The Reich guy: Colts handbrake turn to safe choice after McDaniels bet backfires
When a personal relationship ends poorly, the overriding response is usually to pivot to the exact opposite qualities of that person for your next connection.
Your significant other was stubborn but passionate? Pivot to someone easy-going but uninspiring. Logical but difficulty connecting with people? Pivot to someone outgoing but impulsive.
This kind of reactionary, handbrake turn into the opposite direction isn't just exclusive to personal relationships, either. They happen in the professional world too, and football is no exception.
The Colts' official relationship with Josh McDaniels lasted mere hours, though the two parties spent a better part of a month speaking, comparing philosophies and ideas, deciding whether they were a good fit, and planning a regime that ultimately never came to fruition after the New England Patriots offensive coordinator snubbed Indy in dramatic and embarrassing fashion.
Still, while their time together was short, it had a seismic impact on the Colts, who were left scrambling for a Plan B, weeks after most of their other candidates had been snapped up.
Five days after the McDaniels debacle, the Colts decided on Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, the man who had just finished off taking it to the same Patriots who convinced McDaniels his future was brighter in New England (a factor likely not lost on the Colts), and a man who stands in stark contrast to McDaniels.
McDaniels, himself, was an overcorrection by the Colts. Chuck Pagano led the Colts for six seasons, never wavering from his belief that a team can win on grit, toughness, and fighting together bravely as a unit - an old school-type mentality that undervalued talent, overvalued heart, and was mostly oblivious to the vast majority of modern football philosophies - especially on offense - that have become so key to winning in today's NFL.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard spent one season watching Indy consistently be out-thought and out-schemed by its opponents under Pagano, and decided the prickly but innovative McDaniels was the antidote.
It blew up in his face. McDaniels had already garnered a reputation for being arrogant and immature during his disastrous stint as the Denver Broncos' head coach, and proved himself just that by backing out of his deal with the Colts after it had already been officially announced.
But he was - and still is - an offensive mastermind whom the Colts hoped would drag the franchise into the 21st century. His expertise in play-calling, exploiting matchups, and simply being one step ahead of his opponents at every turn, learned and perfected under years of tutelage from Bill Belichick.
The Colts couldn't beat them, so they tried to join them, ignoring their usual high bar for the candidate's character in the process.
Indy didn't repeat the error the second time around. Reich deserves similar plaudits to McDaniels for his offensive prowess, but that's where the similarities end.
While the rumblings regarding McDaniels' character have followed him around throughout his career, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who'd say a bad word about Reich.
"The city should be thrilled," ex-Colts GM Bill Polian gushed Sunday night, according to Zak Keefer of the Indy Star. "Outside of Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard, I'm his biggest fan. He's unflappable. He's quiet. He's self-effacing. He's humble. He has a confidence in his own ability to do the job. That rubbed off on his teammates that day in Buffalo, and that will rub off on the players in Indianapolis."
Another Colts great showered Reich with praise Sunday:
And Indy's other two candidates during its second search confirmed their U-turn to high-character coaches. Leslie Frazier and Dan Campbell likely wouldn't have excited the fan base after a big prize like McDaniels, but they are two men who are well-respected and have strong standing around the league.
The Colts, clearly, saw how well strong emotional leadership and progressive schemes worked out for the Eagles under Doug Pederson this season and wanted a piece of the action.
For all the focus on Reich's character, it would be unfair to dimish his on-field accomplishments. He was the offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl winners, after all.
Still, Pederson was the one calling the plays and quarterbacks coach (and now Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator) John DeFilippo was the Sean McVay-type young stud who got the credit for turning Carson Wentz into an MVP in just his second season.
It's unclear how much of an impact Reich, for all his great personality traits, had on the Eagles' success.
The Colts went all-in on a high-reward/high-risk candidate and lost. They moved quickly and efficiently to find the next best thing in Reich, and are lucky such a candidate was still available this late.
However, it's clear the Colts course-corrected, and now the question becomes just how much. Maybe Reich will be Pederson. Maybe he'll make Colts fans forget the name Josh McDaniels. Or maybe Reich will be an offensive version of Pagano.
Only time will tell if the Colts will be sorry for going safe.
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