The long wait for a few words from the new Colts head coach is finally over. Today, Frank Reich spoke with the media at Lucas Oil Stadium for his introductory press conference. He laid out his vision for the team and answered some important questions. We will present some of the highlights from the press conference here as we believe that these comments and answers will be of particular interest to Colts fans.
While a lot of fans in this Stampede Blue community may already know, some fans may not remember that Frank Reich was a part of the Colts coaching staff under Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell. He commented on his history in Indianapolis and how his path has led him back to where it all started.
This is a great football city and I’m happy to be home to my coaching roots. This is where I got my start, my first coaching job. Here with Tony Dungy as an intern and then eventually as a quality control coach and then as the quarterbacks coach. What a better way to get started and there could not be a better way to finish it than right here in this city.
It is easy to get a sense of destiny given Reich’s relationship with key members in Colts history. He started his NFL career playing for then Buffalo Bill GM Bill Polian. He got his first coaching opportunity under Polian in Indianapolis and with coach Tony Dungy who led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory. He even coached under Doug Pederson who was with the Kansas City Chiefs at the same time as Chris Ballard.
As for his approach to coaching the Colts, he broke down his vision and philosophy into four parts.
The first one is that we will be the toughest. We will be the toughest both mentally and physically. What I mean by that is there will be a relentless pursuit to get better every day. A relentless pursuit, relentless every day, to get better and an obsession with finishing strong.
Toughness was long an Achilles heel for the Colts. For years the team was known as a finesse team who was not tough in the trenches. If Reich succeeds on step one it will go a long way in winning over Colts fans.
Secondly, we will be the most disciplined team... discipline is going to be the foundation that’s going to create a lot of joy out on that field and in this city, and when we wear the horseshoe we will be wearing it with a lot of joy and a lot of pride in our hearts. It is going to be fun to be a part of that.
Penalties were very costly for the Colts over the last couple of seasons. It is one thing to get beat on the field by superior players or coaches, to get beaten tactically. It is another to give games away by unforced errors. Disciplined team win games in the playoffs. This needs to be a win.
Thirdly, we are going to be the most prepared team... What we are going to be about as an organization and as a football team is creating and cultivating habits, championship habits and championship thoughts, that’s the vision.
There may not have been a great criticism for the Colts during Chuck Pagano’s tenure than that the team seemed to come into games entirely unprepared. For years Indianapolis would come out very slow and require major second half comebacks and turnaround to get anything done. It was clear that something was messed up in preparation and so this will have to get fixed if Reich plans to win.
Fourth, we are going to be the most united team. We are going to be a close team. It is going to be built around trust, respect, and love. A love of the game... What we know is this, when you have championship culture, it’s going to result in many victories. That’s the vision.
This is what all teams are looking for with their players and coaches. If players or coaches don’t want to be where they are or don’t want to put in the work, the rest of the plan doesn’t matter.
One of the first questions asked may be a partial explanation for why Reich did not interview in the Colts initial round of interviews.
Stephen Holder: I think it was said at some point that you told your agent perhaps that you did not want any possible talks about another job until after the playoffs were over and if that’s true, that may have almost cost you an opportunity. Can you confirm that and if so, why did you take that principle and that stance? Why was that important to you?
Reich: Well, the stance that I took with my agent was, basically, the words were this, “I’m going dark. I’m focused on the task at hand and that is to help our team win playoff games and win the Super Bowl.” ... I was focused on one thing and after experiencing that and the importance of every detail in the preparation for those games, I wouldn’t change a thing.
While the team has since admitted that he was not among their top initial choices and has not pretended that he was always one of the front runners, they may have made an attempt to bring him in earlier in the process without success given his approach to the playoffs. I think, if true, this is a great decision by Reich and should inspire confidence in his work ethic and focus for the Colts in the future.
As for Reich’s relationship with Andrew Luck, there is very little. Reich did confirm that there has been no additional update on his progress throwing a football though.
Chris gave the update last week, that’s the update that I got and that’s all I needed.
In case you missed that update, Luck is currently working on arm speed but is not yet throwing a football. He is carefully going through the process to get to that point but has not thrown a football yet.
