Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Nov 2011

Colts Fire Defensive Coordinator Coyer

The Colts have fired defensive coordinator Larry Coyer. Indianapolis has been neck-and-neck with the Panthers for the worst defense in the NFL by DVOA for most of this season, and the Colts defense has steadily declined since their 15th place finish in defensive DVOA in 2009. Linebackers coach Mike Murphy will take the reins.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 29 Nov 2011

46 comments, Last at 07 Dec 2011, 11:08am by Mr Shush


by Bernie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:00pm

It's about time. I'm looking at them hiring Del rio as their new DC. He won't get a head coaching gig anywhere.

by Southern Philly :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:51pm

Del Rio is still owed $5 million by the Jags for next year, so he won't be on a sideline in 2012. And I'll just assume that you're not a Colts fan if you want Del Rio as their DC anyway.

by Bernie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 4:41pm

Actually, I always thought Del Rio had some fairly successful stints as DC...he was just a shitty head coach. Some guys don't have the skills to transition to HC. Norv Turner is another example. He's been a great Offensive Coordinator everywhere he's done it (and with some ordinary players) but he's been an atrocious head coach everywhere (with some great players).
A bunch of guys fall into this category : Wade Phillips, Dick LeBeau, Norv Tuner, Jack Del Rio, Romeo Crennel, Mart Morniwheg, Gunther Cunningham to name a few. I'm sure there a dozens of others.

by Shattenjager :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 5:02pm

Del Rio has been a defensive coordinator for one year in the NFL, with Carolina in 2002.

They had a -12.3% DVOA, third in the league.

by Drunkmonkey :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 5:06pm

Carolina was pretty sad to see him go, as he did have a good defense, and the players seemed to love him. I agree that del Rio shouldn't be a head coach in this league, but I get the feeling that he will get another chance. Hell, if Mora Jr got another chance, why can't Rio?

But he definitely will be a DC again, if he's lucky, which I think he will succeed at. Most of the questionable personnel decisions have been on offense, and while he doesn't have total authority over personnel decisions, maybe he can be the opposite of McDaniels, and run a good defense for a while.

by Southern Philly :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 6:33pm

This. They were good that year, but how much of that was Del Rio? With only one year on the job we can't say for sure.

We can't even say he's a good assistant coach, he's actually been a head coach for 9 years, which is longer than his coaching career was before he got hired in Jacksonville (6 years). His defenses in Jacksonville since losing Mike Smith have been terrible, by DVOA: 24th, 28th, 32nd. With Smith: 9th, 10th, 7th, 3rd, 15th.

I know a guy who Del Rio offered his DB coach position to. He turned him down because A) "I'd play so aggressive that while we'd be effective, we'd give up just enough big plays to get me fired" and B) he did not think that Del Rio was a good coach, having seen him in action with Baltimore and not being impressed.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:10pm

The worst thing I heard about Del Rio today was that he was, by NFL head coach standards, lazy, and noticeably so since getting his last raise. If it is true that he regularly showed up for work at 9 AM, as was alleged, it's hard to argue otherwise. If that perception becomes widespread, he may be destined for the broadcast booth. Billionaires don't like paying coaches who they perceive as being nonworkaholics.

by db :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 5:24pm

Like Whisenhunt?

by Whatev :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:17am

I don't know about that, it seemed like Whisenhunt was okay back when he still had some talent on his team. My understanding is that not counting those two years, the Cardinals haven't been good in decades. That's a problem that transcends coaching.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:16pm

Whisenhunt is still probably the most successful coach in the franchise's history. He started his tenure there going 8-8, 9-7, 10-6 with two playoff appearances. Yes, the last two years have been bad, but they haven't been awful and I think if they actually find a long-term QB they should be fine. He should get blamed a bit for the Kolb trade, though.

by Shattenjager :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 4:43pm

Don Coryell won double-digit games three times in a 14-game schedule and made the playoffs twice. He had one losing season in five years with the Cardinals. I'm not sure you can say that Whisenhunt is "probably" more successful.

