Frank Reich

Coaching Rumors: Colts, Broncos, Reich

Jeff Saturday is now overseeing a staff full of Frank Reich assistants, but the surprising Colts HC hire is not currently looking to add any new personnel to his staff for this audition. Rumors of Jim Irsay‘s Saturday hire frustrating current Colts staffers surfaced last week, and while Saturday bucking the recent trend by seeing his interim tag turn into a full-time post would likely mean a host of new assistants in 2023, Reich’s group will be the one in place for the rest of this season.

I like the group; I like the support they give each other. They’re in clearly defined roles,” Saturday said. “And I’m happy with where they are. Bringing somebody in, trying to learn an entire process or how we’ve done things? I like where the guys are, so I don’t anticipate that. I’m not guaranteeing it, but in my head I haven’t even had a chance to get that far. I’m just trying to get Week 2 under my belt.”

Saturday stopping short of shutting down the prospect of outside staffers coming in is interesting, but considering how off the board his hire was, it would not surprise to see the new Colts HC consider bringing in some staffers while he is in charge. Here is the latest from the coaching scene:

  • Scott Milanovich confirmed recent reports he turned down an opportunity to be the Colts’ play-caller. The veteran assistant, who is in his second season as Indianapolis’ quarterbacks coach, said (via The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, on Twitter) “Ultimately, it just wasn’t the right situation, I don’t think, for me at the time and the and the team.” Milanovich called plays in the CFL and as an interim OC with the Jaguars four years ago. Both he and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery are set to be involved with game-planning going forward, but assistant QBs coach Parks Frazier will be the voice in Matt Ryan‘s helmet going forward.
  • The OC Milanovich succeeded in Jacksonville in 2018, Nathaniel Hackett continues to oversee a disappointing Broncos season. After picking up a win in London, Denver reverted to its pattern of sluggish second halves in Tennessee. Although injuries have steadily depleted Hackett’s offense, the unit is averaging a league-low 14.6 points per game and also struggled when more of its starters were healthy. Some of George Paton‘s peers are advocating for the second-year GM to be proactive with this coaching situation, per Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post, to better ensure he will stay on the job. Hackett hit the one-and-done radar stunningly early, but Paton’s status has not come up as much. Like Hackett, Paton was hired before the team’s new ownership arrived. While Paton has fared well in key aspects since taking the job in 2021, the Hackett-Russell Wilson partnership not working out has undoubtedly affected his perception.
  • Nick Sirianni spent three seasons as the Colts’ OC and worked with Frank Reich with the Chargers as well. The current Eagles HC did not shoot down the idea of Reich joining Philly’s staff, likely in a consultant-type role, via EJ Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer. This would not only make sense for Sirianni, but Reich had a rather notable Eagles stay previously, being the OC on staff during the Birds’ Super Bowl LII-winning campaign.
  • Former Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon pleaded guilty to a domestic battery charge stemming from a May incident, according to ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss, who adds the longtime NFL staffer received a suspended one-year prison sentence. An Indiana judge instead gave Saxon, 56, one year of probation. The Cardinals placed Saxon on administrative leave in August; he resigned from the team last month. Saxon, who was on Kliff Kingsbury‘s staff since 2019, spent 23 years as an NFL assistant.

Colts Execs Attempted To Dissuade Jim Irsay From Jeff Saturday Hire

Of the 43 interim head coaches hired this century, the Colts’ Jeff Saturday move generated by far the most attention. Saturday’s inexperience headlined last week’s NFL news cycle, and high-ranking Colts staffers aimed to convince Jim Irsay to go in a different direction.

Both GM Chris Ballard and team president Pete Ward expressed reservations about Irsay’s plan to hire Saturday, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Others joined Ballard, who is in his sixth year as GM, and Ward, who has been with the Colts since before their 1984 Indianapolis move, in advising against the decision. But Irsay steadfastly pulled the trigger on Saturday, who is now 1-0 as Colts HC.

