ORLANDO, Fla. — In Frank Reich's introductory press conference as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he laid out the overall plan for his offense, which will feature a much more aggressive, fast-paced approach than Colts offenses in recent years.
But a huge part of that plan, Reich said this week from NFL's annual meetings in Orlando, Fla., will be a concerted effort to, for the most part, get the ball out of the quarterback's hand as quickly as possible, too.
Now, that doesn't mean the Colts won't be going for deep plays down the field, as well. But, in general, Reich said one of the best ways to ensure solid pass protection is to cut down on the time the ball is in the quarterback's hands, which is something he'll be working on with Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and the rest of the team's signal callers in the coming weeks when they report for the offseason program.
"Protecting the quarterback has always been my philosophy as far as starting in the pass game," Reich told reporters at Tuesday's AFC/NFC coaches breakfast. "I mean, it starts up front with the offensive line and the running backs on the protection piece of it — I mean, you've got to protect the quarterback. And it is really the whole unit, so that involves scheming to get the ball out quicker, that involves the quarterback making sure he gets the ball out quick."
Last season, Brissett — playing in place of Luck, who missed the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery — took, on average, about 2.89 seconds per attempted pass. That was the sixth-most time to throw among all NFL quarterbacks who attempted at least 128 pass attempts, according to NFL Next Gen Stats (plays in which sacks were recorded are excluded).
Carson Wentz — the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, where Reich served as offensive coordinator the past two seasons — took 2.72 seconds to throw, meanwhile, ranking 15th.
Doesn't seem like much a difference? Well, it is — and it oftentimes comes down to the timing between a quarterback and his pass catchers to really get things down pat.
"(Geting the ball out quick) ensures that the receivers are getting to where they're supposed to get on time," Reich said.
So does that mean the Colts, with Reich calling the plays, are going to, as he says "dink and dunk" their way down the field? Perhaps at some points of some games, he said, but "you can't have 12-play drives all the time, week in and week out."
So that means that, along with getting the ball out quicker, Reich will depend upon Luck and the offense to execute when the "explosive plays" are there for the taking.
It's a nice balance that Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni are looking forward to figuring out over the next few months as they prepare for their first season in Indy.
"The analogy that I like to use is a boxing analogy. A lot of jabs, stick and move, and then here comes the big punch," Reich said. " And when you keep them off balance with the jab and you set up the big one, that's the way it works best and that's what we'll try to do."