Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Josh McDaniels would bring Oakland Raiders quarterback coach Jake Peetz and Dallas Cowboys Matt Eberflus as his offensive and defensive coordinators in 2018. For the past week, reports have linked the current Patriots OC to the Colts as an almost certainty, but it is only recently that reports of coordinators have surfaced. McDaniels has been the prized coaching candidate for the past two off seasons, but what about these potential coordinators, most fans know very little about them, so who are they?
Matt Eberflus (ee-burr-floos), 47, left Cleveland in 2011 with Rob Ryan to become the Cowboys LB coach and kept that role with Rod Marinelli. In 2016 Eberflus became the passing game coordinator as well, what does that mean? Here is what Cowboys head coach Jason Garret said about the change back in 2016 from ESPN.com:
“At different parts, times during the day, the linebackers and the secondary guys will meet and again, working on the coverage part of our defense and we thought there was some real value to that and the continuity across positions. We like the combination. We thought having Matt Eberflus being the guy who oversees that back end, in regards to the passing game, we thought that would be a good way for our defense to go.”
What happened in that year? Dallas went from 4-12 to 13-3 and Sean Lee was one of the top linebackers in football. In addition, linebackers Rolando McClain and Anthony Hitchens also saw career years under Eberflus tutelage. The Cowboys defense has been a consistent overachiever in recent years, despite a roster with mostly underwhelming talent, the team has been able to be a serviceable unit under Marinelli and Eberflus.
His experience in the passing game will be music to Colts fans ears as they are likely sick of hearing “run the ball, stop the run,” mentality of the former regime. This focus could help the Colts improve the weakest point of the defense, linebackers in pass coverage, which hasn’t been even serviceable since Jerrell Freeman was around.
What about his scheme? If you are familiar with the verbiage of defensive schemes, the Colts have played a 3-4 hybrid defense under Chuck Pagano, which predominately uses a 2-gap system. What Eberflus will employ in Indy isn’t that clear at the moment, as he has experience in 3-4 two gap schemes and 4-3 one gap systems, which may be the point. Josh McDaniels came from a Belichick run defense, which uses a multiple styles, as much as the NFL does, but New England truly earns the title of a hybrid defense. This could be part of McDaniels plan for the Colts defense, as he may try to impart as much as Belichick’s style on this defense as possible, and hiring a coordinator with experience in both systems will help achieve that goal.
Eberflus’s coaching career started at his alma mater, the University of Toledo, in 1994 as the outside linebacker coach and then defensive back coach. In 2001, he moved on to University of Missouri where he was the defensive coordinator, secondary coach, assistant head coach, and safeties coach in his time there. In 2009 he became the linebacker coach under coordinator Rob Ryan and Head Coach Eric Mangini, a Belichick disciple, where he stayed for two season until Rob Ryan left for Dallas. Under Missouri and Monte Kiffin/Todd Marinelli Dallas, Eberflus worked with the 4-3 system, but in Cleveland and Rob Ryan Dallas, he worked with the 3-4 system, which gives Eberflus experience in multiple different types of systems.
The new Colts DC has another connection to Indy, Tony Dungy, who spent a lot of time with the Cowboys defensive staff to help the transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Dallas fans and media seem to be concerned about the loss of Eberflus, as they recognize the impact the coach has on their defense, and was slated to succeed Marinelli as the defensive coordinator when Marinelli retires. The Cowboys front office tried everything possible to keep Eberflus on the staff, offering to promote him to defensive coordinator earlier than expected and make Marinelli the assistant head coach, but took the Colts job instead. Eberflus is known for being a tough minded “take no flak” kind of coach who emphases playing fast, which is a huge improvement over the often criticized softer Chuck Pagano. Free agent linebacker Anthony Hitchens had this to say about the coach:
“He’s a great coach. You might not like him when he’s on the field, but that’s what you need. He’s not out there to baby you and walk you around and tell you it’s okay and get it next time. He’s going to coach the man first.”
It will be exciting to see how the Colts’ defense will change in 2018 but if you’re nervous about changing system, remember that Belichick systems focus on putting players in the best scenario for them to succeed and not what the scheme necessarily calls for, so it would be safe to say that McDaniels and Eberflus will do the same.
Jake Peetz’s, 34, on the other hand, impact on this team a bit more ambiguous, as the offense will be predominately McDaniels’s system and will likely call the plays on offense as well. Peetz initially started as a safeties coach and a strength and conditioning coordinator at Santa Barbara City College in 2006 for a year, then moving on the UCLA as the defensive quality control coach, which is interesting considering he is now the OC as the Colts. Later in 2008-2009 he became a scouting assistant in Jacksonville and became a BLESTO scout for the team for 2010-2011. This background is a very intriguing tidbit in his career as Peetz could be another tool for the Colts when it comes to evaluating talent for the draft and developing that talent, which the Colts have seemed to lack in the previous regime. Peetz offensive coaching career started in 2012 when Jake became an offensive assistant for Jacksonville, from where he served as the offensive analyst and quarterbacks assistant to Nick Saban in Alabama. Peetz returned to the NFL level in 2014 as the Redskins offensive quality control and wide receiver assistant in 2014, where the team ranked 8th in receiving. He then became the Oakland Raiders senior offensive assistant in 2015 where the team jumped by over 50 yards in total yards per game, and saw their first 1,000 yard rusher in five years in Latavius Murray. He would work his way up to assistant quarterbacks coach and then quarterbacks coach in 2016 and 2017.
Every stop Peetz has arrived at in his offensive career, the team saw immediate significant improvement, which is a very positive trend for the Colts. He was targeted by Sean McVay and the LA Rams in 2016 to become his quarterbacks coach or wide receivers coach, but nothing materialized. The Raiders were phenomenally successful offensively in 2015 and 2016 with the blossoming young quarterback Derek Carr, and Peetz impact on his development cannot be ignored, however, 2017 was not the same story. The Raiders took a step back in 2017, and at times it seemed like Derek Carr ignored his offensive coordinator Tom Downing and did his own thing on the field, which isn’t a great look. Peetz did a great job in the electrifying Chiefs-Raiders Thursday night game helping Carr and the offense embark on a great comeback win in the second half.
The former Nebraska Cornhusker has worked under some well-known coaches, such as Nick Saban, Jay Gruden, Jack Del Rio, Sean McVay, Dirk Koetter, Mike Shula, Mike Mularkey, and Greg Olson. This experience gives him a lot of knowledge in different systems which should make him a great sounding board for Josh McDaniels for the offense. It is also safe to assume he will help the transition to the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system that McDaniels will employ.
All of this is unofficial right now, as the Colts cannot announce anything officially until the Patriots season is over. However, Eberflus’ wife’s new Colts Facebook profile picture filter suggests its a lock that McDaniels and Eberflus are coming to Indy in the upcoming weeks.
These hires should give Colts’ fans a lot to be excited about, and with a healthy Andrew Luck in 2018, don’t be surprised to see the team have a bit a bounce-back campaign from their dreadful 2017 season.
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