Irsay called Saturday during the Colts’ Week 9 loss to the Patriots, discussing the team’s protections. That discussion led to an offer to become Indianapolis’ interim HC. Had Saturday not accepted the job, Irsay would not have fired Frank Reich, Zak Keefer of The Athletic notes (subscription required). That points to Irsay’s conviction on the inexperienced coach while also revealing an obvious lack of desire to promote one of Reich’s assistants to the post.

[RELATED: Irsay Reaffirms Commitment To Ballard For 2023]

Some of Reich’s assistants have expressed displeasure with Irsay’s call, and it is safe to say the Colts’ staff will look considerably different next season. Following last week’s report of quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich turning down the opportunity to call plays, Rapoport and Pelissero confirm as much and note the Colts’ play-calling offer did not include any adjustments to his current contract. Milanovich, a former Grey Cup-winning head coach, has been Indy’s QBs coach since 2021, when the team promoted Marcus Brady to replace Nick Sirianni. The Colts fired Brady earlier this season.

Milanovich and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery — each of whom having play-calling experience, though most of it coming outside the NFL — will play a big role in game-planning, Saturday said. But Parks Frazier has made the unusual leap from assistant QBs coach to play-caller.

Saturday also had the freedom to bench Sam Ehlinger and reinstall Matt Ryan as the starter, a choice Irsay does not appear to have made available for Reich. The five-year Colts HC did not back the Irsay-driven pivot to Ehlinger, and Keefer adds the players were not behind the Ryan benching as well. Despite Ryan’s nine interceptions and 11 fumbles through seven games, Keefer notes the Colts’ roster viewed the veteran as the player who gave the team its best chance to win. Recovered from his shoulder injury, Ryan received first-team reps during Colts practice last week, Keefer tweets.

The Colts did enjoy the opportunity of facing a Raiders defense that has slipped from below average — under current Colts DC Gus Bradley — in 2021 to one of the league’s worst units. Las Vegas ranks 28th in both points allowed and total defense. The Colts still entered Week 10 as underdogs, and their Saturday-Frazier-Ryan direction nevertheless led to a victory. Moving to 4-5-1, the Colts remain a fringe AFC contender — record-wise, at least — and outings like Sunday’s will provide ammunition for Irsay’s hope of Saturday sticking around beyond 2022.

No interim HC has been retained since Doug Marrone kept the Jaguars’ reins, after the team fired Bradley, in 2016. Saturday moving into position to buck this trend would add to the scrutiny engulfing the Colts, but it is safe to say traditional norms regarding interim HCs do not apply here. This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting interim stretches in modern NFL history.

Scott Milanovich Turned Down Colts’ Play-Calling Duties?

Jim Irsay‘s unusual decision to name Jeff Saturday as his team’s interim head coach has not been well-received around the league. Among Frank Reich‘s holdover staffers, a fair amount of unrest has emerged.

Saturday is going with assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier as his offensive play-caller in Week 10, but Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post reports Frazier was not the first choice. QBs coach Scott Milanovich, a former Jaguars play-caller who helmed the Toronto Argonauts to a Grey Cup as head coach in 2012, turned down the chance to call plays.

Milanovich called plays in Canada and for a short stretch with the Jaguars. He has been on Reich’s staff since last year. While Frazier has been with the Colts since Reich’s 2018 arrival, the 30-year-old does not have play-calling experience and was on the quality control level as recently as 2020. The Colts also have former East Carolina HC and Maryland OC Scottie Montgomery on staff as running backs coach; Montgomery was on the Panthers’ OC radar this offseason.

[RELATED: Reich Aiming For Another HC Job]

Irsay’s decision to hire Saturday has caused tumult among staffers and players, according to La Canfora, who adds Matt Ryan and other veterans were “irate” when informed of the Reich-for-Saturday swap. Some vets have said they do not want to play for the team any longer, though the trade deadline having passed limits players’ options. GM Chris Ballard, whom Irsay said was not in danger of being canned, told players the Saturday decision came “directly from the owner.” Irsay made that plain with his comments this week.

