not be the savior of this Colts' organization, but he has a proven track record in the NFL and has a lot of experience working under some impressive offensive minds. Personally, he has my full faith that he can turn this organization around in the near future.

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