Frank Reich’s firing shows new Colts coach will need QB to succeed


Frank Reich’s firing became inevitable for the Indianapolis Colts, a matter of when, no Yes.

After Sunday’s humiliating 26-3 loss to the New England Patriots, featuring one of the worst offensive performances in franchise history, the reality was palpable in Reich’s voice to the media. There was the play calling offense that couldn’t improve. Fingers had been pointed everywhere, dating back to last season. It was quarterback Carson Wentz, so they traded him in the offseason. It was quarterback Matt Ryan, Wentz’s replacement, so they benched him. It was offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, so they fired him. The Colts ran out of people to point fingers at. It was the time of Reich.

But also understand this: The Colts’ offensive problems go far beyond Reich. One of them? The quarterback carousel, the most important position.

For the new coach to be successful — though it will be legendary Colts center Jeff Saturday, who has no professional coaching experience, an impressive move — the franchise needs to find stability right away.

In Reich’s Colts tenure, which spanned 74 games (77, including playoffs) over four and a half seasons, Indianapolis had seven starting quarterbacks: Andrew Luck (2018), Jacoby Brissett (2019), Brian Hoyer (2019) , Phillip Rivers (2019). 2020), Carson Wentz (2021), Matt Ryan (2022) and Sam Ehlinger (2022), the current starter. In fact, it’s surprising that Reich had as much success as he did – a 40-33-1 regular season record (.547 winning percentage) – with bridge-option quarterbacks after Luck. But that’s not a sustainable winning model, especially for a proud Colts franchise, to regularly compete for Super Bowls.

Of the 16 teams that have played in conference championship games since 2018, 10 had homegrown quarterbacks: 2018 Patriots (Tom Brady), 2018 Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes), 2018 Rams (Jared Goff), Packers of 2019 (Aaron Rodgers), 2019 (2019). Mahomes), 2020 Bills (Josh Allen), 2020 Chiefs (Mahomes), 2020 Packers (Rodgers), 2021 Bengals (Joe Burrow) and the 2021 Chiefs (Mahomes).

The remaining six acquired their starting QB via trade or free agency: 2018 Saints (Drew Brees), 2019 49ers (Jimmy Garoppolo), 2019 Titans (Ryan Tannehill), 2020 Buccaneers (Tom Brady) , the 2021 49ers (Garoppolo) and the 2021 Rams (Matthew Stafford), but only three of them were true stars: Brady, Brees and Stafford. Of the last two, Garoppolo and Tannehill, only Garoppolo made the Super Bowl, which he lost.

Offensively, a good number of Super Bowl-winning teams have star power at quarterback, usually homegrown, and occasionally acquired later in their careers. But expecting an average or old veteran quarterback who isn’t a lock for Canton (like Brady or Peyton Manning are) to elevate your team to championship status is historically bad business. The latter is where the Colts have lived for years.

We’re headed to the Colts using their 2023 first-round pick, currently set at No. 15 overall and trending earlier, on a top-tier quarterback prospect (Alabama’s Bryce Young, L’s CJ Stroud ‘Ohio State, Hendon Hooker of Tennessee, Will of Kentucky). Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson are among the top 2023 prospects at the position). They hardly have a choice. They’ve been running on a band-aid hamster wheel at quarterback since Luck’s sudden retirement. It would be poor organizational practice to continue doing so. And it seems unlikely that the new Colts coach will put his job on the line for Ehlinger, a former sixth-round pick, as the long-term starting quarterback.

If the Colts continue as they have been, and don’t invest their top pick in a quarterback, their new coach could suffer the same fate as Reich: find marginal success, only to be let go when the constant disappointment becomes too much to bear. . .

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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