INDIANAPOLIS – Mike Murphy never has met a job or challenge he did not embrace.
Murphy has served as the team's linebackers coach since 1998, toiling under three head coaches – Jim Mora, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell.
On Tuesday of this week, Murphy was elevated to defensive coordinator, a post he will serve for the next five games. Along with his immense knowledge, Murphy will bring passion and a record of performance to the new role.
Murphy has directed a linebacking corps during his time with the Colts that included team captain Gary Brackett, Pat Angerer, Kavell Conner, Tyjuan Hagler, Clint Session, Freddy Keiaho, Rocky Boiman, Cato June, David Thornton, Rob Morris and Marcus Washington, among many others.
When the club rolled in players, Murphy coached them up and watched them excel. His troops enjoyed his style of teaching and how he developed them as players and people.
Brackett is the longest-tenured linebacker under the direction of Murphy. He has nothing but the utmost respect for his position coach.
"I think he is a teacher," said Brackett. "I think he actually has a certification in teaching, so that's how he started out. He was a teacher and coached in high school and then he just continued in the game and his career. As far as teaching the position of linebacker, I don't think there's anyone better. The attention to detail that he puts in, the calmness – that's one thing you get from him. His mentality is even-keeled. With all the ups and downs of the NFL to have a coach who is so consistently even-keeled, that's very good. … He has some of the best one-liners, 'You're an ankle sprain away from playing,' telling guys to have the mentality to prepare as a starter because you never know when you will have that chance."
Part of the job of a coach is to instruct the finer points of the game. Another role could be keeping a communication flow that benefits players and utilizes their skills. Brackett believes Murphy's nature is to approach the game that way, and it helps players respond.
"I think so just because he is so knowledgeable about the game of football," said Brackett. "He simplifies things about the game, and that comes from his experience in the game and for doing it for so long and doing it well. He contributed to a lot of the victories we had over the span he has been here. He knows the game of football and understands what it takes to win.
"In my opinion, he's a player's coach. Over the years we helped each other, in the sense that I was playing and he was coaching. Some things that sound good and look good on the blackboard aren't practical when you go on the field. A lot of things are tougher to get done than when you're coaching. He respects that, and he respects your input. He wants to hear what is difficult in your job, because he's willing to change that if it makes sense. In my nine years playing for him, that's my biggest compliment. If I'm struggling with alignment or assignment and I can articulate what's going on, he will take a realistic look at it and change it to benefit me because it will make me a better football player."
Caldwell has served with Murphy for 10 seasons in Indianapolis. A first impression observers could have is there will be dramatic visual changes to the unit. Caldwell cautions against that thought.
"Let's be honest here," said Caldwell. "No one anticipates a complete and absolute turnaround in three days. Obviously, we're looking for incremental improvement, but in saying that, too, we have to be more consistent in more areas than just defense in order to get it done. We're looking for incremental improvement in that regard, so you're not going to see any wholesale changes, to be honest with you."
Caldwell joins Brackett in agreeing that Murphy's style, knowledge and approach can benefit the players.
"Murphy is good, he's enthusiastic," said Caldwell. "He enjoys coaching. He has as great time doing it. Things have gone well at this point. … I think he's done well for his first couple of days. It's not easy. It's difficult, but Murph's hung in there. All the guys are familiar with him, so there's no new terrain they (players) have to cover in that regard. He's done a good job thus far.
"He's a very, very good teacher. He has an unusual style, I think, because he can add humor to almost anything which he is teaching. He gets their (players) attention quickly. It's one of those things where he believes in telling players the same thing but (he) says it 1,000 different ways. Murphy has a lot of anecdotes and a lot of examples through his experience. He has a lot of examples out on the playing field to get his point across. He's got a dogged determination. All those things are a plus in terms of getting him in position to do the things he has to do to run our defense."
Murphy is point-blank on if there will be visible differences on Sunday, and he knows Indianapolis will be facing a Patriots attack that is very accomplished.
"I don't think (that) in four days you can see (a difference). That's almost impossible," said Murphy. "Hopefully as time goes on in the next couple of weeks you might see a few different things, but not much. I guess what you'll see is what I think we'd like to try to do, (which) is to regain our identity. In the past, our identity was when you (the opponent) line up, they're coming, the front four are coming. We'd like to try to regain that. There are sometimes when the offense doesn't let you do that, and then sometimes when they do. So, we'd like to try to regain that identity.
"I think anybody that thinks they (the Patriots) are not going to make plays is crazy. He (Tom Brady) is too good of a quarterback, they've got too much talent, the coaches are smart and they know exactly what they're doing. They're going to make plays. You've got to limit the big plays. You've got to try, if you can, to knock them around a little bit, the guys catching the ball as well as the quarterback. (Our defense needs to) make them have to go the long haul, hopefully, and every now and then try to surprise them with something they're not expecting. It's hard to surprise Bill Belichick, he's one of the best in the business. … My expectations are to go there, play a good football game and to have them worry about us while we worry about them."
Defensive end Dwight Freeney pointed out as well that changes at this point of the season likely will not be major ones.
"It's hard to change a whole, entire defense," said Freeney. "Now if it was the off-season, we'd have three or four months to put it in, install it, kind of get whatever terminology (is needed to communicate). It's kind of hard to do that in the middle of the season. I think there's going to be a little bit of the old stuff, maybe – maybe alignment, maybe a blitz. It (the change) just happened a couple of days ago. Maybe this week we don't change as much as he (Murphy) may want to change. We're taking it one day at a time right now."
Murphy started his coaching career at Woonsocket (South Dakota) High School in 1966. He also coached at Mapleton High School in Denver, Colo., and at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colo. Murphy entered the collegiate coaching ranks as defensive line coach at Vermont (1970-73) before moving to Idaho State (1974-76), where he coached the defensive line in 1974-75 and was defensive coordinator in 1976. He coached linebackers at Western Illinois from 1977-78. Murphy was defensive coordinator with Saskatchewan of the CFL from 1979-83, and he was defensive line coach of the Chicago Blitz of the USFL in 1984. He entered the NFL with Detroit, where he coached linebackers from 1985-89 before coaching inside linebackers with Arizona from 1990-93. He worked in the Pro Personnel Department with Carolina in 1994 before joining Seattle. Murphy played guard and linebacker at Huron (S.D.) University.