Irsay being behind the firing of offensive coordinator Marcus Brady is not surprising, but La Canfora notes the owner overruled Reich on quarterback selection. Reich did not view Sam Ehlinger as ready to play, and although the since-fired HC did not want to bench the struggling Ryan, he would have gone to Nick Foles before Ehlinger. Reich said this offseason he had wanted to acquire Foles in previous years. Prior to Ehlinger replacing Ryan, he moved past Foles as Indy’s QB2. It does not appear Reich backed that move.

The Colts are 0-2 with the 2021 sixth-round pick starting, and although Ehlinger drew praise from Reich, some around the league believe the Colts are tanking with their Saturday-Ehlinger-Frazier strategy. Irsay vehemently pushed back on that notion (via The Athletic’s Bob Kravitz), but the Colts — who also traded Nyheim Hines‘ through-2024 contract to the Bills at the deadline — will be far less experienced in key spots when they face the Raiders on Sunday.

That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard, that we’re tanking,” Irsay said. “That’s bulls—. We’re in this thing; 9-7-1 get us in, no question about it. … We’re not tanking the season. Whoever says these things, that we’re not playing Matt because [of an effort to tank], that’s all bulls—. That’s not true. … We’re going to do what it takes to win. I don’t know who people think we are, they don’t know us. We don’t tank in Indianapolis.”

Irsay also said, via Kravitz, Ryan could play again this year. Previously, the thought was Reich’s 2023 injury guarantee will keep him sidelined. Ryan has missed time with a shoulder injury, but upon switching to Ehlinger, Reich said the move was not injury-related. The longtime Indianapolis owner said it is inaccurate to suggest he forced the QB switch on Reich, indicating Saturday will have free rein to change quarterbacks. Irsay has, however, taken a hands-on role regarding quarterbacks this year. He forced the trade of Carson Wentz and instructed Ballard to finalize the Ryan deal, so his fingerprints being on the Ehlinger move would not be a stretch.

The Colts won the Andrew Luck sweepstakes 10 years ago, going 2-14 in 2011. But the team losing Peyton Manning for a full season led to that pick, rather than a full-fledged tanking effort. Though, the Colts certainly benefited from losing at the right time. Indianapolis has yet to find a Luck replacement; the team will certainly be linked to first-round passers in 2023.

Reich’s staff also includes DC Gus Bradley, a four-year Jaguars HC who has been on the coordinator level for over a decade, and former Panthers, Broncos and Bears HC John Fox, a senior defensive assistant. Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone is viewed as a rising talent in the coaching ranks. The Saturday decision and Irsay’s defense of the choice has drawn criticism from other staffers around the league, Kimberley Martin of ESPN.com tweets.

The Rooney Rule does not apply to interim hires. Rod Graves, the director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said (via CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson, on Twitter) that should change going forward. The NFL’s expanding of the Rooney Rule in recent years certainly points to the possibility it will later apply to interim hires. It is not yet known if the league will discuss that matter for potential 2023 application.

Frank Reich Plans To Seek Another HC Job

Second-chance coaching hires have generated tremendous modern-era success. That coaching path is responsible for 12 of the 21st century’s Super Bowl championships. Bruce Arians, Andy Reid, Gary Kubiak, Pete Carroll, Tom Coughlin and Tony Dungy join Bill Belichick in celebrating titles after being fired or, in Arians’ case, retiring from their previous NFL HC positions.

Frank Reich will aspire to join that club, which also includes coaches from the 1990s (Dick Vermeil, Mike Shanahan). The recently fired Colts HC said Tuesday (via Fox 59’s Mike Chappell) he wants to coach again.

I think you keep all your options open,’’ Reich said. “Obviously, my desire is to be a head coach. I love the game. I love everything about the game, so you keep all of your options open.”

Given Reich’s work during his first four Colts seasons and his offensive coordinator role for a Super Bowl LII-winning Eagles team that notched three playoff upsets to claim a championship with a backup quarterback (Nick Foles), he figures to generate considerable interest. Although Reich will be 61 when the 2023 hiring period commences, it would be quite surprising if he was not interviewed come January. Reich is 40-33-1 as a head coach. He reeled off three winning seasons during his Indy tenure, doing so despite Andrew Luck‘s 2019 retirement setting the franchise back.

