INDIANAPOLIS —There are still walkthrough practices going on at the Indianapolis Colts' facility, despite the fact the players aren't — and can't be — present.
Head coach Frank Reich said this week that with his all of his coaches now in place, the offensive and defensive staffs either have been or will be conducting walkthrough-like sessions out on the practice field as they begin to formulate and familiarize themselves with their new schemes and approaches.
New Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has already taken his guys out on the field for training sessions, while Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni are planning on doing the same with their coaches as soon as possible, Reich told Colts.com's Caroline Cann in a Q&A this week at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With free agency starting in a couple weeks, and with the Colts continuing to build their board heading into the NFL Draft in late-April, Reich said the next couple weeks are key in his staff's development heading into the 2018 season.
"Two things: one is start working real hard on the free agency piece, the unrestricted free agency piece, and then the draft pice. So that kind of evaluation piece of getting players there, that's the one side," Reich said. "And then the other side is, as a staff, kind of going through and installing our offense amongst ourself. So we're kind of going through an exercise right now — you know, Matt's doing it with the defense where he's taking the defensive staff, they watch the tape, they install the defense, they go out on the field and walk it through as coaches. We do the same thing offensively; we're just probably a week behind them, because the offensive staff got hired a little bit later. So that's the second piece that we're working on."
Here's the entirety of this week's Q&A session with the first-year Colts head coach:
On Reich's first two-plus weeks on the job, and what he's been able to accomplish so far:
"It's been a great two weeks. Because one of the things, in sitting down with Chris Ballard early, a vision that we shared: this is all about the people. And, so really, for us as the coaches, it's about our staff and our players. So to be able to sit down and interview these guys and vet everybody out — this was a big decision, and it was one that we took our time on; wanted to make sure we got the right guys in the building, and I believe we accomplished that."
On always wanting to bring on Nick Sirianni as his offensive coordinator if he ever became a head coach, and if there were other coaches brought on staff who were under that same category:
"I think there's a number of those that you think (that); sometimes those guys are available, and sometimes they're not. I was really glad we could get Nick, and I thank the Chargers organization and Anthony Lynn for letting him go, because they knew what they had there (with) Nick. But it was a great opportunity for him, and it's really good for us and for Colts fans, because Nick's a really bright, young coach, and couldn't be happier to have him."
On what fans will notice about his new coaching staff:
"Yeah, we tried to get a mix of young and old, and different experiences. Like, for example: some of the success, some of the things I've learned since having coached here with Peyton (Manning) back in the day, and then going on to San Diego and then to Philadelphia in the last couple years, really getting some experience in the RPO (run-pass option) world. So we wanted to make sure that on our staff we had a couple guys who had extensive RPO experience and expertise to kind of help us build that piece. So I think that's what we're looking for: a mix of guys who are good-character guys we can collaborate together to put the players in the best position."
On how he'd evaluate the returning Colts players and how they factor in moving forward:
"It's good. Because what you're thinking is, 'OK, here's what we're going to do offensively. So how does this piece, how does this guy, fit? How does this guy fit?' So you start doing the math on those things. And then knowing the defensive scheme that we're going to run, the same thing. And that's exciting. That's exciting, to be quite honest, because at the end of the day, schemes are important — you don't want to minimize them — but, really, this game is all about the players. So we have a lot of good pieces in place, and we'll continue to build that through the draft primarily, and then strategically in free agency if something works out."
On wanting to get over the injury bug and seeing this Colts roster at full-strength in 2018:
"No doubt. I mean, really the whole team. Because, like you said, we all know as Colts fans that last year, kind of one of the mantras, one of the storylines, was, you know, in games, a lot in the fourth quarter, and then just not quite being able to finish. So you've just got to believe and think that a kind of new, fresh approach, let's get a little bit healthier, add one or two more pieces, and all of a sudden, a 4-12 season can be turned around really, really quick."
On the task of trying to replace the leadership void left by running back Frank Gore, who will not likely return to the Colts in 2018:
"Quite honestly, that's hard to replace. And so, what happens is it gets filled in at a couple spots — until somebody else rises up to take that role. But even though I wasn't here last year with Frank, it doesn't matter — I already know all about Frank. It doesn't matter: everybody knows about Frank. He's a unique person and player. And that's part of the reality of this business, and out of respect for Frank, Chris had that conversation with him. So other guys are going to have to step up into that leadership role, and that's what it'll take."
On how he manages the approach with general manager Chris Ballard of trying to relay what kind of players on his roster:
"Well, first of all, you're right: it is uncomfortable in a sense of, most coaches are a little bit control freaks, right? And you want to have your hands on everything. But, you know, Chris Ballard is the best, and he has the reputation for being the best as an evaluator. I've seen in two weeks that his leadership is off-the-charts strong. And so, one of the things that really was attractive to me is even as we came in, his comment was, 'Hey, this will collaborative, but we've got the roster, we'll work together,' but I feel a great degree of confidence in what they're doing, and we can slowly build that collaborative effort."
On working with Ballard and his staff to get players to fit his coaching staff's schemes:
"So here's the good news: the good news is on defense, since we hired a defensive coordinator who already runs a scheme (that) Chris has (already) drafted and signed players to that scheme in Chicago, so that's a huge benefit. So he knows the pieces. Now, offensively, now it's a question of us communicating with him, 'Hey, here's the kind of players that fit our offense,' and that process has started. We had a meeting the other day with Chris and all his staff and all his scouts to talk about, offensively, defensively, special teams, 'Here's what we're going to do. Here's the offense we're going to run. Here's the kind of players we need,' just to be able to have that dialogue and go back and forth."
On if he's had a chance to slow things down, even for a little bit, since taking the job:
"You know what? I'm not good at relaxing. So I kind of like the fast pace, and it's doing OK."
On what is ahead for the Colts' coaching staff the next couple of weeks:
"Two things: one is start working real hard on the free agency piece, the unrestricted free agency piece, and then the draft pice. So that kind of evaluation piece of getting players there, that's the one side. And then the other side is, as a staff, kind of going through and installing our offense amongst ourself. So we're kind of going through an exercise right now — you know, Matt's doing it with the defense where he's taking the defensive staff, they watch the tape, they install the defense, they go out on the field and walk it through as coaches. We do the same thing offensively; we're just probably a week behind them, because the offensive staff got hired a little bit later. So that's the second piece that we're working on."
On the fact the players will be returning to the building for the start of the offseason workout program on April 2:
"And that's good news, because every coach will tell you that there's that period from after the season until when the players get back in that there's a lot that needs to be done, but when the players walk back in, there's just a different energy in the building. And that's kind of what keeps you young; it's kind of what makes it fun, because when they get in the building, you really start competing again. You want to get out there throwing the ball around, playing football, and it's good it's right around the corner."
A fun behind the scenes look at an exclusive interview with Frank Reich at the 2018 NFL Combine.