In response to a question about his time away from football, Reich gave a bit of a glimpse into his background and what led him to coaching.
I always believed and wanted to be an NFL head coach. In fact, in 1985 after my rookie season in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, I will never forget this, Bill Polian calls me into his office and says, “Frank, this is going to sound a little strange but I want you to play as many years as you can and then when you’re finished playing I want you to come coach with me because you are going to be a head coach in the NFL one day.” That was in 1985. I grew up in a family of coaches. My dad was a football coach my mom was a coach, my brother is a head coach of a Division II school, coach of the year. I mean, I have always envisioned myself [as a coach].
Reich gave a nod to his history with Bill Polian, which helps tell the story about how he ended up in Indianapolis for the start of his coaching career. He also comes from a coaching family where his father was a football coach and brother is a football coach at the Division II level.
Reich also dove into a bit of his coaching philosophy as it relates to his staff and how they will work together to pursue his vision. One of the common themes he espoused discussed the importance of collaboration.
Collaboration means that there is respect in the room, that there is talent in the room, and our job as leaders is to get the best talent and the most talented staff and to draw all of that out of them. To draw the best ideas. That’s what I’ve always believed, that’s what we did in Philadelphia, and that’s what we will do here.
This is an important message for a first time head coach. Other candidates or first time head coaches haven’t followed this practice and didn’t get the kind of results they would have liked. If Reich does this the right way, he will be a step ahead in building the championship culture he mentioned throughout his comments.
When questioned about his role in the offense as play-caller, Reich went into more detail about the role of the coaching staff in preparing for game day.
I will call the plays but you can’t even imagine the collaboration that goes into preparing the call sheet, preparing the first 15, how we are prioritizing our third down calls, how we are prioritizing our red zone calls, all of the situational football during the course of the game... there has got to be one voice and I will be that voice calling it on game day but it will be a collaborative effort.
There have been mixed feelings about Reich’s experience as a play-caller. The results in San Diego were mixed and he didn’t call the plays for the Eagles on their Super Bowl run. It might be of some relief to those who are concerned that he is open to working closely with his offensive training staff to build the plan for game day and not keep that responsibility for himself.
With respect to getting up to speed with the roster and expectations for how long it will take to develop the team who fits the vision he laid out and who can do the kinds of things he wants to do, Reich said, “What I have learned and experienced is that it’s an incredible difference what one or two players can make and the right culture.” While he could have very easily fallen back on rebuild language, he made it clear that he believe that a lot can be accomplished in a short period of time and that it is his expectations and they make meaningful progress rather quickly.
The next question addressed the odd situation where there are already three new coaches on staff who came to Indianapolis under the expectation that they would be joining a different head coach. Reich addressed the uniqueness of the situation and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus specifically.
The good news was that before I came in for the interview, knowing that was the situation, knowing what had been said, knowing that those contracts were going to be honored, that’s part of the reason I love this organization, that there is that kind of integrity... Now, since I have taken the job, I have had a chance to talk with Matt at some length, this is like a home run... I could not be more excited than to have those three coaches and I look forward to the other coaches who will be on our staff.
While it is certainly difficult to know if the strangeness of the situation gave him pause at any point throughout the process, Reich said all the right things and was very believable. It sounds like he had a good conversation with Eberflus and intends to move on with him as his defensive coordinator.
Reich was asked about getting a late start due to the fact that the Colts are weeks removed from the end of their season while he just finished his season with the Eagles. It is safe to safe the he feels comfortable with the idea of getting started at this point in the year on a regular basis.
Well actually I was kind of hoping we would get used to the timing of this, just coming off of the Super Bowl, you know? Playing quote-unquote catch-up with the rest of the league. I mean, I like this, we want to indoctrinate this timing all of the time... it just so happens because I was here before that I know most of the scouts. I know their work. I have read their evaluations... I have an immense amount of respect for the process.
Reich’s familiarity and trust with scouts who are still in Indianapolis could be very valuable as they go through an abbreviated pre-Combine, pre-Draft, and pre-Free Agency process. He has to get up to speed in a hurry but as he acknowledged, winning team have to deal with this time-frame regularly.
In what was easily the most enjoyable portion of the press conference, Reich fielded a couple of questions from Pat McAfee. They certainly had fun with each other in the exchange.