While Jim Irsay insisted the Colts jettison Carson Wentz, the scrutinized passer ranked in the top 10 in QBR during his Colts season. The Wentz trade and his late-season descent, however, almost certainly put the wheels in motion for Reich’s ouster. Leading the Colts to an 11-5 playoff season, Philip Rivers fared better under Reich than he had during a 20-INT 2019 season. Both the Rivers- and Wentz-led Colts offenses ranked in the top 10 in scoring. Reich’s Matt Ryan– and Sam Ehlinger-led attack has not; Indianapolis enters the Jeff Saturday stretch in last offensively. Parks Frazier, who joined Reich as his personal assistant in 2018, is now set to call Indy’s plays.

After hiring Matt Rhule from the college ranks, the Panthers are believed to be seeking a more experienced NFL leader. If the Broncos do decide to make Nathaniel Hackett a one-and-done, they would likely be interested in seeing if Reich and Russell Wilson were a fit. The Cardinals extended Kliff Kingsbury through 2027, but the ex-college coach’s fourth season has not gone well. Reich was a Cardinals assistant in 2012.

With 10 teams having hired coaches this year, fewer openings will exist in 2023. Sean Payton‘s status could also impact Reich. But Reich connections will presumably take place in the coming weeks and months.

Colts To Keep GM Chris Ballard, Still Undecided On Play-Caller

This disappointing Colts start has led to the firings of the team’s top two offensive staffersFrank Reich and OC Marcus Brady — and produced one of the more shocking interim hires in modern NFL history. Former Colts center and current ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday is now in charge.

Saturday said (via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, on Twitter) he is still determining who will call plays when the Colts face the Raiders on Sunday. Saturday, 47, said he will interview coaches on staff this week for this rather important role. Quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery, an ex-East Carolina HC whom the Panthers had on their OC radar this year, would seem the top candidates. Milanovich called plays as the Jaguars’ interim OC in 2018.

Sam Ehlinger will remain the team’s starting quarterback, Saturday said. The 2021 sixth-round pick has struggled since replacing Matt Ryan. The former MVP’s turnover woes and his 2023 injury guarantee contributed to the Colts’ Ehlinger promotion. Nick Foles remains on the roster and worked as Indianapolis’ backup to start this season. With Jim Irsay having helped drive Reich and Chris Ballard to bench Ryan, it is unsurprising Saturday will stick with Ehlinger.

Regarding Ballard’s role, Irsay said (via ESPN.com’s Field Yates, on Twitter) there is “no question” the GM will return in 2023. Irsay hired Ballard during Chuck Pagano‘s HC tenure, and the former Bears and Chiefs exec initially chose Josh McDaniels to be the Colts’ HC in 2018. The Reich backup plan worked well at points, but Andrew Luck‘s shocking 2019 retirement decision changed the franchise’s trajectory.

A coveted GM candidate prior to his 2017 Colts commitment, Ballard signed an extension last year. Of course, so did Reich. Ballard and Irsay did not appear in lockstep regarding the Reich firing, but the former said Monday night the Colts tried to hire Saturday to be their offensive line coach in both 2019 and this offseason, Pelissero tweets. The Colts also tried to give Saturday — a six-time Pro Bowler who played with the team from 1999-2011 — a front office position in 2012. Saturday instead signed with the Packers and wrapped his 15-year career that season. Saturday has been with ESPN since 2013.

The Colts bypassed former head coaches Gus Bradley and John Fox, who are respectively on staff in defensive coordinator and senior defensive assistant roles, for Saturday. Peyton Manning‘s longtime center indeed indicated shock upon being offered the position. Irsay hopes Saturday will be the Colts’ coach beyond 2022 (Twitter links via Pelissero and The Athletic’s Zak Keefer). While Saturday said Monday he was auditioning for other teams’ HC jobs as well, he has never coached at the NFL or college levels. Saturday has coached at the high school level. Irsay said there was “no other candidate.”

