INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich dissected the film through and through.
Every quarterback that was available, or thought to be available this offseason, had his film critiqued by the Colts head coach. That includes Tom Brady.
Frank Reich’s question on Philip Rivers was never about his passion or his intellect.
Nope, instead the former position coach and offensive coordinator of Rivers had to put on his critical eye in watching every throw Rivers made the past two seasons.
That exhaustive process led Reich to this thought:
He can still sling it. We need Philip Rivers under center in 2020.
“I was so confident that physically he was the right player and he had not lost anything,” Reich said in explaining what he saw from the 38-year-old Rivers on film. All the throws that I saw on film and as I go back and study them compared to previous throws, I really didn’t notice any physical gifts diminishing at all. I really didn’t.”
“It wasn’t so much about what Jacoby (Brissett) wasn’t doing, it was about a unique opportunity to get who we feel is an elite, Hall of Fame quarterback and can help our team.”
While Rivers’ durability has never been questioned (he’s started an incredible 224 straight games, 32 longer than any other player currently in the NFL) many have wondered where he’s at physically, after throwing 20 interceptions last season.
Reich calls that INT number ‘unacceptable’ but he has a staunch belief in that the team around Rivers in Indianapolis will be better.
“As long as he thinks he has a chance to win, he’s throwing the ball down the field,” Reich says of Rivers. “And when other quarterbacks might be taking check downs, he’s trying to make chunk plays. And the result of that is that he throws a few more interceptions. That’ll be a goal (to cut down). There’s no doubt we want to greatly reduce that number. He knows the responsibility from that position.
“We just think we’ll have the right team around him to get that number down where it needs to be.”
One definite benefit from bringing Rivers in comes from his familiarity with what the Colts are doing offensively.
Since 2013, Rivers has played in an offensive system that is nearly the exact same as to what Reich has implemented with the Colts.
When you factor in a shortened and scaled back offseason, that’s huge.
“(Rivers) knows 80 or 85 percent of the offense, maybe more,” Reich said. “We’ve changed the wording on a couple of things to make it better. When I tell you he’s elite intellectually, he’s at the top. There’s a rare group of guys in the football world who I would put in that category. Not everybody gets those gifts, he has them.
“That’ll be to his advantage and to our advantage. When we are able to send him stuff and get our materials, he will be able to pick it up quickly and then as soon as we are able to communicate with him and we are able to talk football and really get into a teaching mode, it won’t take long.”
Getting the ball out quick, testing a defense vertically and even using Rivers’ intelligence to find more success when calling read/pass options are all reasons Reich points to as improvements at the quarterback position.
Of course, these improvements might only last one season, maybe two, depending on how much longer Rivers is going to play, and the Colts want him to be their quarterback.
And while the long-term view at quarterback remains a focus—and is pressing—the Colts are trying to solve that while also doing what they can to improve immediately.
“We are trying to win now,” Reich says. “It’s important to win now. Our fans want to know that we are going to win now.”