Jimmy Conzelman also had a winning record in three of his six years with the Cardinals and made the championship game twice, winning the NFL championship in 1947. I'm not sure you can say that Whisenhunt is "probably" more successful.

by Dean :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:22pm

Yeah, but that was before Madden, so it doesn't count.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:43pm

I'll change it to "Most successful since moving to Arizona". Happy?

by Shattenjager :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:30pm


by Drunkmonkey :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:01pm

What is the likelihood that the majority of the coaching staff gets let go this offseason, including Caldwell? I just wonder because even though Peyton is out, the team shouldn't be playing this bad.

Again, I realize that the guys playing the most important position in football have been terrible, but seriously, the whole team has just been terrible.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:15pm

Very high. The only reason it hasn't been done already is because of the lack of in-house candidates for the promotion, which are necessary if you're going to fire someone in-season. The way I see it, if they had faith in Christensen, he'd be the interim head coach right now. But they don't. And so they're all lame ducks. Coyer was an obvious one - the defense has been unreliable the entire time he has been there, and while to some extent he's hamstrung by the lack of talent, he's also shown that he's not good at adapting and was never really a great fit in the first place.

It's hard to blame anyone for the awful season once Manning went down, but the losing takes a toll, other older errors start being noticed and people fixate, and everything goes to hell. Tough to survive that. Noone should be surprised if the entire organization gets turned over before 2012. A lot of veteran players are going to disappear too.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:48pm

DVOA, other metrics, and scouting all agree that the Colts are even worse on defense and special teams than they are on offense, and much of the offensive side can be fixed with a decent QB. I'd rank them 32nd in defense, 32nd in S/T, maybe 29th at QB thanks to injuries and Blaine Gabbert.

The Colts absolutely should consider themselves a "rebuilding" team, even if they have one (or two) Hall of Fame QBs propping them up to 10-6 records.

The defense and special teams need to be blown up and redone completely. They cannot possibly get any worse, so it's time to nab younger players, redo the schemes, and take some risks. Spend some high draft picks on defense. It will be worth it.

The offensive line play is not ideal, but it is improving. Some solid mid-round draft choices should probably be used here.

The offensive system is good for Peyton, and could possibly be good for another elite QB. It doesn't require changing, even if Andrew Luck is the starting QB in week one of 2012.

The receivers are perfectly good players. Unfortunately, they are expensive, probably more than they are worth. We shouldn't run Wayne and Clark out of town or anything, but we should stop spending high draft picks on the receiver positions for a while.

The running backs have been hard to evaluate, but I'm inclined to believe that they're highly overpaid as well, and they can be cut in favor of flashy defensive talent or solid offensive line.

by Drunkmonkey :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 5:03pm

They have another HoF QB on the roster? Why the hell haven't they played him yet?

by Bernie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 4:46pm

Clyde Christenson is a terrible Offensive coordinator. His play calls are terrible, very uncreative, and seemingly oblivious of what the strengths and weaknesses of his players are. His strategy before this season seemed to be "fuck it, Peyton will figure it out", and he always did. Now without his general on the field, he can't call a game to save his life.
I'm sick and tired of seeing the same disjointed play calling every week, with no spark of ingenuity anywhere. You're 0-11 for fuck sake....now's the time to open up everything you ever wanted to try and let it all hang out. You can't possibly harm yourself at this point - unless of course they think doing so might win a few games and ruin their # 1 draft pick.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 6:49pm

I agree. I can see the argument for continuity in the Colts offense IF Manning returns healthy next year, only because I don't want to see anyone come in and force Manning to run a new offense this late in his career.

But he hasn't shown me a thing since last year when the receivers started getting hurt, and this year's game plans and play calling have been abysmal. Throwing 2x as much as running when you're getting a lower YPA through the air, which he has done, should get you fired at half time.

by Purds :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 4:56pm

They have to ditch the entire coaching staff. There has never been a less creative play calling and defensive scheming group in the NFL, or at least one that lost this many games. Lots of teams do the same thing over and over and over ... When they are winning! Not when they are losing very single game.

by Elemen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:14pm

Also Curtis Painter was benched for Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky now has the chance to start for two 0-16 teams.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:23pm

True fact: Orlovsky (0-7) has a better career W/L record as a starter than Painter (0-8).

