INDIANAPOLIS – Normally, Frank Reich and Chris Ballard would be at the Indiana Convention Center at some point this week for their annual Scouting Combine press conferences.
But with the Combine taking a hiatus due to the pandemic, Reich held a virtual session with the media on Thursday afternoon.
With the Carson Wentz trade not official until March 17th, Reich had to tiptoe his way around any of those ‘new QB’ questions.
“Unable to make any serious comments on that stuff,” Reich pointed out at the start of his Thursday presser, referencing the trade for Wentz that will become official at the start of the new league year.
Reich also did not answer any questions about 2020 opt-out players returning for 2021 (CB-Marvell Tell, S-Rolan Miligan, LB-Skai Moore). On the injury front, Reich mentioned WR-Parris Campbell (knee) and free agent RB-Marlon Mack (Achilles) having been in the building recently rehabbing their respective injuries.
What were some of the highlights from Reich?
-On free agent T.Y. Hilton: “It’ll play itself out. I’m not going to lie. The discussions we’ve had, I’ll just echo what Mr. Irsay has said and what Chris has said in an interview or two. I think we are all hoping and optimistic that there’s a way T.Y. can end his career as a Colt. He’s a special player. He means a lot to us as an organization, but we all understand there’s a business side to it that has to be right. It has to be right for T.Y., has to be right for the Colts. I’m just hopeful that can play out. T.Y. has been a great player here. He is a leader on this team. Hope the business side of that can get worked out that he can end his career as a Colt.”
-On getting the quarterback position right: “It’s very important, as we all know. It’s a critical position. You always have that healthy tension of the quarterback position is really important, but the quarterback is just one man on the roster. We do believe we have the right roster, we have the right culture. Getting good quarterback play is something that is necessary to win a world championship. And obviously here in this organization, the standard has been set. I feel like we have got good quarterback play in recent years, in our 3 years here. We need to continue to have that kind of play and need to improve on that type of play to win a world championship.”
-On building confidence up at quarterback: “That’s a great question and a very relevant question, always; the confidence level at every position, certainly not just the quarterback position. I think one of the great misnomers is sometimes fans think that these are the greatest players in the world…I’ve seen some of the best players in the world, everybody loses confidence for a moment. It may be brief, but it always goes back to the same way. One of the ways you build confidence back is you go back to the basics. You go back to the fundamentals technique. You go back to your basic schemes and you build it one play at a time. That’s true for any of us. That’s the way we’ll handle every position.”
-On the need for quarterback continuity: “Obviously, continuity, no matter our jobs, is important. I think for our whole team. It’s interesting. In one respect, ‘Ok, we are going to play whatever cards we’re dealt, whatever hand we are dealt and we are going to play the cards well.’ So if we keep having a different starting quarterback ever year, you do what you have to do. Obviously, the moves that we make in free agency are going to be designed to have a longer-term answer there. That’s always been the goal, to have a longer-term answer at that position, that you can build around and grow. Because as you grow as an offense, because the quarterback is so central in the offense going through him, being able to grow year-by-year is an important aspect. That’s certainly in our vision and plans for free agency at that position.”
-On what having Philip Rivers’ familiarity with the offense did for the Colts last season: “It really accelerated (things) especially with the unique circumstances that we are in with COVID and the limited offseason that we had. It just helped accelerate the learning process of the offense, the relationship that has to be built. Because we’ve said this a lot of times, there’s a personal aspect to coaching a player. This is not just in a vacuum. There’s a personal element to it. Anytime there’s a personal connection with a player and there’s a familiarity with the offense and with the terminology and what you are trying to accomplish and a vision for what you are trying to do, it can help accelerate it. I think Philip showed that very clearly. For him to be able to come in and be able to play the way that he did and to lead the offense and the team the way he did, I think it helped a ton.”
-On if Quenton Nelson is open to moving from left guard to left tackle: “There’s been lots of discussion between Chris and I. I think the discussion with Quenton, he wants to do whatever is best for the team. He’s willing to do whatever is best for the team. What I appreciate about Quenton is that he trusts that Chris and I, along with the coaching staff, will make what we believe is the best decision. We want to get the best 5 guys on the field, at the best positions for them. And they can grow into those positions. We are still keeping all options open at this point. Obviously, we have the draft and free agency coming up. We know we have multiple options, multiple good options. But each one of those ends up with the vision of us having a top-5 offensive line. We are going to find the best 5 players to put out there. We know those guys have already expressed, ‘Hey just put us wherever you want us. We will make it work.’”