Saturday will become the first man without college or NFL coaching experience to lead an NFL team since Norm Van Brocklin, h/t CBS Sports (on Twitter). The Hall of Fame quarterback went straight from leading the Eagles to the 1960 NFL title to becoming the expansion Vikings’ first head coach. Van Brocklin lasted six years in that post and caught on with the Falcons in 1968, holding that job for seven years. Of course, the NFL is a bit more scrutinized since the fiery QB made that leap; a vast news-cycle difference between that era and this one obviously exists. That sets the stage for a fascinating interim tenure for Saturday.

Irsay’s decision has stunned several Colts decision-makers, Keefer adds (on Twitter). Expanding on his Saturday choice Monday night, Irsay said the former All-Pro will not resemble a nervous NFL coach that will lean on analytics, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. That certainly adds an interesting wrinkle here, increasing anticipation for Saturday’s interim HC stay.

This has been a big year for Irsay-driven headlines. As is his right, Irsay pushed Ballard and Reich to both jettison Carson Wentz — after the Colts gave up first- and third-rounders for the ex-Eagles QB — and trade for Ryan. This has been a big year for the longtime owner, whose team came into the season with a sixth starting QB in six years. Not many teams have matched that accomplishment, and only two — the Chargers from 1987-1993 and Browns from 2013-19 — have started seven Week 1 passers in seven years since the 1970 merger. The Colts are trudging toward joining that exclusive club. Judging by how 2022 has played out, Irsay stands to have a major say in how the Colts proceed on that front next year. It will be interesting if the owner has Saturday in the picture when that QB decision comes.

Colts Fire HC Frank Reich, Name Jeff Saturday Interim Replacement

11:59am: In a surprising move, the Colts have announced former center Jeff Saturday as their interim head coach. The 47-year-old spent all but the final season of his 14-year playing career in Indianapolis, earning a total of six Pro Bowl nods. A member of the team’s Ring of Honor, he has since worked as a consultant with them, along with a role as an ESPN analyst.

The decision to hire from outside the organization is noteworthy, given the presence of far more experienced options in Bradley and Fox. This will mark Saturday’s first coaching role at the college or NFL level, making this a borderline unprecedented hire. A press conference is scheduled for later today.

10:34am: The second in-season head coach firing has taken place in the NFL. Frank Reich has been let go by the Colts, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The team has confirmed the news.

Reich had increasingly become the subject of scrutiny this season, his fifth leading the Colts’ sideline. The team has run into unexpected offensive struggles, and as the unit’s play-caller, the 60-year-old bore the brunt of criticism. Just last week, however, it had appeared as though his job was safe for at least the immediate future.

Yesterday, Indianapolis suffered a 26-3 loss to New England, representing another low mark on the campaign with respect to the offense. Second-year passer Sam Ehlinger was making his second career start, after being installed as the starter in place of veteran trade acquisition Matt Ryan. That decision, it was later revealed, was driven not by Reich, but rather team owner Jim Irsay.

Another sizeable move came last week, when offensive coordinator Marcus Brady was fired. He did not handle play-calling duties, though, leading to questions of how much of a difference that move would make. It also pointed to Reich’s time with the Colts potentially being in jeopardy barring a significant turnaround. That certainly didn’t take place yesterday, and the team now sits at 3-5-1 on the year.

Indianapolis has faced inconsistency along the offensive line – once the undisputed strength of the team, and one of the best units in the league – and star running back Jonathan Taylor has missed time with injury. Even when healthy, however, he has not played to the potential his first two seasons demonstrated. In the passing game, the team actually ranks in the top-10 in yards per game (257), but Ryan’s struggles with turnovers hamstrung the league’s lowest-scoring team and greatly influenced his benching. The lone move the team made at the trade deadline was sending backup running back Nyheim Hines to the Bills.

