Amid the constant flux at quarterback, an offensive line that has regressed and a team that has struggled to compete in a weaker AFC South, the Indianapolis Colts are making a change at head coach.
The Colts (3-5-1) have fired Frank Reich on Monday, owner Jim Irsay announced on Twitter, one day after a 26-3 loss against the New England Patriots. The move comes less than one week after Reich had fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and two weeks after the Colts benched veteran quarterback Matt Ryan in favor of second-year passer Sam Ehlinger.
The team later announced that ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday, the former center who played for the Colts from 1999-2011 would take over as interim head coach. Saturday was a two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler in Indianapolis and had been consulting for the team over the last several seasons. He had worked at ESPN since 2013.
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In four-plus seasons in Indianapolis, Reich leaves with a 40-33-1 record, with two playoff appearances. The Colts won a wild card round playoff game in Reich’s first season, but lost in the divisional round.
In two starts this season, both losses, Ehlinger has struggled, completing 61.5% of his throws for 304 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. When Reich made the move to go to Ehlinger, he cited Ehlinger’s mobility, but Indianapolis hasn’t been able to get him going on the ground, either. He has run the ball 11 times for 54 yards.
Once known for having one of the top offensive lines in football, the Colts have regressed significantly in that area; in their Week 9 loss Sunday against the Patriots, Ehlinger was sacked nine times.
In March, the Colts traded for Ryan, who was expected to elevate the team to a contender in the AFC. Instead, Ryan could never find a rhythm and ended up throwing nine interceptions in seven games, which still is the most in the NFL.
Despite being two games under .500, the Colts are still in second place in the division, behind the 5-3 Tennessee Titans.
Instability at quarterback was an unfortunate hallmark of Reich’s tenure in Indianapolis. Although he arrived to the team with star passer Andrew Luck under center, Luck’s abrupt retirement in August 2019 created a void the team could never fill appropriately. Including Luck, Reich started seven different quarterbacks in the 77 games he coached, including the playoffs; Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Ryan and Ehlinger were the others.
This is the first time in Jim Irsay’s 25-year tenure as owner of the Colts that he has overseen the mid-season firing of a head coach. Reich’s firing presents a change of course, as Irsay told ESPN on Oct. 30 that he was giving no thought to firing Reich or Colts general manager Chris Ballard.
“I’m in a great spot with Chris and Frank,” Irsay told ESPN then. “We’re all re-energized with the move to Sam Ehlinger. Nothing is easy but feel really good.”
Reich originally came to Indianapolis after former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels backed out of the job. In February 2018, just hours after the franchise had announced that McDaniels had come to terms on a contract to succeed former coach Chuck Pagano, McDaniels informed the team that he had changed his mind and would remain with the Patriots.
Just five days after the stunning reversal, the Colts hired Reich, who began his coaching career in Indianapolis as an intern in 2006. Reich was the Eagles offensive coordinator in 2016-17, helping lead the team to a victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII as backup quarterback Nick Foles took over for an injured Wentz.
Reich becomes the second head coach fired in the middle of the 2022 season, joining former Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who was let go Oct. 10.