–On the jersey number debate of Michael Pittman and Carson Wentz deciding that the wideout will keep No. 11: “No I wasn’t surprised at all. I would have been shocked (if Pittman had given up his number). Players don’t like to give up numbers easily. I think Michael looks good in that number and he played good in that number. I’m excited that he’s keeping that number.”
–On Nick Sirianni getting the Eagles head coaching job: “I want to congratulate Nick. As you guys know, Nick and I are super close. There are very few people in this business that I think as highly of as I do Nick. I think he’s one of the best offensive minds in the NFL. I think he’s got great coaching pedigree. I wish him the best of luck. I’m excited about the staff he’s put together and excited about the opportunity he has in front of him with a great organization there. I wish Nick and the Eagles nothing but success.”
-On Marcus Brady being promoted to offensive coordinator: “I’m excited about Marcus Brady as our new offensive coordinator. Marcus is more than ready for the job. I got the utmost confidence in him. I knew the day we got Marcus in the building, he was ready. I figured it would come to this. I knew Nick would eventually get a head job pretty quickly because the type of coach he is. There was never a doubt in my mind that Marcus would be that next man up and would be ready for the job. I’m excited for him and excited to work closely with him in that capacity as our coordinator.”
-On defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus returning: “Very important to get Matt back. Obviously, he was a great candidate to be a head coach. I think the world of Matt as a coach, as a person, as a coordinator that we can just keep building. Have the continuity as you said, but keep building and growing, adapting the system to our players. I have just seen Flus continue to grow and develop in that role as well, really connecting with players and making a conscious effort every week to put our players in the best position possible. I think he’s extremely intelligent and focused on the vision of how he sees the defense executing and where we want to be as a defense. I’ve enjoyed, I’ve learned a lot from Flus over these three years as I sit in there with him and we talk things through, and I ask questions and give two cents here and there. Flus, really happy to have him back.”
-On the coaching staff having some ties to the CFL: “There are similar ideas. In the CFL, everything is spread out. And the NFL is going a little bit more to the spread out stuff. (Quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich) coached with Jacksonville for a few years. Scott played at Maryland 10 years after I did, so we have kind of known each other for a while. Scott is an excellent football mind, excellent on quarterback play. I had a chance to go up to camp where Scott was working for Marc Trestman. He was the offensive coordinator with the Montreal Alouettes and I went up there to work with their team for a few days. I sat in on all the meetings that Scott was leading. I saw him working with the quarterbacks on the field. I knew then, I said, ‘If I ever had a chance to hire Scott, he was a guy on my list.’ He had complete command of the room, complete command of what it takes to play the quarterback position. With Marcus, I didn’t know as much about Marcus (when he was in the CFL), but Scott was actually the one who recommended Marcus to me, when I hired him here as our assistant quarterbacks coach to start. Then Marcus won me over very quickly. They both are really intelligent guys with a lot of good innovative ideas. They will keep us moving in the right direction.”
-On Reich’s pedigree as a quarterback teacher: “I appreciate that comment, but I think a big part of it is the players you are working with. Some of it is having the sense to stay out of their way. When you get a horse, pardon the analogy, that can go the distance and that is do something special, part of the key to coaching is don’t pull the reigns back on them too much. I think maybe my playing experience, not just playing the position, but playing in the type of offense that I played in where Jim Kelly and I were calling our own plays and had a lot of input into the game plans, I just think that’s prepared me to work with quarterbacks at a high level. To have the kind of relationship with these guys where we are working together. They know we are the coaching staff and we have the final say, but we see this as a collaborative effort and when you get these special, elite quarterbacks, it is just, ‘Hey, let’s find that healthy tension.’ It is my job as the coach and Marcus Brady and Scott Milanovich to have the hard coaching moments, but there’s also a lot of moments of, ‘This is us together.’ I mean 98 percent of it is this is positive, collaborative, let’s do this. Two percent of it is, ‘Don’t do that ever again.’ That’s kind of how it works out.”
-On vetting himself in regards to analytics from last season: “A lot. You go back and look at every game, look at the calls, evaluating the fourth-down calls, the critical situations, situational football, looking at it with a critical eye, what did I like about the situation, what didn’t I like. I sit down and talk with George Li and John Park, our analytics guys, sit down and talk with our offensive staff, where it’s relevant, about certain situations, ‘Hey, let’s play this out again.’ Always looking with a critical eye of how I can get better.”