After the Indianpolis Colts followed up a close win against the heavily favoured Kansas City Chiefs with an intriguing divisonal victory over the Houston Texans, can we now ask the question – Frank Reich: Coach of the year candidate?
No ‘Luck’ in preseason
As everyone knows, Frank Reich had an excellent 1st season with the Colts. After helping mastermind Carson Wentz’s MVP calibre season, and then Nick Foles Super Bowl run, he was parachuted in to take the reigns in Indianapolis following Josh McDaniels last minute snub. He, along with GM Chris Ballard, revitalised the franchise. They made the playoffs following a 4-12 season the year previously.
Optimism was high heading into this season. The Colts had a talented, young roster and a franchise quarterback set in place. All that, however, came crashing down, with the bombshell of Andrew Luck’s retirement. Backup QB, Jacoby Brissett, was to be the man running the Colts offence.
Early season stutters
The Colts began the 2019 with a 2-2 start. They lost the season opener in a tight affair to the LA Chargers. This was followed up by tight wins against divisional rivals the Tennesse Titans and the struggling Atlanta Falcons. Next up was Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders, who pulled off a somewhat surprising 31-24 victory. Not quite the fast start the Colts fanbase had hoped for against teams they felt they had every chance of besting.
Bear in mind, however, this start was in the face of losing their star Quarterback on the brink of a new season. Offensive scripts had to be rethought to fit Brissett’s, rather than Luck’s, skill set. Defensive star Darius Leonard also missed 3 games on the spin with concussion issues.
Redemption against the Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs in week 5 seemed a daunting prospect. Andy Reid’s men had set a blistering pace through their first 4 games with a 4-0. They had racked up an impressive 135 points in that time. They had also humbled the Colts in the divisonal round of the playoffs at Arrowhead back in January.
However Frank Reich developed a gameplan that would nullify the Chiefs high octane offence. The Colts ran the ball, and ran the ball hard. Marlon Mack led the way, totalling 132 yards on 29 carries. Brissett was limited to just 29 passing attempts, compared to 44 total rushing attempts, as the Colts strangled the life out of the Chiefs and held the ball for an incredible 37:15. By keeping the Chiefs offence off the field, they limited them to their lowest points return since Patrick Mahomes took over the starting QB jersey. Reich was fully aware that the Colts could not afford to get into a shootout, masterfully adjusting his strategy.
Top of the table clash
Coming off the bye week, this Sunday the Colts went up against an in-form Texans team, fresh off their enthralling win against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Given an extra week to prepare, Reich and his co-ordinators demonstrated their flexibility in strategising, dependent on opponents. The Texans heading into this one had a top 10 run defence, so trying to emulate their rushing effort from two weeks previous was going to be a tough ask.
Whilst not abandoning the run completely, the Colts only rushed for 62 yards on 26 attempts – demonstrably less than against the Chiefs. It was instead through the air that The Colts racked up yards. Sunday was a coming out party for Jacoby Brissett as he tossed a career high 4 TDs and only 1 interception to expose the Texans weaknesses in the secondary.
The defensive side of the ball played their part also, sacking DeShaun Watson on 3 occasions and pressuring him on multiple snaps. The return to action of Darius Leonard was significant. He led the team with 10 tackles, and snared the game sealing INT.
Coach of the year candidate?
As the 2019 season nears its midway point, is Frank Reich in the mix for COTY? Certainly he has had to overcome adversity, in the manner of Andrew Luck’s retiral. Despite a few blips early on, he has since beaten 2 conference rivals back to back. The tactical felxibility demonstrated, as well as attention to detail, has seen Reich shine.
The next four fixtures are all potentially winnable. 3 home games against the Broncos, Jaguars and Dolphins and a trip to the struggling Steelers, should hold no fear. The Colts could conceivably be 8-2 heading into their next meeting with the Texans.
Altough the Colts are not likely to win the Big One come early February, Frank Reich is making a name for himself as one of the NFL’s top coaches.
Image: USA Today