If you got the Colts QBs together and asked them "hey, remember that time that you won a game?" Peyton would say "why yes, I do. To which of my 150 career victories are you referring?" Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter would have to sadly shake their heads.

by are-tee :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 4:16pm

0-7 isn't really "better" than 0-8; it's just slightly "less bad".

by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 4:27pm

I'm sure they will have equal career records once again in a week.

by Jonadan :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:22pm

I'm torn between wondering what the point of this is now and wondering why it took so long.

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

by Theo :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 3:58pm

Aren't those 2 things you're torn between effectively the same thing?

But ehm... I think the 31-7 home loss to the Falcons 3 weeks ago was also a good moment.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 6:16pm

This doesn't bode well for Winston Moss staying in the Packers organization. If he isn't targeted for a head coaching job (and there are going to be a few of those open this year like all years), a DC position is certainly another job that might get offered to him.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:48am

Unless Moss's contract is expiring, the Packers don't have to let him leave for a co-ordinator position - only a head coaching gig.

by ammek :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 5:46am

No, but the Packers have already allowed him to interview for co-ordinator gigs elsewhere, and apparently turned down a handful of requests too. It seems there's a kind of unwritten agreement that says it's okay to refuse a certain number of advances, but not too many. For the same reason, QB coach Tom Clements and possibly secondary coach Joe Whitt will be permitted to interview for coordinator vacancies at the end of this season if the Packers fail to reach the Superbowl.

by jedmarshall :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:54pm

It's about time. I hated the Coyer hire at the time and all he's done is take a mediocre defense that at least had an identity and turned them into a clueless defense that's the worst in the league. I never understood the rationale behind hiring him.

"Hey remember the guy whose defense Peyton always torched in the playoffs? Yeah, I think he'd be great as our DC"

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:51pm

In their defense, Coyer's defenses in Denver were quite successful against teams not QBed by Peyton Manning, especially they always seemed to do well against Brady.

That said, it was a horribly ill-fitted. Either they should've let him build the defense his way, or hire a cover-2 guy. Doing what they did never made sense.

by dan s (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:06pm

That said, wasn't his success against Brady before 2007? I ask because both times Coyer has faced Brady since ('09 and '10), the Colts D got torched in the first half. It could be that what little he brought to the table--beating Brady--was already an obsolete skill by the time he got to Indy, since the Pats O before 2007 was a completely different animal.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:18pm

True. That said, he never really ran what he did in Denver here, so I have no idea if his old Denver defensive scheme could have had much success against Brady.

I will say that late in the 2009 game, he started blitzing a lot, and it was mostly successful. It was his awful form of the cover-2 that did nothing early.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:24pm

Beating Tom Brady is also a very different animal when your #1 wideout is named "Champ Bailey", as opposed to "Jerraud Powers". Beating Tom Brady with Cover 2 is a fool's errand anyway, but doing so with one decent (but aging) player in the secondary is just not going to happen.

He was a bad hire, but not because he's incompetent (though he may be). He's running someone else's scheme with Division II talent.

by jedmarshall :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:49pm

Jerraud Powers is no Bailey, but he's better than most people give him credit for when he's healthy. A big problem is he and Bethea are the only two NFL quality DB's they have. Still, during the Dungy/Meeks era, they made Jason David look like an NFL quality player. That in itself is fantastic.

He never made adjustments and the D would routinely get torched by the same plays all game. Part of being a good coach is finding a scheme for the players you have. He tried to fit a square peg into a round hole. Every time he sent Bracket (one of the best coverage LB's in his prime) on a blitz, I cringed a bit.

