INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich on Monday held his 2019 season-ending press conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. What were the top takeaways from the session?
» The passing game — both offensively and defensively — needs improvement heading into 2020: While many factors went into the ups and downs of the Colts' 7-9 campaign in 2019, Reich pointed at one area specifically on offense and on defense that he feels needs the most attention for more consistent success moving forward: in the passing game.
On offense, the Colts' 194.3 passing yards per game ranked 30th in the league; they averaged just 6.5 yards per passing play, also ranking 30th, while their 59.8 completion percentage ranked 29th.
Reich said he can understand why some may look at those numbers and automatically point at the performance of quarterback Jacoby Brissett; but, to Reich, Brissett is just one of many aspects of the passing offense that must improve overall in 2020.
"I look at the struggles we've had in the passing game as they were team struggles – obviously primarily offense," Reich said. "That starts with coaching and certainly playing, personnel and all of that. It all gets evaluated. We've got to hold ourselves accountable. I mean, we know our fans want championship football. We are used to around here in this area of the country of knowing how to throw the football. So we are going to throw the football, OK? We will figure it out. We didn't do a good enough job this year. We will do better next year."
On the defensive side of the ball, Reich just wants more consistency. At times throughout the season the Colts showed they could rush the passer with great intensity and also make plenty of plays in the back end, but down the stretch the team struggled in both areas. The Colts allowed 248.9 passing yards per game, ranking 23rd, while their 7.5 yards-allowed-per-attempt figure ranked 22nd, but opposing quarterbacks completed 70.1 percent of their passes against the Indy defense, tied for the second-best mark in the league.
The Colts were about middle of the pack in terms of sacks (41; tied for 15th), meanwhile.
"I think where we're at is we have a lot of really good players and coaches trying to build the right system," Reich said. " (We) had some struggles this year, most of those struggles were in the passing game and all the factors that go into that.
"I think there was a good stretch where I felt our defense was playing really, really good football – not average football, like good football," Reich continued. "So I'm encouraged by that, but we have to take ownership of the bad as well."
» The Colts are giving Anthony Castonzo time to contemplate his future: The 31-year-old Colts left tackle in 2019 had perhaps his best overall season; he didn't miss a single snap and was named a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time in his career.
But now that the season is over and he's set to become a free agent once the league's new year begins in March, Castonzo revealed that he is considering all options moving forward — even the possibility of retirement.
"I've just got some thinking to do," Castonzo told reporters today. "You know, that's what it's going to come down to — it's going to be a decision that I make, and then you live with it."
Reich said the team will give Castonzo the time he needs to make that decision, but make no mistake: the Colts want him back at left tackle as soon as possible if he eventually decides to go down that route.
"I spoke with him this morning. I know Chris (Ballard) talked to him. We just made no bones about it: 'We want you as our left tackle. We are going to respect you and your decision to think about what you want to think about, but there is no one else we envision being our left tackle,'" Reich said. "We think he had an unbelievable year. I think he is the best left tackle in the league, I really do. I mean I think this guy is a stud player. I think he had his best year of his career and I am looking forward to hopefully getting him back.
"But he has not shared anything with me about what he is going to decide or how he is going to process through that decision," Reich added. "We all need a little space. We all need a little space, it's an emotional year."
» Reich has no regrets about the way the kicking situation was handled with Adam Vinatieri: Vinatieri sat out much of training camp and the preseason with a knee injury, but was able to return for the start of the regular season. But by Week 13, Vinatieri was struggling through the worst season of his 24-year NFL career, having converted just 17-of-25 field goals (68 percent) and 22-of-28 extra-point tries (78.6 percent), missing key kicks against the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans.
Vinatieri would be placed on injured reserve following that Titans game, and would undergo knee surgery a few days later. The team finished out the season with rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin, who converted 5-of-6 field goal attempts and all 11 extra-point tries in five games for the Colts.
Reich was asked today if he believed with a little bit of hindsight that the leash for Vinatieri might've been a bit too long throughout the season.
"No, I mean I really don't," Reich answered. "I wish it would've worked out better numbers wise. But when I look back on it – I think I am being pretty honest with myself – given all the factors, given his history, given what we were seeing out at practice and given the fact that he started out a little bit slow and got into a little bit of a groove for three or four games, he had earned it. I think he had earned it and I think he had earned the right to play that thing out until the end with the injury. So no I don't have any regrets on it."
» Jacoby Brissett will be held accountable "just like everybody else will be held accountable:" Back in August, following the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck, Reich showed extreme confidence in Brissett as the team's starting quarterback moving forward. Since that time, Brissett has led the team to a 5-2 start — and then he was also under center for most its 2-7 finish, missing one game, and a big chunk of another, with a knee injury.
In all, Brissett in 2019 completed 272-of-447 passes (60.9 percent) for 2,942 yards with 18 touchdowns to six interceptions for a passer rating of 88.0.
Reich was asked today if he's still all-in behind Brissett being their starting quarterback moving forward.
"Yeah, I look back at the year with Jacoby and, like I've said, there was a lot of good stuff," Reich said. "Does he need to get better? Yeah, he needs to get better. I just said I need to get better, Quenton (Nelson) needs to get better. Everybody needs to get better so we will go through the evaluation process with Jacoby just like we will go through it with everybody else. He'll be held accountable just like everybody else will be held accountable."