INDIANAPOLIS – Following one of their most embarrassing performances in franchise history, Jim Irsay decided it was time to let Frank Reich go, despite 4 years remaining on the head coach’s contract, which he signed last August.
On Monday morning, the Colts fired Reich, who was in his 5th season as head coach (40-33-1).
In Reich’s 5 seasons as Colts head coach, they finished in the following positions in the AFC: 6th, 10th, 7th, 8th, 10th (with 8 games to go this season).
While the Colts current problems do not all fall on Reich’s plate, there was plenty of merit for this move.
It was a recent trend—in year 5 of the Reich era—of a boring offensive product and a team unable to play with any urgency early in games.
With Reich as the team’s play caller, the Colts have failed to score on an opening drive in 10 straight games. They rank 31st in the NFL in averaging 14.7 points per game. They have not held a halftime lead in 11 straight games.
Again, personnel questions are certainly there for the Colts, including at the most important position in sports. Reich played a role in the constant QB carousel for the Colts, but that did limit the ability to build continuity there over the years.
But Reich’s greatest strength (his offensive knowledge) was not helping the Colts enough.
Questions about Reich’s ability to handle all of the CEO responsibilities that come with being a head coach were fair, along with some blind loyalty influencing decision making (i.e. Adam Vinatieri and Carson Wentz). Continued poor starts to seasons and inability to seize the worst division in the AFC were also contributing factors in this move.
In his offensive bubble though, Reich was leading a 2022 unit that became one of the worst groups in the entire NFL this season.
Looking back on last season, there were two major stains on the Reich resume. The first was the endorsement of Carson Wentz and the belief he could be the Colts franchise quarterback. That failing not only cost the Colts a playoff spot in 2021, but it also saw the team have to give up some valuable draft picks for the Wentz trial. Last year, the Colts missed the playoffs despite having the league’s most Pro Bowlers (7).
In the Reich tenure, the Colts failed to win the AFC South. They made the playoffs twice, going 1-2 in the postseason.
This move definitely doesn’t aid the development/stabilize the environment around young quarterback Sam Ehlinger for the rest of the season.
As far as an interim head coach or play caller for the rest of the season, that remains to be seen.
On the interim HC front, giving young special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone a chance makes sense when looking towards the future. Former NFL coaches John Fox (senior defensive assistant) and Gus Bradley (defensive coordinator) are on the staff.
For play calling, no one on the staff has called plays at the NFL level. Quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich did it at the CFL level. Running backs coach Scottie Montgomery has done it in college and he’s taken on more responsibility in the last week with the firing of Marcus Brady. With Marcus Brady fired last week, the offensive staff will have to undergo some serious changes in responsibilities with Monday’s news.
The Colts do have 8 games left this season.
A Monday evening press conference is coming. Will both Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard be speaking?
As said above, the Colts issues are deeper than just their outgoing head coach.
Both Reich and Ballard signed contract extensions last August, through the 2026 season. Ballard’s fate remains up in the air as he embarks on his 6th year as the Colts general manger.
Monday’s move comes from a head coach, with a focus on the offensive side of the ball, not providing enough of an advantage in his supposed expertise.