According to NFL.com’s Nick Shook, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank ‘Riverboat’ Reich has cracked the Top 10 of the league’s most aggressive head coaches:
10. Frank Reich
Average Aggressiveness Score: 17.5
Reich put his team’s fortunes in the hands of his veteran signal-caller in 2020, trusting Philip Rivers to get the job done in a variety of aggressive categories. He turned to Rivers to convert on fourth down, going for it at the seventh-highest rate of the entire league and converting 17 of 26 attempts. He also put his faith in Rivers when going for two, tying for 11th in two-point conversion attempt rate at 10 percent, and landed 14th and 15th, respectively, in downfield pass percentage (32.2) and total downfield passes (178). This created an interesting balance between aggressive passing and taking the open man, as Indy finished with an air yards to sticks of +0.5, which ranked 27th in the NFL. When Reich could add in rookie Jonathan Taylor’s second-half breakout, it made for a well-rounded offense that could afford to take risks. Defensively, it was more bend but don’t break, with the Colts blitzing at a rate of just 19.1 percent (31st). The offensive-minded Reich put his daring ambitions on the shoulders of the group possessing the ball, and it got Indianapolis back to the playoffs.
Honestly, if it were me, Reich would be ranked even higher, who’s never been shy about trusting the analytics and going for it on 4th down—remaining one of the best in the business at it:
My attempt at holistically evaluating coaches 2020 4th down decisions using @benbbaldwin 's recommendations. McDermott's playoff blunders see him fall down the ranks... but mostly #OurBrowns pic.twitter.com/Le3P5yBIlx— Jack Lichtenstein (@jacklich10) January 29, 2021
(Now, we can all argue until we’re blue in the face whether the Colts should’ve kicked the field goal and taken the points with 1:53 left in the first half and up 10-7 against the Buffalo Bills in the wild card round of the playoffs on 4th and goal from the Bills’ 4-yard line.
However, going up against the league’s 2nd best offense—averaging 31.3 ppg., the Colts needed touchdowns, not field goals to ultimately win. Indianapolis was the heavy underdog on the road against the AFC’s #2 seed playing with the house’s money and nothing to lose.
The bigger issue was the 3rd and goal left outside toss to running back Jonathan Taylor from the 1-yard line—although Indianapolis had the right idea but just didn’t execute well enough. The 4th and goal throw was open to wideout Michael Pittman Jr. for the touchdown, but Rivers just slightly underthrew him—resulting in an incompletion and a turnover on downs. If the Colts execute better on 3rd and goal or Rivers makes a better throw on the ensuing play, we’re not even having this conversation right now.)
After all, as former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards once infamously said, “You play to win the game!”
Reich probably would’ve had the Colts throw more deep balls too in 2020, had retired veteran starter Philip Rivers not had diminished arm strength downfield—which may have limited the offense’s options collectively to take more calculated ‘home run’ shots.
The Colts defense is also run by defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, not Reich, so it’s unfair to hold Indianapolis’ league-low blitzing rates on the team’s head coach.
Reich is a ‘riverboat gambler’, and his aggressiveness and confidence trickles down to his players—as he’s going for the ‘TKO’ to win games, not to simply hang around or tie.
Some Colts fans may not like it at times—insisting on archaic ‘football rules’, but Reich coaches with refreshing conviction, and frank-ly (pun intended), he’s quite good at it.