How much does it matter, really?
Isn't giving Peyton Manning a new offensive coordinator pretty much the same as giving him a new pair of cleats?
With all due respect to Clyde Christensen, who is in his fourth month at the helm of the Indianapolis Colts' offense, Manning could work with just about anybody and still be an elite quarterback. Greatness is greatness, and nothing is going to change that -- not even the decision to promote Christensen from wide receivers coach to replace Tom Moore, the only offensive coordinator Manning has had through 12 NFL seasons.
As always, Manning will orchestrate the offense from the meeting room to the field. As always, his offensive coordinator won't coach him so much as provide assistance as he needs it.
The Colts have much larger issues (such as a contract dispute with their top wide receiver, Reggie Wayne) than worrying about the impact of the transition from Moore to Christensen. And with Moore sticking around as a senior offensive assistant coach, there's every reason to believe that the transition will be smooth.
"It's probably much like my taking over for Tony (Dungy after the 2008 season)," Caldwell said. "Clyde's been there for eight years, knows the system very well, and really influences what we do."
Christensen's familiarity with the scheme is helpful. The familiarity that he and Manning have with each other, as well as the quarterback's trust in Christensen, is why their professional relationship will allow the Colts to continue to have one of the most explosive passing attacks in the NFL.
Like Moore, Christensen understands that Manning doesn't require, nor desire, a whole lot of handling. Manning is, was and always will be his own boss.
The Colts' 30-17 victory over the New York Jets in last January's AFC Championship Game was a classic example. Manning had spent hours upon hours studying tape of not only the Jets' defense but also of the Baltimore Ravens' defense when Jets coach Rex Ryan guided it. Manning devoted most of his attention to plays where he and the rest of the offense struggled because he was certain Ryan would employ the same (or at least similar) strategy with the AFC title on the line.
Near the end of the first half, with the Jets holding a 17-6 lead, Manning finally felt confident that he had a firm grasp on what to expect from Ryan's complex blitzing scheme and how to stay one step ahead of it. The decisive moment came with 1:59 remaining, when he connected with Austin Collie for a 46-yard gain to the Jets' 16-yard line. Manning had no doubt about what to do next: Throw to Collie again. The result was a touchdown that allowed the Colts to seize momentum.
"From that point on, we really had a good bead on things," Manning said after the game.
And by "we" he meant himself.
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"We were aggressive the first series of the second half," Manning went onto explain. "Tom was calling some run plays, and I just kind of got hot and changed them. Tom, as he does, just said, 'Hey, you're hot, just keep going.' He has no ego when it comes to those things."
Christensen has been around Manning long enough to understand that he, too, must keep his ego out of all dealings with the NFL's only four-time Most Valuable Player and a Super Bowl MVP. He has no intention of trying to shake things up or put his own stamp on an offense that has undergone a little bit of a coaching facelift. Besides the new titles that he and Moore have, there will be a new line coach (Pete Metzelaars, who was promoted from assistant offensive line coach after the retirement of Howard Mudd) and a new receivers coach (Ron Turner, who replaces Christensen).
As Christensen recently told the Indianapolis Star, "You may change color in a couple of rooms or move some furniture around or pick up a new piece of furniture, but for the most part, the structure of this thing is intact. We're not trying to change a system or bring in a new scheme or anything like that."
That's because Manning is the system. Changing it would mean bringing in a different quarterback, and the Colts are a long way from that.
Although Christensen, Moore, and the other offensive coaches will make their share of contributions, they're pretty much along for the ride. For Manning, it is never about getting up to speed. It is always about setting the pace.
"He comes in as prepared as anybody I've ever seen," Caldwell said. "If it's practice film, he's watched it already. Not only has he watched his position or the guy he's throwing to, but every single guy he's throwing to. He studies it intently. That kind of focus and concentration is rare. You would think that, after you reached a certain level of proficiency, that that would wane somewhat. His increases."
Does that sound like a quarterback who will be negatively impacted by a new offensive coordinator?