11. Frank Reich, Colts
Career Record: 28-20 (.583)
With The Colts Since: 2018
Last Year’s Ranking: 13
The back-up plan is always operating off his back foot. In the three years since Frank Reich was helicoptered in to clean up Josh McDaniels’ mess, he’s had three different quarterbacks, none of whom were stylistically similar. 2021 will make it 4-for-4, though Reich won’t be starting from scratch with Carson Wentz after ushering him into the league in Philadelphia. It will still be the adaptable coach’s biggest challenge yet. Wentz was one of the worst players in all of football last season, addicted to freelancing while nevertheless failing to hit big plays. Top 10 in rushing attempts under both Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers, Reich will have to maintain balance while rediscovering Wentz’s sweet spot as a passer. With Andrew Luck, it was prace. Jacoby Brissett, deliberation. Philip Rivers, quick passing. Wentz lacks Brissett’s dual-threat and Rivers’ accuracy, so there will be no copy and pasting of blueprints. That would be daunting for any head coach, but Reich has proven quite literally every season he’s up to the challenge. If Reich ever gets a constant beyond “change,” a deeper playoff run could await.
As a disclaimer, I do not agree with Daugherty’s assessment that Brissett was a ‘dual-threat’ option at quarterback for the Colts—by any means.
Deceptively quick (despite fairly average foot speed) on certain play designs?
Good for the ‘once in a blue moon’ RPO, play-action roll out, or bootleg play call?
Surprisingly adept at QB sneaking for the first down in short yardage situations?
However, new Colts quarterback Carson Wentz should give the Colts much greater mobility/offensive versatility behind center than Brissett ever did within Reich’s quarterback-friendly offensive system.
That being said, Daugherty at least fairly points out that Reich has been dealt a fairly tough hand as an offensive minded NFL head coach—having had four new starting quarterbacks each season he’s so far been in Indianapolis.
For what it’s worth, under Reich, the Colts have ranked 9th (2020), 16th (2019), and 5th (2018) in total points per game—with 2021 still yet to be determined, now featuring Wentz at starting quarterback.
In total offensive yards, the Colts also ranked 10th (2020), 25th (2019), and 7th (2018) respectively.
Reich seems to do an exceptional job of tailoring his offense to his quarterback’s strengths and skill-set. While Reich has been blessed with a strong offensive line, he’s also largely lacked elite playmakers collectively beyond Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton—both when healthy and most recently, running back Jonathan Taylor down the stretch during his rookie season this past year.
It’s already been documented this offseason that Reich is one of the NFL’s ‘most aggressive head coaches’ and has generally excelled when going for it on 4th down:
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
While Reich has just a 1-2 playoff record (.333), it can be argued that in both of those losses: at Kansas City in 2018 and at Buffalo this past season, that the Colts lost to better teams in very difficult road environments. He’s made the playoffs in both seasons that the Colts had a proven starter behind center: Luck in 2018 and Rivers in 2020 respectively.
If Reich can help Wentz regain his prior 2017 NFL All-Pro and MVP caliber form, he should make the playoffs again in 2021—with the chance for the Colts to do much more.
As such, it’s fair to say he’s one of the league’s better head coaches and definitely has a chance to ascend up these rankings based on the Colts’ eventual 2021 results.