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What analytics say about Frank Reich's offensive philosophy

Frank Reich

Reich, a former NFL quarterback (who started Carolina's first game and threw the team's first touchdown) with experience as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, will be the Panthers' first head coach in team history with an exclusively offensive background.

Before landing with Carolina, Reich held his first head coaching position with the Colts. He called plays in Indianapolis, and while it's currently unknown whether he'll assume those duties for the Panthers, Reich's years of experience as a player and coach will influence the Panthers as he builds his own system here.

Reich went 40-33-1 as the Indianapolis head coach, with two playoff berths in 2018 and 2020. He worked with a different quarterback in every season of his tenure with the Colts, transitioning through Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan before his stint was cut short during the 2022 season.

He also reaped the benefits of dominant running back Jonathan Taylor, who broke out in his 2021 Pro Bowl season. Reich worked alongside now-Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni at offensive coordinator for his first three seasons at the helm.

Advanced stats from Reich's four full seasons heading up the Colts from 2018-21 reveal he could trend aggressive on fourth down, scheme explosive plays – particularly in the ground game, and run an efficient scoring unit.

Here's a dive into the numbers behind Reich's time as a head coach in Indianapolis:

Going for it on fourth down

The Colts had 94 chances on fourth down from 2018-21, the sixth-most in the league through that time frame, and they converted 55 of those attempts – a 58.5 percent conversion rate. 

Indianapolis' conversion rate on fourth down ranked sixth in the NFL among teams with at least 75 attempts, behind the Ravens, Raiders, Chargers, Bengals, and Cardinals. The league averaged a 52.9 percent conversion rate on an average of 80 chances; the Colts exceeded both marks. 

Breaking it down quarter-by-quarter, Indianapolis elected to go for it on fourth down 13 times in the first quarter (13.8 percent), 21 times in the second (22.3 percent), 20 times in the third (21.3 percent), 38 times in the fourth (40.4 percent), and once in overtime. 

Of the Colts' 94 fourth-down attempts, 20 percent (19 attempts) were from five yards to go or longer, and 51 percent (48 attempts) came on 4th-and-1. 

The Colts attempted a fourth-down conversion in their own territory 19 of 94 times, mainly in the fourth quarter.

Counting explosive plays

Indianapolis jumped ahead with big plays at a rate ahead of the league average throughout Reich's tenure. The Colts counted 873 plays of 10 yards or more, ranked 12th in the league ahead of the NFL average of 853.7, and put up 20 plays that gained at least 50 yards, ahead of the league average of 19.7.

A chunk of their explosive plays came through the run game, largely thanks to Taylor's impact in 2020 and 2021.

Eight rush plays went for 20 yards or more under Reich, good for fourth in the league behind a three-way tie at first between the Browns, Titans, and Giants. Five of those plays were Taylor rushes, and three went for touchdowns or 67, 78 and 62 yards.

The Colts nearly doubled the league's average of 4.3 run plays going at least 50 yards.

Running an efficient scheme 

Indianapolis ranked in the top 10 for average points per drive under Reich, standing at seventh in the NFL with 2.28 between the Chargers and Rams. 

The Colts made it to the end zone on 26.2 percent of their drives, ninth-best in the league between the Ravens and Rams. 

The Indianapolis offense also scored the ninth-most touchdowns in the NFL during Reich's time, finding the end zone 184 times behind the Ravens and ahead of the Chargers. 

The Colts scored a touchdown in 61.9 percent of their red zone trips, 11th in the league between the Ravens and Bills, and outperforming the league average of 58.9 percent.

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