NFL Nation: Ricky Thomas

Peyton Manning has spoken of all the people disappearing from the Indianapolis Colts' headquarters.

As Chuck Pagano puts his coaching staff together, six more Colts could soon be former Colts. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, assistant to the offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, tight ends coach Ricky Thomas, running backs coach David Walker, assistant offensive line coach Ron Prince and assistant strength and conditioning coach Richard Howell remain under contract, flapping in the breeze.

Most significant among them is Christensen, who really ranks as the one prominent remaining link to Manning.

Pagano is a defensive guy, and his decision on offensive coordinator will be gigantic considering that coach will be the central figure in the development of Andrew Luck, the quarterback the Colts will draft with the No. 1 overall pick barring some crazy development.

It’s hard to imagine Christensen would be that guy, and parting with the guy who’s been the Colts’ coordinator for the past two seasons would in many ways be the final piece of a transition. From 2002-07 Christensen was Indianapolis’ wide receivers coach and in 2008 he had an assistant head coach title added. Then he took over for Tom Moore in the sort of transition the Colts set up for with their older coaches under Tony Dungy and then Jim Caldwell.

Christensen is continuity for Manning, one last presence from the old guard, one remaining significant connection to the offense he’s been running his whole career.

Of the six remaining assistants, I suspect a few remain became of their contracts. Cooter was in his first year in his role in 2011, Walker was in his first year with the team and Prince was in his second.

With 10 seasons in Indianapolis, Christensen ranks second to only Howell among the remaining staff.

When Pagano makes a move at offensive coordinator, odds are he will cut the last significant tie to Manning’s offense.

Then the only move left to be made by the Colts pertaining to their new era will be with Manning himself.
NFL assistant coaches are some of the best people to know for those looking to learn more about the game.

That has been my experience in covering the NFL since 1998.

I've helped push for better media access to assistants through the Professional Football Writers of America. I've also learned more about some of the issues important to coaches, including some outlined in this recent story about the NFL Coaches Association.

The chart shows NFLCA team reps as the association talks about forming a union.

Kevin Spencer (Cardinals), Johnnie Lynn (49ers), Dan Quinn (Seahawks) and Andy Sugarman (Rams) are the reps for NFC West coaching staffs. The 49ers' Jimmy Raye is president of the NFLCA executive committee.

It's not clear yet whether the NFLCA will move to unionize and such an effort would face a challenge even if the association did decide to move in that direction. But as coaches consider their options, these assistants presumably will be active behind the scenes.