Indy's Steichen gets crash course in combining veteran moves with learning lessons as new head coach

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — First-time head coach Shane Steichen already is making some veteran moves.

He blames himself for the Indianapolis Colts' miscues in Week 1, wants more efficiency on third and fourth downs and prods his young team to keep the focus on making steady improvement.

Heck, he's even savvy enough to keep injury updates boring.

Yes, after just one official game, Steichen seems tailor-made to excel at his dream job.

“I think you've got to take accountability for everything,” he said Wednesday. “As a head coach, you've got to hold yourself accountable and then it's the players holding the players accountable. Everyone's got to be on the same page and don't take anything personal. Praise them when they do it right and when it's not right, we've got to get you to correct what you do.”

Make no mistake — the Colts have plenty to fix following a 31-21 loss to Jacksonville that extended their opening day winless streak to 10.

Steichen knows it, but he's also fortunate to start this season with a largely clean slate.

His hiring marked the end of last season's forgettable combination of rotating quarterbacks and multiple midseason staff changes.

He needed only one preseason game to convince himself rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson should be the starter. And as Colts fans bemoan the absence of 2021 NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor, Steichen has deftly found ways to stay out of the fray.

“We’ll talk about that,” he said when asked if Taylor would travel to Houston this week before addressing why Taylor didn't attend the Jacksonville game. "All those conversations — if he’s not at the game — I’ll keep all that stuff internal.”

Dealing with an ugly contract dispute between the team and an injured All-Pro running back certainly isn't the ideal way to start a head coaching career.

But Steichen, like most coaches, has no choice now that he's making the game day decisions and relying on his own hires to properly teach techniques and install game plans.

He's even hitched himself to Richardson, the No. 4 overall draft pick, in hopes they can deliver appealing performances to a fan base eager to see what this new Colts era looks like with a 38-year-old coach and a 21-year-old quarterback.

“It was a sense of relief just getting the first one under my belt, but I’ve got a whole bunch more to do," Richardson said. “I’ve got a whole bunch more ahead of me and ahead of the whole team.”

The goal, of course, is making a playoff run, something that won't happen if Indy doesn't change course from the 1-6-1 mark it's had in the past eight games against AFC South foes. Their next chance comes Sunday at Houston (0-1).

For Steichen, some of this is familiar terrority.

He spent 12 seasons bouncing around the league as an assistant, working with stars such as Philip Rivers and mentoring young quarterbacks such as Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts, coaching both offense and defense and learning from bosses such as Norv Turner and Nick Sirianni.

At some point, colleges and universities tried to woo Steichen out of the professional ranks, but he wasn't interested.

Instead, he stuck around and wound up helping Sirianni construct an NFC championship team before getting his chance with the Colts.

“It’s like anything, getting this job or getting that, or as a player, are you ready?” Steichen said last week as the opener approached. “Well shoot, when we get out there, we’re going to find out, right? But you prepare as best as you can every single day to put yourself in position to be successful.”

And when that moment came last weekend, Steichen and Richardson managed the mechanics almost flawlessly. No delay of game penalties, no problems with substitutions, not even an unnecessary timeout.

The game itself, though, was a mixed bag.

Richardson was the Colts' top runner — 10 carries, 40 yards and one TD. The other backs had 16 carries for 25 yards. And while Richardson had the best passer rating (79.0) of this season's three first-round picks, he did not take many shots down the field and left in the final minute with a sore knee and a sore ankle.

The lesson came in the postgame advice from Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence — slide more.

“As a quarterback in this league you do have to protect yourself a lot if you want to stay in this league,” Richardson said. “I woke up (Monday) with some feelings I’ve never felt before. Some of the vets were like, ‘Welcome to the league, rook. That’s how it’s going to be.’”

Steichen learned some things from his debut, too, and intends to put them to use starting this week.

“We’ve got to run the ball better, and it starts with me," he said. “I think once you pop a few, you start hitting it. When you get 1 or 2 yards on first down, it’s hard to keep calling those runs. Again, I’ve got to do a better job.”