INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich today conducted a video conference call with members of the local media. What did he have to say about quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett, new defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, how the team is handling stay-at-home restrictions and more?
Here are some quick takeaways from the session, which you can listen to in its entirety above:
» A "crazy unique opportunity" led to the Colts being able to sign quarterback Philip Rivers: The Colts were already going to be fully evaluating the play of every position from the 2019 season, but when Reich learned Rivers was going to be hitting the free agent market this offseason after spending the first 16 seasons of his career with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, it didn't take much to envision the eight-time Pro Bowler leading the Indy offense.
While the Colts did their homework on every quarterback that was expected to be available this offseason — yes, including Tom Brady, Reich said — it was the familiarity with Rivers from Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and tight ends coach Jason Michael's previous stop with the Chargers that made Rivers their No. 1 target.
Reich, Sirianni and Rivers worked together for three seasons with the Chargers from 2013-15 when Reich was quarterbacks coach, and then offensive coordinator, while Sirianni was an offensive quality control coach before being promoted to quarterbacks coach.
During that time, Reich said Rivers proved time and time again that he is among the "elite" NFL quarterbacks.
"He's incredibly unselfish. He's very team oriented," Reich said of Rivers. "He can think so fast on his feet, it's crazy — another level. I saw as a quarterback he has elite accuracy — elite accuracy. ... As much as anything, he's a great teammate."
On March 21, Rivers officially put pen to paper on a reported one-year deal to become the Colts' new quarterback.
» Reich believes Rivers, at 38, hasn't lost a thing in terms of physical ability: While there has been some outside chatter about the prospects of signing a guy like Rivers who is nearing 40 years old and is coming off an up-and-down season in which he threw 23 touchdowns to 20 interceptions for a passer rating of 88.5, Reich knows the film doesn't lie.
And when Reich popped in Rivers' 2019 game film, he saw a quarterback still playing at a high level, and someone that he believes can get back to thriving in his playbook with the Colts this season.
"I was so confident that physically he was the right player, and that he had not lost anything," Reich said. "All the throws I saw on film … I really didn't notice any physical gifts diminishing — I really didn't."
Reich said it won't take long at all for Rivers to catch up to speed to the Colts' playbook and general schemes, considering most of it is the same stuff they were running with the Chargers.
» Jacoby Brissett is still considered a major part of the team's plans: Having been in his shoes as an NFL quarterback, Reich completely understood Brissett's disappointment when he learned the team was going to be bringing in Rivers to take over the starting job.
But Reich is also confident that Brissett will continue being a key team leader moving forward, much like he was in 2018, when he was completely embraced by the locker room and the coaching staff as Andrew Luck's backup.
And just because he's not the starter, Reich hinted at the possibility of Brissett still being utilized from time to time. While Brissett isn't Lamar Jackson in terms of his speed, Reich said, he still has "unique gifts" and is "hard to bring down," which could lead to a package or two in the playbook that could result in five to seven snaps a game to keep the opposing defense on its toes.
But Brissett's main job will be to continue to be ready to go and preparing to be the starter each week. Reich said Brissett is without a doubt a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL, and recent history has proven how valuable it is to have those guys on your roster when your starter goes down.
"When you look at a lot of championship teams, to me, you better have a winning backup quarterback," Reich said. "And we have that in Jacoby."
» Trading the 13th-overall pick to acquire defensive tackle DeForest Buckner was a "no brainer" move: Reich told a quick story about being on the Colts' coaching staff in 2009 or 2010 when Tony Dungy, who had retired a couple years prior, came back to hold a clinic with the Indy coaches.
One of the main points of Dungy's talk that day was the value of having a dominant three-tech in the interior of your defensive line. Dungy had somewhat recent experience to go off, having coached future Hall of Fame Warren Sapp in that three-tech spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So when Colts general manager Chris Ballard approach Reich about the idea of trading the team's first-round (13th-overall) pick to the San Francisco 49ers in order to acquire All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, Reich said he was immediately on board.
"Knowing what we had in the works with Philip (Rivers), I was 100 percent behind it," Reich said. "This was a no-brainer for us. … This was the right move the whole way."
Reich considers Buckner to be one of the "elite" three-techs in the NFL, and his first four years in the NFL have proven that to be true.
A 6-foot-7, 295-pound Oregon product, Buckner — turned just 26 years old recently — has started all 63 games in which he's competed since being selected by the 49ers with the seventh-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Over than span, Buckner, a team captain for the 49ers, has collected 262 career tackles (38 for a loss) with 28.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, seven fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. He also has one fumble recovery for a touchdown and six career multiple-sack games.
Buckner was a huge piece to the 49ers NFC Championship team in 2019; named an Associated Press Second-Team All-Pro selection, he finished the season with 61 tackles (nine for a loss) with 7.5 sacks, two passes defensed, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He was also named the recipient of the 2019 Bill Walsh Award, which is voted on by the coaching staff and given to the 49er who best represented the standard of professional excellence established by Walsh.
» The Colts will do whatever it takes to remain productive if and when the offseason program can begin: Players were scheduled to report to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center for the start of the offseason workout program April 20, but the social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions put into place across the country due to the COVID-19 health emergency have forced the Colts and teams across the league to figure out ways to run an audible on how they conduct their offseason programs.
Reich said the league hasn't given final word about when offseason programs, even remotely, can begin, but as of now the Colts are working off the assumption that the players will be able to start participating in some way or fashion beginning on that April 20 date.
Reich and Ballard have "talked a ton" about how to try to move forward with team-related meetings and communication this offseason. The team's coaching and scouting staffs have already been having video conference meetings on Zoom, and Reich told his coaches that they need to learn to take advantage of the technology to get the most out of it moving forward.
"We're working through that," Reich said. "What does that look like? How good can we get at Zoom?
"Hey — you've got to become experts at this stuff," Reich told his staff.