The Indianapolis Colts Add Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky

Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano added another key component to his coaching staff that will help guide Indianapolis into the future. While attempts to attract Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler were unsuccessful, and that move would have been highly popular, the team has hired former Chargers and 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

At first glance, this hiring will not be as popular and will receive criticism due to Manusky’s resume as a defensive coordinator. His time in San Francisco and San Diego was not marked with widespread improvement in defensive performance.

The following chart illustrates the performance of Manusky led defenses from 2007-2011.

D Ranks Total D Pass D Rush D Total DVOA Pass DVOA Rush DVOA
2007 25th 22nd 22nd 25th 26th 18th
2008 13th 20th 13th 26th 20th 17th
2009 15th 21st 6th 4th 7th 4th
2010 13th 24th 6th 12th 24th 6th
2011 16th 13th 20th 29th 31st 22nd

Generally speaking, Manusky’s defenses were not horrible and rarely were anything special. He excelled in developing and coordinating successful run defenses during his tenure as defensive coordinator in San Francisco.

Frankly, the numbers in San Diego are hard to quantify. When he took over in San Francisco he improved the defense from a bottom dwelling unit into a middle of the road unit. One season, with a shortened off-season and taking over for a coach that was well liked and as successful as Ron Rivera is a pretty small sample to evaluate Manusky for what he would have been able to do with more time.

In any case, there is no way to understate the fact that Manusky is not nearly as appealing of a defensive coordinator candidate as Keith Butler would have been. Interestingly enough though, there is a similarity between the two men that ought to be recognized when this move is considered.

Both men were linebacker specialists.

Manusky was a linebacker in the NFL for twelve years. He spent his first six years in the NFL as a linebackers coach for the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers. From his former staff bio in San Francisco:

A well-regarded teacher and communicator, Manusky developed the Chargers linebacking corps into one of the NFL’s stingiest units. They were part of a defense that finished the 2006 season ranked seventh against the rush and third in turnover margin with a plus-13 balance. The unit alone accounted for 43.5 of the defense’s 61 total regular season sacks. In six years as a pro coach, Manusky has sent four players to the Pro Bowl, including San Diego’s Shawne Merriman in 2006, Donnie Edwards and Junior Seau with San Diego in 2002 and LaVar Arrington with Washington in 2001. Merriman, Arrington and Edwards all went to their first career Pro Bowls under Manusky’s tutelage.

Clearly, this is a coach who knows how to get the most out of his linebackers. Not unlike former interim defensive coordinator Mike Murphy, who oversaw a pretty drastic defensive improvement in the final games of the 2011 season. Generating sacks and stopping the run is what linebackers do in a 3-4 defensive scheme, and this move suggests further that Pagano plans to take the Colts defense in that direction.

Another interesting facet in an Indianapolis hiring decision would be ties to the organization. In this case, Manusky used to play under former Colts head coach Tony Dungy. Apparently, Dungy influenced Manusky’s decision to start coaching.

Manusky said the encouragement he received from his coaches during his playing days instilled in him the confidence to enter the coaching profession. “During my sixth year in the league, I played under Tony Dungy and Monty Kiffin in Minnesota. They were the first ones to say, ‘Hey, you’d be a pretty good coach.’” Manusky recalled.

So, you have a coach who excels coaching linebackers — not unlike the marquee candidate before him. During his time coaching linebackers in the NFL he has created pressure on opposing quarterbacks, generated turnovers, and stopped the run. You have a defensive minded head coach whose primary area of experience is overseeing the secondary — including a former colleague in Roy Anderson who will be coaching the safeties — and who has a reputation for putting some of the stingiest pass defenses in the NFL onto the field.

There is little doubt that Pagano plans to have a lot of input into what happens on the defensive side of the football. Think of what head coach Sean Payton does in New Orleans for the offense. It seems like a good combination of experience in two key defensive areas are coming together.

What else could be a factor in deciding who Pagano wants to add to his coaching staff? One thing that would come to mind for a coach who already plans to have a large impact in game day defensive decision making is a guy who can take care of his own staff and run an efficient defensive office.

Former 49ers Head Coach Mike Nolan discussed Manusky’s talents in this area as he was stepping into a defensive coordinator role for the first time.

His organizational skills were very impressive to me. I was very impressed with his ability to organize a staff and delegate the responsibilities, especially since he’s not yet been a coordinator. Although it’s all on paper and just in discussion, he has a very good plan and a very good thought process in putting those things together.

When it comes down to it, that’s just the kind of guy a head coach like Pagano would probably want. An organized coordinator who can put together a detailed plan and a talented staff. Someone who can delegate and handle the administrative work of running the defense so he doesn’t have to worry about every little detail when he has a bigger picture to worry about.

At the end of the day, when everything is considered. Frankly, Manusky seems like a pretty solid hire. In a couple of years, fans in Indianapolis will fans be able to gauge his impact — and much of it will probably be from the performance of Colts linebackers.