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INDIANAPOLIS – Before Frank Reich arrived in Indianapolis, previous seasons for the Colts saw them too often on the wrong side of the coaching advantage.
Striving for more innovation on offense and better development of young talent, Chris Ballard was struck quickly in the interview with Frank Reich.
Not only did Reich win Ballard over in that initial interaction and interview. The head coach won his general manager over with his performance in 2018.
Young talent, without question, made an immediate impact on a playoff team.
His offense definitely possessed those two aspects.
Andrew Luck threw touchdown passes to 13 different players. The aggression from Reich was present throughout the season, no more so than in a Week Four overtime loss to the Texans.
While how Reich handled that 4th-and-4 play call is debatable, the decision left a lasting impression on his boss.
“I’ll never forget, sitting up in the box, I said, ‘Well, one thing about Frank, he’s got conviction, he’s going to rip it,’” Ballard remembers of that play call to try and go for the win in overtime. “Then he’s in the press conference with all of you, and he owns it. ‘This is what I stand for, it’s what we’re going to do.’ A lot of people get up when things don’t go their way, and they try to spin it. They try to spin it. Frank, I knew from that point on, he had the locker room, he had them. Because he believed in them and he supported them and he took the bullet for them. That’s the beautiful thing. That is a unique thing in our profession. It just is.”
From a game management standpoint, no glaring timeout/challenge decisions by Reich impacted the Colts winning or losing a game in 2018.
When it came to resonating with guys in the locker room, Reich’s message following a 1-5 start eventually turned into results.
Dontrelle Inman had Reich as an offensive coordinator back with the Chargers, and the veteran wide receiver didn’t see too much different from a guy who had moved up one major rung on the coaching ladder.
“He’s exactly the same guy,” Inman said during the season. “I think Coach Frank always took the approach of being a leader in whatever role he has been in, just because he has that quarterback background. I think that’s a big plus as a head coach, having someone who was a quarterback. Quarterbacks not only lead the offense, but they lead the defense as well. He’s a great leader and nothing has changed.
“He doesn’t flinch, no matter what the situation is, no matter what happens, if he loses a player, if he’s down by 3 or down by 20, his demeanor stays the same. You can see that if you just look at the TV copy. His demeanor stays the same, cool, calm and collected.”
From a pure talent standpoint, the Colts were not one of the 8 best teams in the NFL this past season.
Yet, they finally had a coaching staff that could schematically make sure the Colts had the upper hand when it came to those with the headsets on.
Further innovation will be needed to continue that climb up the mountain, but it’s hard to look at Reich and believe the Colts have not ‘lucked’ into a strong head coach.
“I can’t say enough about Frank Reich, the job he did,” Ballard says. “He’s just got a level of maturity that’s not only great for the organization, I think it’s great for the city, it’s great for me personally. His experience as a player, his experience coaching in different organization that he’s been a part of, he’s able to recall situations that he’s been in, teams that he’s been on, he provides great leadership for our entire organization.
“Sometimes God does things for you that you don’t deserve, and I feel very fortunate that Frank’s our coach.”
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