Reich will depart with an overall record of 40-33-1. Three of his past four seasons had ended with winning records, but the team’s late-season collapse in 2021 cost them a playoff spot. A return to the postseason was considered a baseline expectation for 2022, especially given the stability Ryan was expected to provide after years of searching for a long-term Andrew Luck replacement. It appears likely the Colts will be kept out of the playoffs once again this year, making the remaining weeks an evaluation period for Ehlinger and the team’s other young players.

The Colts’ remaining staff includes a pair of coaches with HC experience: defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and defensive assistant John Fox. Former DC Matt Eberflus became the Bears’ head coach this offseason, one year after former OC Nick Sirianni departed for Philadelphia to do the same. Now, all three mainstays on Indy’s sideline are gone, with plenty of uncertainty surrounding the team moving forward. Reich joins ex-Panthers bench boss Matt Rhule as coaches now on the lookout for their next employer.

Latest On Colts HC Frank Reich, GM Chris Ballard

An owner-imposed quarterback change is generally not a good omen for a head coach or general manager, and Colts owner Jim Irsay‘s recent mandate that Indianapolis bench offseason trade acquisition Matt Ryan for 2021 sixth-rounder Sam Ehlinger has led to speculation that HC Frank Reich and GM Chris Ballard could be on the hot seat. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears from multiple sources that Reich is safe and that his job is not at all in jeopardy.

It seems Reich has done enough to merit additional time as the club’s sideline general. The Colts hastily pivoted to Reich after being jilted by Josh McDaniels during the 2018 coaching cycle, and under Reich’s watch, Indy has compiled a 40-30-1 regular season record. The only year in which the team did not post an above-.500 record was in 2019, when Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired weeks before the regular season got underway.

On the other hand, the Colts’ collapse in the final two weeks of the 2021 campaign — which featured a Week 18 loss to the 2-14 Jaguars to eliminate the team from the postseason field — is a black mark on Reich’s resume (though former QB Carson Wentz has shouldered plenty of blame for that disappointment as well). The fact that Indianapolis has not won a eminently-winnable division during Reich’s tenure is also working against him.

Of course, the team has been slapping duct tape on its quarterback situation since Luck’s retirement, and while 2020 signal-caller Philip Rivers led the Colts to a playoff berth, the subsequent additions of Wentz and Ryan did not go as well. It would hardly be fair to blame Reich for QB development when the QBs he has had to work with have been near the ends of their careers or otherwise became expendable in the eyes of their prior clubs. Instead, the growth of Ehlinger over the remainder of the season may be more reflective of Reich’s acumen.

It may not even be fair to lay the blame for the QB carousel at Ballard’s feet, as Irsay is more involved when it comes to his franchise’s signal- callers than he is with other aspects of roster construction. Indeed, Ryan’s health and injury guarantees for 2023 may have been a factor in his Irsay-led demotion, and Irsay spearheaded this offseason’s Wentz trade as well.

Nonetheless, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports believes the seats are warming for Reich and Ballard, and he spoke with one AFC executive who said, “I’m concerned for them. They’re already being questioned about how they evaluate quarterbacks, and if [Ehlinger] comes in there and doesn’t play well, it’ll reflect poorly.”

Irsay himself has responded to the speculation in an emphatic way. He said he has given no thought to moving on from either his head coach or GM, and he added, “I’m in a great spot with Chris and Frank. We’re all re-energized with the move to Sam Ehlinger. Nothing is easy but [I] feel really good” (Twitter link via ESPN’s Chris Mortensen).

Jim Irsay Led Charge For Colts’ Matt Ryan Benching

Jim Irsay has placed his hands on the Colts’ personnel steering wheel at key junctures this year. Nine months after the owner insisted Carson Wentz be a Colts one-and-done, he led the way to Wentz’s replacement being benched.

Over the past few weeks, Irsay let Chris Ballard and Frank Reich know a change was needed at quarterback, Zak Keefer of The Athletic reports, noting Ballard was onboard with benching Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger before Reich reached that conclusion (subscription required).