McAfee: Frank Reich is the only quarterbacks coach in the history of the NFL to coach a player to a perfect passer rating on Thanksgiving. People forget that. So from coaching Peyton, last year you had Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, now you have Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett an abundance of talent surrounds you at all times, what will you do with Andrew Luck to make him magical? And also a follow-up to that, do you hate or love Josh McDaniels for what happened? I’ll hang-up and listen to your answer, congratulations.
Reich: Love that. Man, I miss that right there. I miss that kind of humor. Umm, what was the question... no I’m just kidding. You got me. Yeah, the key to make Andrew Luck magical is this is a team game, as great as he is and I believe he is the best, I believe he is the best, but the reason we all love this game, I just came off of a team that we lost our franchise quarterback and still won a Super Bowl. So, I know Andrew embraces it. This game is not built on any one player. He is magical, he has special, unique traits and abilities that I respect as much as anybody. I can’t wait to work with him but if we are going to win championships, and that’s the plan, it’s going to be about surrounding our whole team and the way we are going to bring out the best in each other.
And as far as the second question, I am going to answer that one just for you Pat. The backup role as suited me well in my career.
Frank Reich’s answer to the Josh McDaniels question is the second time in two consecutive Colts press conferences that a member of Colts leadership has hit it out of the park addressing what happened a week ago. While Chris Ballard showed integrity and took the high road throughout his press conference, passing on opportunities to unload on McDaniels, and ended the press conference declaring that “the rivalry is back on,” Reich’s answer acknowledges the success he has had as a backup quarterback throughout his career and that he has done some pretty fantastic things from that position. It was a slam dunk answer to what could have otherwise been an awkward question.
In another nod to the process he went through to end up in Indianapolis, Reich addressed a question about how he and his agent reacted after new broke that McDaniels backed out on his agreement to join the team.
... my wife and I sat down before the start of the season anticipating good things would happen, knowing the path that we wanted to be on as a husband and wife and the journey that we are on in this career and we decided early on that we are not going to chase after anything. So, when the announcement came off that Josh stepped down, that Josh was not taking the job, I did not call my agent. I did not text my agent. I did not say “how are we going to get an interview?” Our work speaks for itself. I hope they call us. I really do, I really hope they call us but if not we are just going to get back to work.
The message here is that while Reich has dreamed of the chance to be an NFL head coach, he wanted his work and record to be what brought teams to the table. He did not want to reach out an ask for a chance to interview if the team did not see what he brings to the table on their own. This is a consistent position from the “are you in or are you out” thought process Chris Ballard brought up a week ago.
The last question that may have yielded some real answers for fans in terms of expectations for the team moving forward acknowledged that there will be changes for the Indianapolis Colts schematically on offense and defense. After a lot of talk about the run pass option game in the Eagles playoff run, what did Reich envision for the new offensive in Indianapolis?
We will be a multiple attack, up-tempo offense. We will be aggressive. What I mean by multiple is that we will use multiple personnel groups in multiple formations to be able to run the same plays over and over again, to disguise it so that team won’t know what we’re doing. We will keep them off-balance with run and pass. We will change up the tempo. There will be a strong element of no huddle offense to the Colts offense. The analogy that I like to use is the analogy of a boxer. When you step into a boxing ring you want to impose your will on your opponent and as an offensive team and as a team in general we want to impose our will on the opponent. So as an offense, to impose your will means you run it when you want to run it and when you have to run it and you throw it when you want to throw it. We speed it up when we feel we’ve got somebody on the ropes and we can put them down for the count and you slow it down sometimes when necessary. That’s the analogy, that’s what it will be, and we will build the players around that kind of scheme.
The description of the offense sounds a lot like the Erhardt-Perkins offense Josh McDaniels was likely to bring along with him from New England. It has to be music to the ears of fans to hear that a more up-tempo, no-huddle style is returning to Indianapolis. Someone with Andrew Luck’s intelligence should thrive in this system making pre-snap reads and keeping the defense off-balance. Even Jacoby Brissett has a lot of experience from college and his time in New England under the same system.
One thing is for sure, the team will look a lot different on both sides of the ball in 2018.