INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are an organization in dysfunction right now.
That’s what happens when you face major questions at the three pillar spots of your franchise—general manager, head coach, quarterback.
Searching for a new head coach begun in early November, just 15 months after Jim Irsay gave Frank Reich (and Chris Ballard) a contract extension through the 2026 season.
The Reich era was not all bad, by any means. He went 40-33-1 as head coach, with the offense finishing in the top-half of scoring in the majority of seasons, despite constant quarterback changes. Reich has many important qualities the Colts should try to seek out in their next head coach.
But some flaws were definitely there.
Putting the Jeff Saturday candidacy to the side for a second (and, yes, Saturday is very much a long-term candidate in Jim Irsay’s eyes), let’s examine what the Colts should be looking for in their next head coach.
Here are four key factors the Colts need to be seeking out:
1. CEO, Leader Of Men
I would argue Frank Reich never fully embraced, and acted enough, on the role as ‘head coach.’ When you are the head coach of an NFL team, as opposed to just the offensive coordinator, you are in charge of the entire coaching staff, all units on the team and having complete oversight over the complete roster.
What makes your guys tic? How do they react to certain things? When is it needed to change up some processes in order to light a fire? In-game, and during the week, do you still have a strong enough grasp for how your entire building is operating?
Reich’s heavy involvement offensively had to take away from some important player interaction in the other facets of the game, and/or overseeing assistants on defense, special teams.
Even Nick Sirianni gave up early play-calling duties in his first season with Philadelphia, knowing he needed to delegate things more as the head coach. Tony Dungy chose this path, too, believing calling plays for a certain unit inevitably leads to some neglecting of the other side of the ball.
More than anything, an NFL head coach has to be a leader.
How did the Colts respond to Reich’s ‘leading’ towards the end of his tenure? 11 straight halftime deficits. 10 straight games without an opening score. Never finishing in the top-5 of the AFC in any of his 5 seasons, despite playing in the lowly AFC South.
When you look at many of the top coaches in today’s NFL, who have stood the test of time, they have a CEO role, and are not leading a specific unit—Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh, Mike Tomlin.
This isn’t a non-starter, but it’s something the Colts need to look long and hard at.
2. Quarterback Development Key
This specific skill should have a hyper focus in the upcoming interview process.
That’s especially true when you factor in where the Colts are currently at in the draft order (9th).
If the Colts are not going to get the first or second quarterback draft choice in 2023, it’s going to take on even more importance from the coaching staff to help this young QB grow.
Personnel wise, this organization faces the most important question at the position in at least a two-decade span.
And whoever is the head coach of the Colts, that person and their staff will largely be judged on the inevitable move made at quarterback, along with how that player develops.
Big picture, maintaining a consistent offensive system should also be welcomed, because it’s no guarantee you can retain a coordinator over the years, especially if you have early success with that young QB.
3. Open To Current Defensive Style?
This will be interesting to watch. And will depend a good amount on if Chris Ballard is still the GM.
Honestly, Ballard had more defensive say in this recent era than Frank Reich.
Remember, it was Ballard who wanted the change from the 3-4 Chuck Pagano style to a 4-3 scheme under Josh McDaniels/Matt Eberflus. Ballard is long a believer in the 4-3 scheme and wanted this defensive system, no matter who was at head coach. Reich let Eberflus, and then Gus Bradley, handle the operation at that side of the ball. And Bradley has had great success in Year One.
With how the Colts have drafted to that defense, adhering to a heavy emphasis on speed and length, should they try to focus on keeping a similar system in place, especially because the results have been pretty solid?
4. Continued Player Development
Unlike the Chuck Pagano era, Frank Reich’s tenure saw many more results in the player development department.
That’s obviously a vital component to the next era, particularly with several core players starting to take on bigger contracts (which wasn’t the case as the Pagano/Ryan Grigson run reached a similar timeline).
One balance the new coach must walk a better line with is having belief in your roster, but not letting that creep into blind loyalty. I also think this contributed to Reich not pressing more for personnel changes, settling too often for what Ballard was content in giving him.
Having strong conviction is great. Allowing that to impact too much of your decision making is something that hurt Reich at some critical moments.
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