With a record of 3-4-1, some may be surprised to know that this is some of the worst football that the Colts have ever played. Frank Reich is once again contributing to the downfall of this team. He is an offensive minded coach with a terrible offense and dismal play calling. However, outside of their offensive blunders, the Colts' defense and special teams looks really strong. Additionally, there is hope that their quarterback struggles can be eased in the draft.
What's wrong with the Colts?
With Frank Reich being an offensive minded coach, the offense should not still be a recurring issue for this Colts team in his 5th year with the team. While the offense has improved in the past two weeks, the Colts are 30th in points per game with an abysmal 16.1 ppg.
The struggles begin and end with the offensive line. Their inability to pass block for Matt Ryan or run block for 2021 Rushing Leader Jonathan Taylor prevents any reliable production. The Colts offensive line is 31st in Pass Block Win Rate and 23rd in Run Block Win Rate. The Colts have the most expensive offensive line across the league and still can’t provide sufficient blocking for Jonathan Taylor, who is a massive threat in the open field.
Even when the offensive line blocked effectively, Matt Ryan has been dreadful. He fumbled the ball 11 times through the first five games of the season.
Two weeks ago, the offense looked better while running a hurry up offense, but Matt Ryan threw away two promising drives with careless interceptions. One of those led to the Titans’ only touchdown. While many blame Wentz for the Colts’ downfall last year, he was able to at least extend plays with his legs when the offensive line struggled. This is one of the many things that Matt Ryan has failed to do.
Matt Ryan is just another below average quarterback in a long line of single year quarterbacks. The Colts seemed to have noticed Ryan’s flaws and have decided as of October 24th that Sam Ehlinger will now be the starting quarterback for the rest of the year. This may not solve all of the Colts’ problems, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. Ehlinger had a promising opener, using his mobility to extend plays, but his fumble was costly and led to the Colts losing at the end of the 4th quarter.
A possible option is to focus on a rebuild. In this scenario, the Colts could pick one of many promising college quarterbacks.
C.J Stroud - Potential Heisman Candidate; Favorite to win the 2022 Heisman Trophy; 70.6 comp %, 2,023 yards and 248 TD; He leads the Big Ten in Yardage.
Bryce Young - 2021 Heisman; 66.1 comp %, 1,906 yards and 18 touchdowns. He led the Crimson Tide in a 10-point fourth quarter comeback against Texas. He threw for 455 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Tennessee.
Hendon Hooker - 71 comp %, 2,093 yards and 18 touchdowns. His best performance was against Alabama where he threw for 385 yards and five touchdowns in a win against the #1 ranked team at the time.
Defense Doing Well
While the offense has been struggling significantly, the other two phases of the team, which have less influence from Frank Reich, have actually been performing well. Pro Bowler Shaquille Leonard has missed the first three games due to having a back surgery in June. In his absence, the defense has stepped up.
Particularly, in their Thursday Night win against the Broncos, they allowed only 9 points and had many massive plays by the secondary. Specifically, Stephon Gillmore stepped up with a key interception when Denver was threatening late in the 4th quarter to take a 2-score lead. Additionally, in overtime, he had a pass deflection on 4th & 1 to ice the game. The defense has solidified itself as a top 10 defense that allows points mostly on the offense's blunders.
Stellar Special Teams
The Special Teams have been stellar as well. After a tough start with Rodrigo Blankenship missing a game winner in the opening game of the season, Chase Mclaughlin has been an exceptional replacement. He has made 13 of 14 field goals, including four from beyond 50 yards, which is where Blankenship struggled. Blankenship was only 1 for 4 from beyond 50 yards.
After Rigoberto Sanchez, the Colts starting punter, suffered an Achilles injury in preseason, many were concerned that the Colts top tier special teams would suffer. Matt Haak has filled his shoes pretty well. While he does not have the power that other punters have, he has successfully landed nearly 50% of his punts within the 20 yard line. This past week, he really showed up with an average of 56.8 yards, including two punts that exceed 60 yards.
Outside play calling, the most important part of a coach's job is making 4th down decisions, which Frank Reich has been notoriously bad at. The Colts are 3rd at Win Probability Lost by kicking in go-for-it situations on 4th Down. Go-for-it situations are described as situations where the win probability gained by going for it is more than 1%. Thus, he is costing this Colts team when it matters most, 4th Down.
This Colts team derives its success from their defense and special teams, which is not Frank Reich's focus. He is an offensive minded coach who plays too aggressive with an incompetent offense. He managed to win only 9 games with a running back who rushed over 100 yards per game last year.
Nathan Ensley is a freshman majoring in informatics at IUPUI and photographer for The Campus Citizen. He has a strong interest in sports, photography, and mathematics. He is also a lifelong fan of the Indianapolis Colts.
Avi Sarkar is a junior majoring in journalism at IUPUI and staff writer for The Campus Citizen.