INDIANAPOLIS – There’s something about Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich.
His confidence doesn’t waver. His belief in his players doesn’t change. He says words that may leave you scratching your head or with a look of disbelief on your face because his jaws are locked and he has a look of dead seriousness.
That’s what Reich did some 10 days ago when he said ‘Why can’t it be us?’ in reference to nobody taking control of the jumbled AFC. Mind you, the Colts' previous two victories at the time were against the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets. Beating those teams was nothing to get overly excited about, considering the Colts had yet to beat a team with a winning record all season.
But Reich, who has tunnel vision when it comes to taking it one game at a time, was thinking big picture at that moment.
He was seeing an offensive line that was controlling things up front again, an ultra-talented running back (Jonathan Taylor) getting stronger as the season progressed, a quarterback (Carson Wentz) who had found his comfort zone and a defense that was causing turnover after turnover.
“I know we’ve got a long way to go, but oh my goodness, that felt good! Yeah!” Reich said in the locker room after the game on video captured by Colts.com. “You know I don’t like to show too much emotion. But, oh my goodness, when you guys play like that, it was complete domination in all three phases. I mean, I don’t even know what to say.”
That felt good. pic.twitter.com/Fgwxp1PpuS— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) November 21, 2021
Running back Nyheim Hines said, "Hopefully we sent a message to the league. It's a respect thing. We all feel like nobody respects us. We all have that underdog mentality."
The Colts currently sit 6-5 – their first time over .500 this season. That’s a far cry from when they started the season 0-3, then 1-4, and had some in the social media world screaming that the team should shut down Wentz if they fall out of the playoff race so they can keep their first-round pick, which goes to the Philadelphia Eagles if Wentz plays enough.
The Colts are still on the outside looking in for the AFC playoffs, but they’re a team that some are talking about as a dangerous squad if they do make the postseason, which makes Reich’s comment about ‘Why can’t it be us?’ stand out even more.
“One thing I preach about him is he’s the same,” Wentz said. “He’s going to show up; win, lose, draw, it doesn’t matter. So, the rough start, all that, he’s been the same. He shows up, gets everyone going, and even in the wins, here’s where we can get better. He’s going to focus on those things, but the goal every single day is to just keep getting better, and he’s done a great job of leading that charge.”
Climbing out from a hole isn’t anything new for Reich. He led the University of Maryland and the Bills to the largest comebacks in college football and NFL history while stepping in as the backup quarterback. Then Reich did it the first time as a head coach when the Colts started 1-5 in 2018, only to respond by finishing 10-6 to make the playoffs.
For as cliché as it sounds, and no matter how many eye rolls Reich causes when he says it, he sticks with having a “1-0” mindset to avoid causing any panic.
“It started with my dad, who was a coach – very process oriented, very people oriented,” Reich said. “Then [former Buffalo coach] Marv Levy drilled that into me, deep into me as a player. He was very process oriented. Then [former Colts coach] Tony Dungy, the same way. All those and more, I’m just naming the more significant names that you guys would know that had the most influence on me.”
Reich’s demeanor trickles down to his coaching staff and players. Seeing confidence in their head coach causes any uneasiness to settle down.
That was evident in Reich’s belief in his team when he went for it on fourth down in overtime in their own territory against the Houston Texans in Week 4 of the 2018 season. The Colts were stopped short and lost the game, but the standard in Reich’s approach was set that Sunday afternoon.
“He’s very confident in himself and his ability to lead. He’s shown that through the course of our time here,” said defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who has been on Reich’s staff since his arrival in 2018. “Certainly through adversity, that’s when you see what a true leader is. When faced with that, you want a steady person that stands on solid ground, stands on principles that are based on sound fundamental football."
At some point, they’ll need some help from other teams to make the playoffs if they continue to win. But until then, they’ll continue to focus on what lies ahead of them on the schedule -- one game at a time, they say.
Sunday’s contest against Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, FOX) is up next, and three of their final six games are against teams who currently have a winning record.
But if the Colts keep winning, it'll no longer be "Why not us?"
It could be, 'It is us!'