Early into his first job in the NFL – as an offensive assistant with the Colts from 2009-2011 – Jim Bob Cooter was helping prep Peyton Manning for an upcoming opponent. He mentioned to Manning that the opponent the Colts were about to face had never brought a cornerback blitz.
The next day, Manning walked in to where Cooter was stationed at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"Alright," Cooter recalled Manning saying, "pull up last year's Miami game, play 37."
You can guess what play 37 was.
"Never?" Manning said. "You said never?"
Working with Manning was a demanding job, but one that was extremely beneficial for Cooter as he began building his coaching foundation from 2009-2011 with the Colts.
"As a young coach, to come into that situation really set you up for the potential to put together a pretty good career as a coach because you're going to learn so much," Cooter said. "You sit in the back of a meeting room with Peyton Manning and you start talking about protections and you start talking about routes, you start talking about progressions and defensive coverages — you better learn a lot. And I think I did. I got good notes out of those situations that I think, long term, made me a better coach."
Cooter, over his decade and a half as an NFL coach, has made it a point to go through those old notes on an annual basis. And the notes he took during his first stint in Indianapolis will certainly be relevant during his second stint on 56th Street, this time as the Colts' offensive coordinator.
"Let's not forget what Howard Mudd taught me in protection, let's not forget what Jim Caldwell might've said to the team, or what Clyde Christiansen might've really liked about a certain wide receiver drill," Cooter said. "Because sometimes in this business, as you get down your path as a coach, you get so many years stacked up, you start to lose track of your origin, of your foundation. And that's something that I'm careful not to do."
In addition to working with the likes of Caldwell, Mudd, Christiansen, Frank Reich and Tom Moore in Indianapolis, Cooter has spent time on coaching staffs with Brian Daboll (now the New York Giants' head coach), John Fox (longtime NFL head coach), Doug Pederson (now the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coach) and Shane Steichen – who was the offensive coordinator in 2021 when Cooter was a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles.
And after working with Manning with both the Colts and Denver Broncos (Cooter was a quality control coach for Denver in 2013), Cooter worked with Matthew Stafford with the Detroit Lions as quarterbacks coach (2014-2015) and offensive coordinator (2016-2018) and Trevor Lawrence with the Jaguars (2022). All the ups and downs of those experiences brought Cooter back to Indianapolis, where he and Steichen will work closely to scheme the Colts' offense.
"It's an evolving profession," Cooter said. "It's a profession where innovation and creativity are at a premium. You have to do the little things well, you have to do what you're doing at a really high level. But as soon as you have success, you can't stay right there. You gotta push forward the next week or the next year, or the next into the playoffs, you have to push forward, improve, find new areas to attack the defense and vice versa, they're doing that to us.
"But that's one thing I've learned over the past couple of years, just because you're having some success doesn't mean — you do have to push forward, you do have to be creative, you do have to look for different ways to do things."