ORLANDO, Fla. — While Frank Reich has been in Orlando, Fla., this week for NFL's annual meetings, the members of his coaching staff, for the first time in quite a while, finally got an opportunity to get out of the building and spend some quality time with family and friends.
For the past month, the new Indianapolis Colts coaching staff has been logging long hours at the team's West 56th Street facility, where playing catch-up has been the priority after getting a late start to the offseason due to factors out of anybody's control.
When you're in the moment and you're grinding away, it might be hard to see the big picture of what you're doing as a staff. But this week, with an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on his first few weeks as the Colts' head coach, Reich said there's no doubt in his mind that the staff he has in place is meshing just the way he envisioned.
"Typically in the offseason when you're a new staff, you work longer hours than if you're a staff that's been there. So I think our guys have been in there long hours for the time that we've been there and making the most of that opportunity on different levels — like you said, when we're together as a complete staff, as offensive unit, defensive unit, special teams guys working," Reich told reporters Tuesday at the AFC/NFC coaches breakfast. "So that's a cool thing about this business: everybody kind of gets this profession. Guys are wired in a way that, 'Hey, we're used to this. This is kind of the culture and the work environment that we're used to working in and thriving in.' So I think that's happening."
Reich, who was hired Feb. 11, already had three coaches — defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and defensive line coach Mike Phair — on board, while the team has also retained the likes of pass rush consultant Robert Mathis, assistant strength and conditioning coach Richard Howell and sports science/conditioning coach Ryan Podell.
But, from there, Reich — hired a week after the Super Bowl, when many staffs for the 2018 season would've already been in place — had to fill about 15 spots on his staff, knowing that while he wanted to ensure he got the best candidates in place, timing was also a bit of a factor.
Most of all, however, Reich said he was looking for three things in particular when filling each spot on his staff.
"One was wanting guys on the field that could coach the fundamentals and technique. I just think that's foundationally important," Reich said. "Secondly, kind of the innovation part of it was a big part of it; we want to be creative and stay ahead.
"And then, third, just have the toughness and the team mentality that we're going to be looking for. It's not just a player thing; I think that's got to exude from the coaches as well."
By Feb. 27, the Colts announced they had finalized the coaching staff, and since that time, they haven't really stopped in their quest to install brand new schemes on offense and defense, get on the same page with the personnel staff about the types of players they want on the roster as well as just simply getting to know each other on a personal and a professional level.
The next big step — other than continuing to prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft, which kicks off April 26 — is the start of the team's offseason workout program on April 9. While the players won't be able to participate in any activities other than lifting and conditioning work the first couple weeks, the coaches are eagerly anticipating the chance to get their hands on the players, install the offense and the defense and start the process of preparing for the 2018 season.
And, to Reich, the more younger players his staff can get his hands on, the better. Veterans are always welcomed leaders, but being able to develop young talent is something at which Reich thinks his staff will excel.
"Really, that's what we desire — you know, get a young team, we're starting fresh, use that fresh start, bring in young players, have a chance to develop them," Reich said. "(I'm) really excited about the staff that's been hired. Really good teachers and football coaches who understand what we're trying to do and truly be able to develop the player and equip players by putting them in position, teaching them what we're trying to do. Obviously there's some advantages to having some veterans, but when you get these young guys in we're all starting new together, so let's use that to our advantage. And I think that's the plan."