INDIANAPOLIS —Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich on Tuesday spoke to reporters at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. What were the main takeaways on how he approaches evaluating prospects, his full evaluations from the 2019 season, changes to the coaching staff and much more?
— The Colts' coaching staff has taken on a "hyper critical" self-evaluation of the 2019 season: During the regular season, when the focus shifts so quickly from one opponent to the next, it can be difficult to take a step back and completely evaluate from a big-picture perspective what's really working — and what's not working.
But when the calendar turned to 2020, Reich and his coaching staff really took advantage of the opportunity to throw on the tape and take that macro-level view of everything, from gameplans to playcalls to personnel.
"Now, when we go back and watch all the tape and all the film, we're hyper-critical of every coach, every player," Reich said. "I'm sitting in there with Nick (Sirianni) and I'm like, 'That was a bad call,' or 'I don't even know why we had that play in the gameplan,' or, 'What's that player doing there?' 'Why did we mess that up?' 'Why did we make that throw?' 'How did we miss that block?' It all gets evaluated, and not for the purpose of tearing down, but to get better."
Take the quarterback position, for example: Reich still believes Jacoby Brissett did lots of good things as the team's starter last season, but also appreciates Brissett's ability to handle points of criticism — all in the name of improvement.
"I just had a conversation with Jacoby the other day — I like to check in with the guys — checked in with Jacoby, and you talk about those things," Reich said. "I love the culture we've created in our building where guys want to get better, they know it's competitive. I think Jacoby did a lot of good things in unusual circumstances, just looking forward to him continuing to get better.
"We all know what he stands for," Reich continued on Brissett. "He's a stand-up guy, he'll take responsibility. We all know that it's not on the quarterback, even when things go bad. It's very complex, but what I love about Jacoby is he takes ownership for his part."
— Reich is understandably "very excited" about left tackle Anthony Castonzo's decision to return for a 10th season in 2020: Castonzo, an unrestricted free agent to be, said at the end of the season that he was going to take some time to decide between returning to Indy in 2020 or possibly even retiring.
On Tuesday, general manager Chris Ballard announced that Castonzo decided to pursue the former.
It was news Reich was hoping he'd be hearing.
"Yeah that's good news, isn't it?" Reich said. "I think he had his best year of his career last year, and (am) very excited to have him back."
Castonzo in 2019 was named a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time in his career; what makes him special, Reich said, is his ability to take on some of the toughest tasks off the edge on his own without help, allowing the offense to utilize running backs and other blockers in more ideal roles.
"That was such good news for us," Reich said of Castonzo's decision to return. "I mean, at that position, I don't take it for granted: every week when we're in our protection gameplan, you guys know, I've said this before, as an offensive playcaller and gameplanner you've gotta think, 'I don't have to worry about chip-helping Anthony Castonzo. He can handle whoever it is over there one-on-one.' I can't even begin to explain what a huge advantage that is schematically in the pass game not to have to help protect him all the time. So, good we have him back."
— Reich says the Colts have hired "one of the best receiver coaches in the NFL" in Mike Groh: The team recently announced it had hired Groh as wide receivers coach, while Kevin Patullo, who served in that role the last couple seasons, will now take on a role as pass game specialist.
Reich and Groh have history — and a recent track record of success — together: they won a Super Bowl title as offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach, respectively, with the Philadelphia Eagles back in the 2017 season.
"We talk about, 'Hey, we come to the Combine, we get more players to get more competitive.' This was free agency — Mike Groh became available," Reich said. "Mike and I were on a team that went to the Super Bowl together; I was the offensive coordinator, Mike was the primary guy that was helping me. And Mike's one of the best receiver coaches in the NFL, period, and I saw that first-hand. I'm really excited that he's here."
As for Patullo, his role shifts to more of a gameplanning specialist who can get out ahead of opposing defenses.
"It really worked out well, because it fits Kevin Patullo's mix, because Kevin's been a quarterbacks coach and he has a great relationship with Nick (Sirianni) and (on) the gameplanning side has good college experience in the RPO world," Reich said. "So now we work him into a pass game specialist-kind of role, (it) gives us more man hours to gameplan and be creative and stay ahead of defenses."