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Should Reich be on the Hot Seat?: Week 5 @Ravens

Indianapolis Colts v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

This is the article where I usually go over Reich’s best and worst decisions for each game, but after a heartbreaking loss like the one the Colts suffered yesterday, and such a poor start to the season, a deeper analysis is warranted and we have to start asking the question: Should Reich be on the hot seat?

Why he should NOT be on the hot seat

There are plenty of reasons to not place Reich on the hot seat just yet, the first one being that he just signed a massive extension this off-season and there is no way the franchise lets go of him so soon after signing an extension (even though that is not uncommon in Indiana...).

Reich deserved that extension to a degree, after leading the team to the playoffs every time he had at least an average quarterback, and managing to build a solid all-around roster despite the sudden retirement of an MVP-caliber starting quarterback one year, and the retirement of an elite left tackle the next one. Reich’s control of the locker room is admirable and it is worth noting how there have been no major off-the-field issues since he got here. Reich is clearly respected by both the players and his coaching staff, and his character has helped to shape this roster.

Past success is also a big reason why Reich should not be on the hot seat, as he lead the team to 10-6, 7-9, and 11-6 records in his past 3 seasons as the head coach of the Colts, and even has a playoff win under his belt. Reich has been able to put a winning team on the field before, and he definitely has the brains to do it once again. He chose a solid defensive coordinator in Matt Eberflus and he has shown he can build productive offenses.

Another point in his favor is that even though all NFL teams have to deal with injuries, the amount of starters the Colts have lost in these first few weeks is unbelievable. The starting quarterback missed all of training camp and the preseason and injured both ankles early on. The starting right tackle was injured in week 1, the starting All-Pro left guard got injured, the starting left tackle is still recovering from injury, the #1 receiver is injured, a starting edge rusher is injured, the starting linebacker and leader of the defense played most of the year banged up, the cornerbacks going down like flies, and now even your starting kicker injures himself in the most important game of the year so far. Injuries have been brutal to the Colts, and the blame for them having such a dramatic impact falls not on Reich, but on Ballard, for failing to address what were obvious thin positions in the offseason.

Why he SHOULD be on the hot seat

The main reason Reich deserves to be on the hot seat is the Colts’ record this season. 1-4, with the one win against a Dolphins team led by Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. This is inexcusable beyond any injuries for a team with such high expectations. The problem is that the Colts were outcoached in each of the 4 losses, as the coaching staff looked like they had no answer to what the opposing team was doing. While some games were close, this was not because of any merit by the Colts, but rather because of lucky blunders, like the Rams’ special teams fumble and the Chester Rogers dropped pass interception against the Titans giving life to the Colts in those games, and let’s not even get into the Ravens game, where Reich’s ultraconservative play-calling and Eberflus’ famous soft-zone defense allowed the Ravens to come back from what should have been an insurmountable deficit.

This team is simply too inconsistent to become a proper contender. Not only in this year, but also in previous seasons, there are halves where the Colts play like a Super Bowl contender, and halves where the team plays like they just don’t care, and that falls on the coaching staff. In the 2018 season the Colts started with a 1-5 record before righting the ship and getting into the playoffs, the year with Brissett the Colts started out scorching hot, even managing to beat the Chiefs, before collapsing in the second half of the season. With Rivers, the team found some weekly consistency, but it has lost it so far this year.

Reich’s play-calling should also be put under the microscope after such an awful start to the year. There have been at the very least 3 head-scratching calls each week, and some mistakes, (the redzone issues against the Rams, the offensive script against the Seahawks, getting too conservative against the Ravens, and abandoning the run game in the second half against the Titans) can be put solely on Reich’s shoulders.

The defense has been abysmal this season, as key players like Kenny Moore and Khari Willis have regressed and some others like Darius Leonard, Xavier Rhodes, and Rock Ya-Sin have been dealing with injuries, but that is no excuse for a defense that set such lofty expectations coming into the season to be so terrible. How can a defense be so dominant one half just to completely disappear the next one? Yes1, cornerback injuries played a big part in this, but I find it hard to believe that that was the only reason the defense collapsed.

A pattern is starting to show, where the Colts manage to beat mediocre teams, while always losing against the solid ones. Looking over the past 3 seasons, including this one, Reich is 29-24 as the Colts’ head coach, but taking a deeper look, Reich has a 9-15 record against winning teams (.375 winning percentage), and a 20-9 record against losing teams (.690 winning percentage). The Colts have not been able to beat good teams since Reich took over as head coach, and if you take away Luck’s final season those numbers look even worse, with a 5-12 record against winning teams.

In conclusion, while I never particularly liked Reich as the head coach of this team, I believe he should not be on the hot seat just yet. The Colts are losing to good teams while dealing with an absurd amount of injuries, but my patience is starting to wear really thin with the head coach. Also worth noting, we are not among the worst teams in the NFL now, nor will we be a dangerous contender when the easy part of the schedule rolls around and we begin beating the mediocre teams like the Jags and the Texans. This team is average at best and the head coach is right around there too.