INDIANAPOLIS – For the ex-quarterback, who has only coached quarterbacks and wide receivers in the NFL, along with offensive coordinator/play calling duties, you understand his frustration.
Not at all.
-30th in passing offense (194.2 yards per game)
-29th in completion percentage (59.8 percent)
-30th in yards per pass attempt (6.5 YPA)
-30th in pass plays of at least 20 yards (38 plays)
That leads to a pretty frustrated Frank Reich.
“That hurt,” Reich says of the Colts having one of the league’s worst passing offenses in 2019. “I’ve always taken pride in having a dynamic passing game. Everywhere that we’ve been, I’m not saying we’ve been the best in the league, but the teams I’ve been on have been pretty dynamic for the most part.
“You can’t always have it all. We made some good strides in the running game. That’s a very important step for our team and where we’re going and how we get to the next level. I know we can do this other side of it. We just have to figure that out and get better there and I think the end result will be a good thing.”
When Reich said that, the Colts were still a few weeks away from making the signing of Philip Rivers official, and two months away from drafting Michael Pittman No. 34 overall.
But Reich had already begun acting upon the issues the passing offense suffered the previous season.
The first move was Reich going to Jim Irsay asking to add another assistant coach.
Reich wanted to be reunited with Mike Groh, who was the Eagles offensive coordinator the two previous seasons.
Groh’s long history as a wideouts coach includes being under Reich in 2017, when he was the Eagles OC during their Super Bowl run. Reich loves the technical and demanding demeanor Groh brings to teaching his wideouts.
“Mike was the primary guy helping me (in that Super Bowl run) and Mike is one of the best receivers coaches in the league, period, and I saw that firsthand, so I’m really excited that he’s here,” Reich says of the new wideouts coach for the Colts in 2019.
Bringing in Groh meant the Colts had to find a spot for Kevin Patullo, who was the team’s receivers coach in 2018 and 2019.
Given Patullo’s background as a quarterbacks coach (with the Jets from 2015-16) and a year in a college (with Texas A&M as a senior offensive analyst in 2017), the Colts decided to retain him and move him into a newly created role as pass game specialist.
“It really worked out well because Kevin has been a quarterbacks coach, (and) he has a great relationship with (offensive coordinator) Nick Sirianni in the game planning side,” Reich says of Patullo in a new position on staff. “He has good college experience in the RPO world so now we move him into a pass game specialist kind of role, gives us more man hours to gameplan and be creative and stay ahead of defenses.
“He and Nick are really super tight, I think they see it alike, so, it’s just an extension. Nick and I are like that as well. So, we get people who get what we do but are creative in their thinking. Kevin’s college background brings some stuff. Kevin also brings a different twist to how he thinks about the passing game that we’ve come to respect.”
Obviously, when the 2020 season arrives most will point to the arrival of Rivers, having better health at receiver and/or the drafting of Pittman as to the main reasons why (if or when) the passing offense improves.
But don’t forget about the stuff behind the scenes.
“I think it’s worked faster and better than I envisioned it,” Reich says of the staff changes. “I tend to be very optimistic and see the glass half full, but it works because Nick has brought great leadership to the offensive staff. Nick brings the level of expertise at the receiver position that is easy for everyone to respect. So, he, Mike and Kevin are a really good team.
“It’s just going to help us as an offense. Because not only do all three have expert qualities as far as coaching receivers, but all 3 have expert minds in the passing game….I know we talk a lot about our run game, but I just think our pass game is going to take another step this year, I really do.”