The Indianapolis Colts fired head coach Frank Reich to start a shocking Monday, following another disastrous offensive showing—this time against the rival New England Patriots.
The move was surprising, not in the sense that Reich was ultimately fired, but because it was the first head coach that Colts team owner Jim Irsay has terminated in-season during his 25 years of overseeing the franchise.
Reich joins a running list of recent Colts scapegoats, including former starting quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan, as well as just fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady.
That’s not to say that Reich’s firing wasn’t arguably and eventually deserved, as the Colts have simply been brutal offensively this season—and he’s an offensive minded head coach (and one that just took over the offensive coordinator duties from Brady with another dud):
Things I didn't expect to see: The Colts as the worst offense in football during 2022. https://t.co/CNzTLNqLtK— Luke Schultheis (@LuckAtLuke) November 7, 2022
And yesterday, during the Colts’ blowout 26-3 blowout loss in Foxboro, ‘thunk!’ That was the sign of the Colts finally hitting rock bottom offensively—for an all-time new modern franchise low:
The Colts averaged 2.02 yards per offensive play yesterday.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) November 7, 2022
The worst in a NFL game this season.
Their fewest in a game since 1977 (2nd worst in franchise history) https://t.co/97FyWqbLHj
A gifted offensive play caller at times and a genuinely good leader of men for Indianapolis, Reich’s once elite opening game scripts had gotten stale, and the Colts not only couldn’t score points but were consistently falling behind early—indicating a lack of preparation and initial energy/sense of urgency from his teams.
His re-commitment to Carson Wentz in 2021 may have also ultimately done him in, as that now failed trade that saw Indianapolis surrender a 2022 first round pick, only looks worse with Chicago Bears starting quarterback Justin Fields currently surging, who was otherwise realistically available for trade—having fallen to the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and instead landed in the ‘Windy City’ via trade (despite the Colts having initial pre-draft interest).
The Colts needed a new voice and perspective (and now turn to newly named interim head coach Jeff Saturday for a fresh set of outsiders’ eyes and further evaluation).
It appears that Reich had lost the locker room a bit, as players had not been really held accountable for underperforming and making critical mistakes in games. Instead, it was, “We’ll be better next time out,” but the Colts never actually improved, as the losses kept piling up, while Indianapolis is running out of regular season games to turn it around (and at this time, all signs point towards ‘tanking’ the rest of the 2022 season. A far cry from what Colts fans had hoped for to begin this year).
That’s not to say that Reich is solely to blame. There’s some major personnel concerns and underperformance along the team’s starting offensive line. The team has failed to find a suitable long-term replacement at left tackle since Anthony Castonzo’s retirement after the 2020 season, while the team let a pair of impact starting caliber right guards go, Mark Glowinski and Chris Reed, in the hopes that backup center Danny Pinter could be the guy there—and he simply lacks the play strength to effectively block at that starting interior spot.
The underperformance though, and how a unit with two former NFL All-Pros and a Pro Bowl caliber right tackle have inexplicably been so bad and blocked so poorly is hard to fathom though—even with the weak links at starting left tackle and right guard. Each starting offensive lineman on the Colts has gotten worse this season—yes, even Quenton Nelson.
Since Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement just ahead of the 2019 campaign, Reich did his best despite being dealt a limited hand, having a new starting quarterback in each ensuing season since—which no doubt hurt the continuity of his offense and its passing game.
The offensive line’s shockingly poor play really undermined the Colts offense’s ability to do much of anything productive this season, which is just as much on Ballard’s personnel decisions, as it is on Reich and his coaching staff.
We’ll always have Reich bringing out some of Luck’s best in 2018 though:
Frank Reich helped bring out Peak Andrew Luck and for that I'm forever thankful to him— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) November 7, 2022
And it appears that his tenure in Indianapolis could’ve been a whole lot different and worked out much longer—had a few things shaken out differently than what actually transpired.
Instead, Reich has become the latest fall guy for a Colts franchise that is starting to run out of them. Maybe Jeff Saturday’s shocking interim hiring can be a surprising silver lining, otherwise the franchise’s finger pointing may only continue, further atop (we’re looking at you, Chris Ballard).