Peyton obviously makes the Colts go and his absence has more effect on the D than most realize, but there is some talent on the D. They should not be battling Carolina for worst D in the league.

by bernie (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 5:15pm

Peyton Mannings absence is affecting the defense late in games. Due to Painter being unable to keep drives going, the defense is on the field a lot more, and is tiring late in games. If you have watched the colts games this year, they have played alright defense in the first half, enought to keep it close. In the second half, (and especially the 4th quarter) they just run out of gas and other teams score at will.
If the offense was able to hold the ball a little longer, and score more points, the defense wouldn't be shown up as badly as they have been so far.
Peyton Manning's return will probably be worth at least 10 points per game to the colts - 7 on offense and about 3 on defense. If you apply that differential to this years games, they'd be 5 & 6 (technically the cincy game woul have been tied, but I am assuming the colts would have lost in overtime.)

by Ulrik (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 6:09pm

Peyton Manning over Curtis Painter is only 10 points? Really?

by bernie (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 6:19pm

I did say at least 10 points, and I was trying to be conservative. Even if it only was 10 points exactly, that's a pretty big swing in the NFL.

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 6:22pm

It looks like Peyton might be worth closer to 14 points per game just on offense. The Colts are scoring 13.5 less PPG compared to last year and that's with a healthier offense and being put in situations where it's probably easier to score points (garbage time).

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:02pm

on the one hand, Coyer was not a good DC. On the other hand, the Colts defense is an aging pair of great bookend DE's, Bethea, and eight players who are, at best, replacement level. The corners from 2008 (Hayden and Jackson) were better than their replacements, Bob Sanders is gone, and the linebackers are not good (although, to be sure, the linebackers have never been good).

Three players, none of whom is a decent run defender and two of whom are past their primes, do not a defense make. This unit has been declining since Dungy left, and it was never very good to begin with.

The Colts have tried to keep a nucleus of players together around Manning to hold on for another Super Bowl. They resigned Sanders, Brackett, Clark, and others when they should have been let go like Jason David and Cato June. They have failed to bring in anyone to replace them, and their drafts have been a - disaster - since at least 2006.

It is no surprise that second rate second contract players like Brackett have disappointed, and while Coyer and Caldwell deserve a lot of blame for turning a merely bad defense into a league-worst defense, the front office deserves at least as much for completely striking out for a half-decade.

by Ranccor (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:53pm

I think Angerer is worth including as a keeper option as well. He plays hard and I always see his number around the ball. Granted, he is the MLB, so he is supposed to be around the ball, but I think he is a young player on his way up.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:26pm

Angerer is one of the better linebackers the Colts have found in the past few years floating on the jetsam of the late rounds and free agency. That is not to say they should pay him, but if he is cheap, he's the kind of player it is good to have around. He's probably as good as Brackett, not that that is saying much.

by jedmarshall :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:55pm

Agreed with a few replies. Angerer is a good player. He's better against the run than the pass, but he's a keeper. Mathis is also better against the run than other people give him credit for. Before Nevis and Foster got hurt, D-line was a bright spot for the first time as long as I can remember being a Colts fan. The first few games of this year, the run defense was stout.

The Colts have a good Cover-2 defense minus a 2nd corner and SS. The problem is Coyer ran a schizophrenic scheme that went against their strengths. There is just as much talent (more when Nevis is healthy) on D as there was most of the Dungy era, but they are performing worse.

by Not a Colts Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/06/2011 - 2:17pm

Is the Colts firing their defensive coordinator a cover-up? Notwithstanding the final score, the Colts appeared to play a soft defense against the Patriots and Brady in manner that would lead any reasonable human being to question if the Colts were tanking the game. The loss of Manning was a serious blow to the Colts; but, it's difficult to comprehend the Colts going from playoff contenders last year to an 0-12 team this year. Looking at this season, it's difficult not to question if the Colts are targeting the worst record so that that they can get Luck in the draft. The NFL should be investigating.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 12/07/2011 - 11:08am

I'm also not a Colts fan, but I do watch the Colts quite a lot. Last year, I believe I may actually have said something along the lines of "Good God, the Colts are awful this year apart from Manning! If they didn't have him, they might go 0-16". If they're deliberately sucking for Luck, it's the fruition of a cunning plan to run their talent base into the ground over several seasons, and then give Peyton an incredibly well-remunerated sabbatical.