Frank Reich has never won the lowly AFC South. He’s never defeated the putrid Jacksonville Jaguars on the road. And through the first two games of his fifth regular season as Indianapolis Colts head coach, he has yet to put a tally in the win column.
Sunday’s 24-0 blowout loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville was the latest sign that Reich might not be the guy to lead the Colts (0-1-1) back to the promised land. The once-heralded offensive visionary of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl LII run has few accolades to point to during his tenure in Indianapolis, and at this point, the Colts head coach should be squarely on the hot seat.
Point the finger at Frank Reich: Colts continue to be embarrassed in winnable situations
Throughout Reich’s tenure, the Colts have played in a very winnable division. But Indianapolis has yet to win the AFC South under Reich’s leadership, indicating the mediocre results put forth by the veteran head coach.
Sure, Reich has the distinction of being the head coach that was forced to shuffle the QB deck after Andrew Luck abruptly retired in 2019. But it’s been a while since that decision came down, and even with the likes of former Pro Bowl QBs like Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan, Reich has yet to put forth a dominant offense.
Remember, this is the former QB-turned-NFL play-caller who was given the bulk of the credit for guiding Nick Foles to two of the biggest performances in playoff history. Reich’s praise, at times, even trumped the accomplishments of then-second-year head coach Doug Pederson, who led the Eagles to their first Lombardi Trophy following the 2017 season.
On Sunday, Pederson outcoached his former offensive coordinator in a dominant fashion. The Jaguars put up a 17-0 lead at halftime, as Pederson’s new protege, Trevor Lawrence, had one of the best first-half performances of his career. Meanwhile, Reich, who continues to circle the Pro Bowl QB wagon, watched from the sidelines as Matt Ryan shriveled on offense. At some point, it’s not the QBs, it’s the “QB guru” calling the plays.
And while rumor mills continually place names like Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers, Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals, and Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys at the top of the hot-seat lists, Reich has paddled in mediocrity just as long as the aforementioned trio.
Reich had a phenomenal debut season in Indianapolis in 2018, as the squad went 10-6 and won a playoff game with Luck under center. Since then, though, the Colts have made one playoff appearance and haven’t won a postseason game.
Reich went to bat for Rivers in 2020. The veteran QB then led the Colts to an 11-5 record. However, following a poor performance in the playoffs, it was clear the Colts wanted to go younger, and Rivers was better off retiring.
So, Reich, again, vouched for a former pupil in Wentz, who put up pretty numbers, but ultimately came up short when it mattered the most. The Colts went from being sure bets for the playoffs to losing in embarrassing fashion during their final two games.
GM Chris Ballard and owner Jim Irsay then threw Wentz’s reputation through the mud at any chance they got. Reich was also forced to publicly admit defeat on Wentz before the QB was traded to Washington for a pair of picks.
This offseason, the Colts lucked into a peach of a deal for Ryan, who asked out of Atlanta after the Falcons flirted with and failed to acquire Deshaun Watson. Ryan, on paper, was everything that Wentz wasn’t. Ryan typically protects the ball well, is a revered leader, and he’s among the smartest players in the league.
However, through two games, Reich’s offense has made Ryan look incompetent. Against the Jaguars, Ryan completed just 16 of 30 passes for 195 yards and 3 interceptions.
The Colts were bullied for the first three quarters during their season opener against the Houston Texans. The offense eventually woke up and fought back to a 20-20 tie. The Colts then cut kicker Rodrigo Blankenship after he missed a field goal in overtime.
If the Colts are going to hold their players to that level of accountability, shouldn’t they do the same with their play-callers? It wasn’t Blankenship’s fault that Reich called an ultra-vanilla style offense during the first three quarters against the Texans. That was on Reich.
After a horrific shutout against the Jaguars, who will be the next notable name to get the axe? The Colts’ offense was nonexistent in Duval County, one week after Wentz and the Commanders lit up the Jaguars in their respective season opener. Reich is the man responsible for the offense’s shortcomings and should have to answer for them.
It’s become evident — through his struggles within the worst division in sports — that Reich just can’t win the big ones, or really, the small ones.
Reich isn’t the only one to blame for the Colts’ failures, as Ballard has done little to stack the wide receiver and offensive line depth charts, outside of standouts Michael Pittman, Ryan Kelly, and Quentin Nelson. But Reich is the captain of the ship on the field, and that product has been lacking — especially in big moments — for some time now.
Wentz’s 2021 failures should have added some sizzle to Reich’s office chair. Following another unignorable embarrassment in Jacksonville, Reich might need some aloe (and an updated resume) in the very near future.