Colts Fire Head Coach Frank Reich; Grade Within

We’ve got out second midseason coach firing! NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has reported that Indianapolis has fired head coach Frank Reich. As promised, I’m handling in-season HC firings on an individual basis, so let’s get right to it.

As with Matt Rhule earlier this year, the Colts arguably waited too long to get rid of Reich. However, instead of a year and a half too long they only botched the timing by a couple of weeks. Reich needed to go the second he benched QB Matt Ryan for the season in favor of Sam Ehlinger. It was an unnecessary and divisive mood given that Ryan was injured and would miss time anyway. The team could’ve started Ehlinger during Ryan’s recovery and then made a decision once he got back.

Reich also fired OC Marcus Brady shortly thereafter. I’m not sure how good of a hire he was, but despite Reich’s protests, this was DEFINITELY a scapegoat maneuver. Pretty sure that tactic didn’t work out. He has a tendency to blame those around him, especially QBs. The same QB has not started week 1 for 2 consecutive seasons during Reich’s tenure, leading to franchise instability. He cycled through Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan as opening-day starters, and even when one played well, that player never returned for the following season.

What’s funny here is that Reich wasn’t even owner Jim Irsay’s first choice. The Colts had an agreement with Josh McDaniels, who hired 3 assistants before backing out of the deal. Indianapolis panicked and settled on Reich, which seemed like a logical move at the time. Reich was coming off a magical Super Bowl run as the OC in Philadelphia. He had successfully guided Carson Wentz to an MVP-caliber season and won every playoff game with Nick Foles. Nobody really knew whether HC Doug Pederson, Reich, or the QBs themselves deserved the credit. After Wentz’s subsequent struggles, most assigned credit to Reich.

Indianapolis was highly competitive in Reich’s first season, going 10-6 with Andrew Luck and winning a playoff game. They declined under Brissett in year 2, going 7-9. Indy then went 11-5 with Rivers but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Last season, Carson Wentz had good offensive numbers and kept the team in line for a playoff spot, but the entire team imploded in an inexcusable loss to Jacksonville to fall to 9-8. The Colts did not win the AFC South even once under Reich.

With Philadelphia now sitting at 8-0, many are wondering if Reich’s prior success in Indianapolis was due to his OC, Nick Sirianni. Sirianni is now head coach of the Eagles and is showing that he can successfully tailor an offense to his QB’s strengths. Reich conversely needed to keep bringing in new QBs to try and jumpstart his team. His latest gambit was an epic failure. I discussed the fact that Ehlinger was unlikely to help this team, as QB has not been its primary problem. The Colts’ highly-paid offensive line is sabotaging the entire offense, with only standout guard Quenton Nelson playing well.

Indianapolis cannot pass block, nor can they run block. Jonathan Taylor, last year’s leading rusher, has found no room in 2022, showing that Matt Ryan was not solely to blame. In spite of this, Reich refused to change his scheme or his play calling, setting his QBs up for failure. This week, in a loss to the Patriots, the Colts managed just 3 points of offense. Ehlinger went 15/29 for 103 yards (including garbage time) with an INT. He also took 9 sacks for 60 yards. Ehlinger wasn’t blameless, but the line was definitely the bigger culprit. That has been the case all year, and Jim Irsay finally had enough. I don’t blame him.

Grade: A

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