Nick Sirianni’s hiring as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach did not come as a surprise to Frank Reich.
The fourth-year Indianapolis Colts head coach always expected to lose his offensive coordinator to another franchise. It was only a matter of time.
“There’s very few people in this business who I think as highly of as I do Nick,” Reich said this week during a video conference call with media. “I just think he is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL. I think he’s got great coaching pedigree. I wish him the best of luck.”
Sirianni’s voice was important in the collaborative approach used to design the Colts’ offense, and his won’t be the only one missing next season. Reich hired six new coaches this offseason, most on the offensive side of the ball.
Passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo, tight ends coach Jason Michael and defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon joined Sirianni’s staff in Philadelphia, and running backs coach Tom Rathman retired. Indianapolis also lost assistant special teams coach Frank Ross to the Houston Texans and nearly lost assistant offensive line coach Klayton Adams to Arizona State.
Adams ultimately was promoted to replace Michael, and Hall of Fame center Kevin Mawae was hired to assist the offensive line. The other new hires were Joe Hastings (assistant special teams), Scott Milanovich (quarterbacks), Scottie Montgomery (running backs), James Rowe (cornerbacks) and Press Taylor (senior offensive assistant).
But it’s a returning face in a new role that’s likely to have the biggest impact. Marcus Brady was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator in another move Reich had long anticipated.
“Marcus is more than ready for the job,” Reich said. “I have the utmost confidence in him. I knew the day we got Marcus in the building he was ready, and I figured it would come to this. I knew Nick would eventually get a head (coaching) job pretty quickly because of the kind of coach he is, and there was never a doubt in my mind that Marcus would be the next man up and that he would be ready for the job.”
It was actually Milanovich – a fellow former Maryland quarterback – who recommended Brady to Reich for the quarterbacks coaching job in 2018. Milanovich and Brady spent significant time together coaching in the Canadian Football League, and that likely means the 2021 Colts offense will be more focused on spreading the field and stressing defenses horizontally as well as vertically.
The CFL was ahead of the American professional game in implementing the now ubiquitous run-pass options, and the wider field up north allows for offensive creativity. Add in a more athletic quarterback in Carson Wentz – who will officially join the roster when a trade with the Eagles is completed March 17 – and it’s likely Indianapolis’ offense will have a few new dimensions next fall.
That’s nothing out of the ordinary, of course, for a team that will be starting its fourth different quarterback in as many seasons.
“We have had to adapt (the offense) year to year, but that has been easy to do because we have had good quarterbacks, and we have had good quarterback play,” Reich said. “As you go forward, this idea of the importance of running the football and having a dynamic play-action game that can get chunks down the field – there are different ways to do that. One conventional way is say, hey, get a quarterback who is more mobile and you get more nakeds and more bootlegs and he’s a threat to run.”
For as many changes as are expected on offense, Reich was extremely happy to see defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus return.
The highly respected assistant coach interviewed for the Texans’ top job and was the subject of speculation throughout the early part of the offseason.
But Eberflus will be back to run the defense for the fourth straight year, and that should help a young unit continue to grow.
“I think the world of Matt as a coach, as a person, as a defensive coordinator — that we can just keep building and have the continuity and just keep building, growing and adapting the system to our players,” Reich said. “I’ve just seen Flus continue to grow and develop in that role as well, really connecting with players, making a conscious effort every week to put our players in the best position possible. I think he is extremely intelligent, very focused in on a vision for how he sees the defense executing and where we want to be as a defense.”