Manning on New Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen: "I Certainly Feel Confident in Him"
INDIANAPOLIS – Without question, it will be a change.
The Colts this season for the first time since 1998, the first time since quarterback Peyton Manning's rookie season, will open the season with a new offensive coordinator.
Clyde Christensen, the Colts' wide receivers coach since 2002, during the off-season was promoted to offensive coordinator, a position held throughout the past 12 seasons – throughout Manning's career – by longtime NFL offensive coordinator Tom Moore.
Dallas Clark, the Colts' Pro Bowl tight end, said this week the change is far from insignificant.
But he also said it will be interesting. It could be productive.
And it certainly should be positive.
"It's a big change," Clark said this weekend during the Colts' three-day mandatory mini-camp, a period that included an open-to-the-public practice at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday at 2:15 p.m.
Moore, one of the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL, remains on staff as a senior offensive assistant, and Manning said this week that should help ensure the process of changing coordinators is a relatively uneventful one.
Mostly, Manning said it's Christensen's experience in the Colts' offensive system that should make the change successful.
While Moore called the offensive plays the past 12 seasons, Manning and Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell each said Christensen had worked with Manning and the overall offense on an increasing basis in recent seasons. That familiarity with the workings of the offense is critical, Manning said.
"Clyde for the past number of years has been an integral part of our offense," said Manning, who under Moore made 10 Pro Bowls and led the Colts to 10 post-season appearances. "Basically, he's been in charge of our third-down and red-zone packages, and we're tops in the league in those packages.
"Tom has allowed Clyde to have a lot of input and Clyde had a lot of responsibility when it came to the passing game. I certainly feel confident in him and what he'll bring to the table."
Manning has talked often in the past about the imance of having one offensive coordinator throughout his career. Throughout much of his career, Manning has had an unusual amount of freedom to call and change plays at the line of scrimmage, something he said Moore long has encouraged. Manning also has said in recent years playing in one system with a coordinator with whom he has trust has been beneficial.
The Colts have finished in the Top 10 into total offense 10 of 11 seasons, and Moore's continued presence shouldn't be overlooked, Manning said.
"Tom is still going to play an integral role, and be involved in meetings and practices and still doing a lot of the same things he's done for us as far as maintaining the discipline of our offense," Manning said. "I think it will take some getting used to for a lot of the players, but I've worked closely with Clyde the past few years so I'm looking forward to the relationship growing."
Hiring Christensen from a position on the staff is in keeping with a recent Colts tradition of promoting coaches and personnel officials currently on staff. Caldwell worked under Dungy with the Colts from 2002-2008 before he ascended to the head position last season.
"We've dealt with change and transition before," Manning said. "Certainly (Colts President) Bill (Polian) has always tried to maintain continuity."
But while Christensen's experience in the Colts' system is a positive, Caldwell said he doesn't expect a new season to be completely without a new look from the new offensive coordinator.
When Caldwell took over as head coach from long-time head coach Tony Dungy last season, there were similarities to Dungy's tenure, but Caldwell also made changes at defensive and special teams coordinator. Caldwell said such measured changes could play out offensively under Christensen.
"Because Clyde has been in the system he understands it extremely well, but also I think he has a great understanding, just in terms of knowing what needs to be changed also," Caldwell said. "He will probably also adjust a few things according to his personality. But he and Peyton have worked together for quite some time, although most folks on the outside don't realize that, but they've developed a real strong relationship over the years. From that standpoint, I think you're going to see a very, very smooth transition.
"I would anticipate that you may see some little wrinkles here and there that may be different from what we've done previously."
Clark said the biggest changes may not come on the field at all. The offensive coordinator, in addition to calling plays and installing the offense, runs meetings and sets the tone during the week, and Clark said any change there is a significant one.
"Tom addressed the offense twice a week," Clark said. "The offensive coordinator does that, and now that's Clyde's job. How is he going to break down our goals? How is he going to communicate our weaknesses? Play-calling, yeah, that's a big thing and that's a noticeable thing for the fans and everything else, but just for daily coming to work, that will be all learning. I'm looking forward to it.
"I love what Tom had done and obviously his job, it's still a huge part of this offense. Everyone just has different responsibilities this year."
And Clark says just how those new responsibilities will change the day-to-day remains to be seen.
"It will be different," Clark said. "This time of year, I know exactly what Tom's going to say. I know exactly what he's going to say to the rookies. I know exactly the things he's going to correct. You just know. You know, 'I did this wrong – he's going to tell me about it.' So, now with Clyde, it's all new.
"There are going to be some things that he's going to be really picky on and there's going to be different coaching philosophies."