Pointing out that the quarterback position provides an exception to Irsay’s policy of letting Ballard and Reich run the show, Keefer adds a Sunday-night meeting — similar to the Irsay-Ballard-Reich summit shortly after the Colts’ Week 18 meltdown in Jacksonville — led to the call to demote Ryan. Ryan’s sprained shoulder will sideline him in Week 8, but he will soon become a healthy backup for the first time since Boston College’s 2005 season. Ryan’s 12 turnovers — nine interceptions, three lost fumbles — lead the league.

Irsay’s prompting also comes months after he instructed Ballard to finalize the trade for Ryan, whom the Falcons dealt to the Colts for a 2022 third-round pick. Indianapolis went more than a week in between the Wentz and Ryan trades, discussing a deal with Jameis Winston during the days between those moves. But once the Falcons’ Deshaun Watson courtship commenced, the Ryan-to-Indy path formed.

The Colts have traded a first-rounder and two thirds to bring in their past two starting QBs, though they recouped considerable value by shipping Wentz to Washington this offseason. Indianapolis will now turn to a former sixth-round pick at the game’s marquee position.

Select scouts communicated to SI.com’s Albert Breer they believe Ryan’s arm is shot, and Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio points to Ryan’s injury guarantees as the reason the Colts are moving away from him seven games in. The Colts restructured Ryan’s contract this offseason, ballooning his 2023 cap number to $35.2MM. Ryan will see $12MM guaranteed next year, but $7.2MM more would come via injury guarantees if the 37-year-old passer cannot pass a physical on Day 3 of the 2023 league year, Florio adds. Ryan’s $10MM 2023 roster bonus is also guaranteed for injury, leading to the Colts’ effort to bubble-wrap their initial 2022 starter.

The Colts continue to battle uphill in the years after Andrew Luck‘s August 2019 retirement. After acquiring Ryan, they joined the Broncos and Commanders in starting a sixth Week 1 quarterback in six years. Fewer than 10 teams have gone through that much QB1 turnover since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Indianapolis will run that streak to seven next season. Only two post-merger teams — the Chargers from 1987-93 and Browns from 2013-19 — have trotted out different Week 1 starting QBs in seven straight years. Ehlinger, who has yet to throw a regular-season pass, will attempt to make his case to be that starter.

Poll: Which Head Coach Will Be Fired First In 2022?

One month into the 2022 campaign, few NFL teams have truly surged out of the gate and distanced themselves from the rest of the field. There are some, on the other hand, which have invited speculation about potential coaching changes.

Calls for a firing have most loudly been made so far in Carolina. Matt Rhule entered this year, his third with the Panthers, with expectations to steer the franchise back into playoff contention. His ability to do so at both Temple and Baylor earned him a sizeable first NFL head coaching deal, but results have been lacking so far. 

[RELATED: Communication Issues Between Rhule, OC McAdoo?]

The acquisition of quarterback Baker Mayfield and a return to health from star running back Christian McCaffrey led to optimism that improvement on the offensive side of the ball in particular would be coming. Instead, the Panthers rank last in the league in yards, and 17th in points scored so far. A severe lack of wins when allowing more than 17 points has stretched into 2022; the fact that the 47-year-old continues to back Mayfield as the team’s No. 1 signal-caller will tie the pair together, though, regardless of their shared success or failure. Despite the significant term remaining on his first NFL deal, Rhule could make way for a more experienced option if an offensive resurgence doesn’t take shape.

The same may end up being true of Frank Reich in Indianapolis. The team’s annual replacement of their starting QB resulted in the arrival of Matt Ryan and the expectation of far more stability at the position compared to Carson Wentz. The former MVP has struggled mightily with respect to ball security, however, leading the league in both interceptions (seven) and fumbles (11). His 21 sacks taken have further hampered an offense averaging a league-worst 13.8 points per game.

