Head Coach: Frank Reich
The Indianapolis Colts’ brass sat idly waiting for the New England Patriots’ season to come to an end in order to hire offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as Indy’s new head coach. It wasn’t meant to be, apparently, as McDaniels reneged on the handshake deal and renewed his pact with the Pats.
Indianapolis ultimately missed out on several potential coaching options and ultimately “settled” on Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich to replace Chuck Pagano.
Reich’s most famous NFL moment was a 32-point comeback win in the 1992 playoffs as a backup, which was his second major come-from-behind victory as a quarterback. In 1984, he commanded a 31-0 rally against an unbeaten Miami Hurricanes squad.
Reich began his coaching career in Indianapolis as a staff assistant in 2008 under Tony Dungy. He spent the next two seasons as Dungy’s quarterbacks coach and the 2011 season coaching the wide receivers. Reich held the same gig in 2012 with the Arizona Cardinals before returning to his natural quarterbacks coach position a year later in San Diego.
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy promoted him to offensive coordinator for the 2014 and ’15 seasons. The offense finished with a 59-41 pass-run ratio in 2014, and the pass-first trend increased in 2015 (63-37). Quarterback Philip Rivers enjoyed strong fantasy campaigns under Reich’s system. In those two seasons, the veteran passer threw 60 touchdowns and averaged 4,539 passing yards. His 4,792 yards in 2015 marked a career best for Rivers.
The imbalanced approach wasn’t necessarily by design. San Diego struggled with run blocking both seasons. In ’14, running back Ryan Mathews was injured most of the way, manufacturing Branden Oliver as the team’s leading rusher. Rookie Melvin Gordon took over the next year and wasn’t able to put it together in his first pro season, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and missing two games. The Bolts finished 18th in offensive yards in 2014 and 9th in 2015. The corresponding points ranking was 17th and 26th. The offense was ranked 30th and 32nd, respectively, in team rushing yards per attempt over those seasons.
Reich went on to become the Philadelphia OC over the past two seasons. Head coach Doug Pederson consulted Reich for weekly game plans and the scripting of play selection, but it was Pederson calling the in-game shots.
Offensive Coordinator: Nick Sirianni
Sirianni, like Reich in Philly, won’t call plays. The first-year offensive coordinator will be a part of the planning team.
The 36-year-old Sirianni’s NFL coaching background includes various offensive roles (WRs, QBs, quality control) with the Chargers since 2013 when Mike McCoy took over through 2017. Previously, he held all of those positions in varying capacity with the Kansas City Chiefs, surviving coaching changes in both stops.
It all comes down to what Reich has in a recovering Andrew Luck. The same goes for fantasy prospects of the entire offense. Giving any kind of prognostication comes with a big “if” …
Provided Luck can return to form, he is athletic enough to lead a run-pass option system. The likely design of Reich’s system will implement an array of RPOs, spread, shotgun, pistol, and traditional West Coast elements. He likes to nickel and dime until he can find the right matchup to exploit for the knockout.
It’s unclear what the backfield will look like under Reich. The future of impending free agent Frank Gore will play a decidedly important role. He isn’t expected to return, according to recent reports. Does the new staff replace the soon-to-be 35-year-old with Marlon Mack? Does another RB step up? A free agent is added or rookie drafted? All of these questions need to be addressed before any certainty can be applied to fantasy evaluation. The most likely scenario is the backfield split will be considerably heavier in Mack’s favor. Mack, running as the 1A, will receive a helping hand from someone not named Frank Gore in the 1B slot, if Reich’s history can be trusted.
Indianapolis has obvious talent at wide receiver with T.Y. Hilton and an inconsistent but gifted Donte Moncrief, assuming he opts to re-sign as an unrestricted free agent. His open-market value never has been lower, which bodes well for his return, but he will have suitors. Otherwise, the Colts will need to address the position in free agency and/or the draft.
Expect tight end Jack Doyle to be prominently featured in the passing game. The position was a staple in every offense with which Reich has been associated, and he has the requisite talent to thrive, especially if little is done to upgrade the wideouts.
The 2017 Colts gave up more sacks (56) than any other team. Addressing the front five will be a key area of concern to the front office during the coming months.