After writing about Colts’ head coach Frank Reich's best and worst decisions weekly throughout the season, I was able to get a better picture of who he truly is as a coach, and I was not that satisfied with what I saw from him this year. Once I started noticing some tendencies, it was just so frustrating to watch him repeat certain mistakes over and over again, and watching how the Colts’ were such an inconsistent team this year, even quarter-to-quarter was not a sign of proper coaching. In order to try and answer the question posed in the article, I will look over what aspects make a good head coach in today’s NFL and open the debate as to whether Frank Reich should be the guy to lead this promising young team to the Super Bowl.
Disclaimer: I will only judge Reich based on the offense, as defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus handles the defense.
1 - Getting the most out of his players.
To me, this is the most important part of being a head coach in the NFL. This is exactly what made Bill Belichick the greatest coach in NFL history; making bad players look decent, decent players look good, and good players look like stars. Putting players in the best position to succeed consistently is the first thing a good head coach should be able to do.
We might be entering into the subjective realm here, as there is no true number or stat that can quantify putting players in the best position to succeed, but what we can do is look over some personnel decisions that Reich made during the course of the season, and a fair argument can be made that he failed at some crucial times in this aspect.
As for the quarterback position, Reich handled the Rivers’ transition wonderfully. Of course, the start of the season was going to be rocky, as Indy was running out a new quarterback without any sort of preseason preparation because of the worldwide pandemic. What I truly do not understand is the insistence with the Jacoby Brissett package. Sure, the quarterback sneaks were successful, as not only is Brissett a more than capable sneaker but the Colts have perhaps the best interior offensive line in the entire NFL, but Reich using Brissett as a mobile quarterback, when he is one of the slowest quarterbacks in the NFL was baffling. JB is a really great guy and an excellent locker room presence, but that does not mean he should be entitled to meaningful snaps. Reich, however, kept insisting on the JB package even though it was clearly not working.
As for the running back group, Reich’s handling of this position was really inconsistent throughout the season. The fact that the Colts had at several points in the season the worst running attack in the league in terms of YPC speaks volumes as to how FR handled this group. After starter Marlon Mack went down with an Achilles injury in the first game of the year, Reich was left scrambling for answers as to how to handle the snap distribution, which might have been the cause of the early season struggles. Credit to Reich though, after he figured it out and started using JT as the lead back and Hines as the change of pace back, the Colts running game flourished.
The receiver group is where Reich finally started showing why he is considered a good head coach. He stuck with Doyle even when MAC was outperforming him consistently, he stuck with Hilton even when he was going through the toughest stretch of his career, and he gave Pittman plenty of touches in the latter part of the season when he was excelling.
2 - Play-calling
Reich’s play calls were just so damn inconsistent this year. He would go out and start a game dialing up the most beautiful pass concepts, running some outside runs while pulling Quenton Nelson, and utilizing play-action to perfection, and then he would just run a draw out of the shotgun on 2nd and long that would only be good for 1-3 yards.
When at his best, Reich is perhaps one of the best play-callers in the League, but his inconsistencies in this key aspect of coaching keep him from reaching the upper-echelon of elite NFL head coaches. He does deserve some slack though, as he had to deal with an absurd amount of injuries, as Mack, Hilton, Pittman, Campbell, and Castonzo all missed games because of different injuries.
3- Keeping a good locker room energy
This is perhaps the best aspect of Reich’s tenure as the Colts’ head coach. Reich took the job in perhaps the worst possible situation, as Indy’s locker room was a mess under the Grigson/Pagano era. Now, not only do the Colts have a clear winner mentality and seem to have each other’s backs, but they are staying away from players with character concerns in order to avoid future scandals, and even when some players with questionable characters arrive, they seem to buy into the Colts’ blue-collar culture.
In conclusion, Reich is certainly a good head coach and the Colts have plenty of reasons to be happy with him. He is an excellent play-caller even though he has his blunders, he knows how to handle the locker room, and he understands how to help his players succeed. His evident flaws keep him from being in the upper echelon of NFL head-coaches, but right now there are no better options on the market for the Colts to explore. Next season will give us a much better picture of Reich’s ceiling.