Winless through the first half of their divisional contests, the Colts currently sit third in what is still considered an underwhelming AFC South. Plenty of time for a turnaround exists, of course, but there is added urgency around the team after 2021’s late-season collapse which cost them a playoff berth. Reich is tied to general manager Chris Ballard, as the pair were extended through 2026 just last year, potentially giving them a longer leash in the Ryan era, which they hope will last far longer than that of his predecessors. Early returns on the team’s investment in that trio have certainly been underwhelming, though.

In Arizona, Kliff Kingsbury entered 2022 with the expectation that the Cardinals’ inconsistencies would be corrected. After a hot start ended with a disappointing end to the campaign in 2021, Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim each received extensions and are now on the books through 2027. That move was eventually followed up by a massive second contract for QB Kyler Murray this summer, leaving the potential for he and Kingsbury to remain together for the foreseeable future.

However, Arizona has started 2-2 this season, ranking in the middle of the pack offensively. The absence of wideout DeAndre Hopkins, dating back to late last year, has hamstrung the team on that side of the ball to such a degree that Kingsbury’s scheme has increasingly come under fire. In spite of year-to-year improvement in the win-loss column over the course of his tenure on the sidelines, then, the 43-year-old is considered to be facing something of a make-or-break proposition in 2022. The return of Hopkins from suspension will no doubt give the offense a boost, but whether that translates to increased success – especially early in games – will be worth monitoring closely.

Another team facing unexpected struggles with the ball is the Broncos, led by rookie HC Nathaniel Hackett. The addition of QB Russell Wilson has not yielded anywhere near the production which was expected upon his arrival (and subsequent extension) heading into the season, with blame being shared between the two. Denver’s calamitous efforts in the red zone in particular have led to poor primetime showings and a 2-3 record.

Hackett has already responded by bringing veteran advisor Jerry Rosburg out of retirement, though Thursday night’s loss to the Colts did little to quell doubts about the team’s 2022 prospects. The growing list of injuries Denver is dealing with on both sides of the ball would have hampered their playoff chances regardless of if Hackett had taken the Broncos gig or any of the other four he interviewed for this winter. Still, the fact that he has risen up the list of contenders to be replaced so early in his tenure speaks to how problematic it has been so far.

Will one of these four coaches be the first to receive their walking papers, or will that fate befall a different bench boss? Cast your vote in PFR’s latest poll and have your say in the comments below:

Latest On Colts’ Shaquille Leonard

With the regular season now less than two weeks away, the Colts face an important decision regarding linebacker Shaquille Leonard. The team has the option to move him to the reserve/PUP list, but Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star notes that they are looking to avoid doing so. 

Moving the 27-year-old to the reserve list would make him ineligible for the first four weeks of the season, hence the club’s hesitancy to do so. Leonard has still yet to practice this offseason, as he continues to rehab from back surgery. He was never at 100% health last season either, dealing with an ankle injury.

Team officials have been increasingly open about the possibility that Leonard won’t be able to suit up for the regular season opener. Head coach Frank Reich recently said, though, that Leonard was “preparing like he’s playing Week 1.” However, he also admitted that the three-time All-Pro would need to adjust when back on the field, as he will likely still not have recovered in full by September.

“[GM] Chris Ballard and I have not had that exact conversation yet,” Reich said, when asked about placing Leonard on the reserve/PUP list. “Based on the fact that he’s really not out there yet, I guess you’d have to say that’s a possibility, but I’m not assuming that’s the case.”

Leonard had another hugely productive season in 2021, and his absence for any length would of course be a massive blow for the Colts’ defense. The lingering back issue still clouds his readiness for the regular season opener, but Reich pointed to practice time as a reason the team could avoid sidelining him for a month.

“From our standpoint, we really want to get him back out there when he’s cleared, but even if he’s not ready to play, get him out there,” he said. “You can’t get out there if you’re on PUP. You can’t participate in anything. We want to get [Leonard] participating, so at some point, even if he’s not ready to play, we’ve got to get him off PUP and get him taking reps, even if it’s going to take him however many weeks to get ready.”

The Colts have until Tuesday to decide on Leonard’s immediate future, something which will have significant implications for himself personally and the team generally.