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NFL Combine Notebook: What Shane Steichen's Process Will Be To Develop A Rookie Quarterback, If The Colts Draft One

Shane Steichen has proven to be adept at developing young quarterbacks, from Justin Herbert with the Los Angeles Chargers to Jalen Hurts with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

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We've gone through what the Colts' evaluation process will be for this year's quarterback class, and how general manager Chris Ballard will decide whether he'll stay with the fourth overall pick or move up in the 2023 NFL Draft to get someone he and his staff believe is the guy.

But let's say the Colts do select a quarterback in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. How will head coach Shane Steichen work to put that quarterback in the best position to immediately succeed?

The Colts didn't hire Steichen solely because of his impressive work with young quarterbacks (he was Justin Herbert's rookie-year offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Chargers and Jalen Hurts' playcaller with the Philadelphia Eagles). He was hired because he was the right coach for the entire Colts team and organization.

But if the Colts do wind up with a highly-picked, first-year quarterback on their roster, Steichen will have a thorough plan for how to win with that player at every stage of his development. At the core of that plan will be scheming an offense that fits the talents and traits of the quarterback, and also of guys like Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Jelani Woods, among others.

"Whoever that guy is back there throwing it, you got to adjust to him," Steichen said. "You got to build the offense around the quarterback first and foremost. You can't be stuck in your ways of hey, this is the system we run or whatever it is — you got to be able to adapt to that guy. And not only that guy, it's all the players around him — the receivers, the tight ends, put those guys in position to make plays. What does this receiver run well, what does this tight end do well, what do these backs do well, the offensive line — and I think it's the same thing on defense.

"You got to put these guys into position to maximize their talents so they can shine on Sunday."

View photos from behind the scenes at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.

Steichen's philosophy is not to graft "his" offense on to whatever quarterback starts for the Colts in 2023 and beyond. The goal is to devise an offense that gives the quarterback the best chance to succeed, and one that can grow with whoever that quarterback is.

"You fit the offense to what the quarterback can do well," Ballard said. "I think that's what Shane and his staff will do.

"... You gotta be patient. You gotta have a plan for them for them to be successful. You have a plan to win with how they're going to play in the moment, and then as they evolve, then you put more on their plate. And I think each guy's different. Each guy is different in that way."

Steichen's ability to be flexible in his scheme extends beyond the core concepts that'll be installed during the offseason program and training camp. It can be flexible on a game-to-game basis to give his quarterback, and the entire team, the best chance to win. If that means planning to throw 45 times but actually running it 45 times, so be it.

"I've had visions of what I want it to look like," Steichen said, "and that could flip in a hurry by the flow of the game."

But there does need to be some natural ability, of course, possessed by Steichen's quarterback. That gets back to the evaluation process, and finding the quarterback – or quarterbacks – who have the traits Steichen, Ballard and the Colts value.

"You gotta do a really good job from their physical skillset whether they're bigger or taller — some of the six-foot guys, you might need to move the pocket a little more with those guys," Steichen said. "(Drew) Brees had an unbelievable knack of finding those little, subtle movements in the pocket and finding those windows. That was a part of his DNA, which made him a really good player. So as coaches you got to find out what those guys do really well and put them in position to make plays."

We're still eight weeks out from the start of the NFL Draft. It's far too early to find an answer for the question of what the Colts' plans are with the No. 4 overall pick. But on Wednesday at the NFL Combine, we heard plenty of important information on the team's process that will lead them to a decision in late April.

We may be able to look back on what was said on March 1 and say, yeah, this is what led the Colts to do that.

Whatever "that" is.

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