While some of the euphoria emanating from Indiana may be a product of convincing fans that chicken salad has become the ultimate product of the events of the past 10 days, the hiring of Frank Reich following the jilting of the team by Josh McDaniels should be regarded as a lesson to every NFL team. And the lesson is clear: Don’t decide who you want to hire before interviewing candidates.
Typically, owners who make a coaching change decide at some point between Halloween and Thanksgiving that a coaching change is needed. And the owners don’t wait until firing the current coach to contemplate a potential replacement. Many owners know who they want before the process of interviewing candidates even begins, with a few others thrown in to the mix to create the impression that the process was somewhat open and inclusive.
For the Colts, Reich was on the preliminary list of potential candidates, but the Colts decided not to interview him. He moved quickly to the top of the list after McDaniels decided not to take the job, thanks in part to Philadelphia’s win over New England in Super Bowl, and owner Jim Irsay and G.M. Chris Ballard spent time publicly chastising themselves on Tuesday for not realizing that Reich was a viable candidate for the job.
While they didn’t admit this specific aspect of the thought process, they didn’t take Reich seriously because they were locked onto getting someone with a connection to the “Patriot Way” (they wanted McDaniels or Mike Vrabel). While there’s no guarantee that interviewing Reich would have made them decide not to offer the job to McDaniels (again, this all could be chicken salad), the reality is that owners should be willing to take the time to cast the broadest net possible, interviewing as many of the coordinators as they can from the teams with playoffs byes in the first week after the regular season ends before shifting the following week to other candidates.
Apart from the potential value of picking brains (the way Al Davis used to do it), taking the time to interview as many people as possible ensures that every team will be looking under every stone, and not simply claiming that no stone has been left unturned. The decision is too significant and the stakes are too high to simply say, “I know who I want, and I’ll interview 2-3 more just to make it look like I did my homework.”
But that’s still what plenty of owners do. Maybe it’s a stubborn insistence on trusting their own instincts. Maybe there’s a certain end-of-season malaise or laziness that keeps the owner from deciding to fly from city to city to city in a compressed time frame to talk to as many candidates as possible.
Whatever the reason(s), the Colts situation underscores the value of ditching the wish list and broadening the search to include candidates whom ownership may regard as potentially viable but not really all that desirable. Even if taking the time to interview these other candidates doesn’t result in one of them bubbling toward the top of the list, it will make the owner feel better about the candidate who entered the process as the predetermined pick.