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Shane Steichen is the NFL’s Best Kept Secret

The Indianapolis Colts had little to no expectations heading into the season. Now, sitting at 7-5, they are right in the thick of the playoff hunt and still nobody is talking about them.

In Week 5 the team matched up with the Titans, a hated division rival, when disaster struck. The Colts managed to pull out a win, but sensational rookie QB Anthony Richardson suffered a Grade 3 AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder.

There was optimism among fans that he could return this season, but about a week later Richardson and the team elected to undergo season-ending surgery. All hope in Indianapolis appeared to be lost for the season.

Backup QB Gardner Minshew was thrust into the fire as the starter for the rest of the season. With up and down performances in three straight losses things looked bleak for the team.

Minshew was putting up impressive numbers, but this was at the expense of ball security. During the losing streak Minshew threw for nearly 1,000 yards with seven total touchdowns, however he turned the ball over nine times.

It looked like rookie Head Coach Shane Steichen was still running an offensive system designed around Richardson. Given that the two signal callers have drastically different styles of play, it took a while for the play calling to find its footing.

Since the beginning of November, the Colts have ripped off four wins in a row and put themselves in prime position to make it to the postseason. The biggest difference with the team has been the strides Steichen has made as a play caller.

During their four-game skid, Steichen was calling tons of bootlegs and long-developing passes that felt like they were implemented for Richardson’s skillset.

Minshew is great at extending plays, but oddly enough when he has designed rollouts and runs, he puts the ball into harm’s way. Given that Minshew is a pocket passer it felt like the Colts were trying to fit a square into a round hole.

Over the past month, Steichen completely revamped the offense. Minshew has almost exclusively been operating from the pocket and only scrambles when there is pressure, and he needs to create a play with his legs due to tight coverage. Another key change is the installment of quicker pass plays, removing the need for Minshew to think as much.

While his stats haven’t been as impressive during the streak, Minshew has done a much better job of holding onto the ball, which is all the Colts ask of him. He only has four total touchdowns, but he has turned the ball over just three times which has limited opposing teams’ possessions.

Steichen has displayed an impressive adaptability that is rarely seen by head coaches. Most coaches are stubborn and only want to win with their personal philosophy and scheme. Steichen is willing to change and tweak details of his system to make his offense as efficient as possible.

Indianapolis may not be anywhere near as talented as other teams, but Steichen has the team exuding a contagious confidence that has carried them into a playoff spot. They don’t care how pretty it looks; they just want to win.

All three phases of the team are playing smart, high-level football, which is always the sign of a well-coached team. They have a top ten scoring offense over the past month, the defense has forced the third-most turnovers in football, and the special teams unit continues to make huge plays consistently.

With a relatively easy schedule in the last five weeks of the season, the Colts may very well make the playoffs with a backup quarterback. It may be a long shot, but sitting two games behind the Jaguars, they may even win the division and end up hosting a playoff game. This aggressive push to the postseason is only possible due to the genius and versatility of Steichen.


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