Colts’ Frank Reich looks to win instead of rebuild during first year

Frank Reich

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – His owner has referred to a three-year rebuilding process and his general manager continues to stockpile draft picks to address a roster that isn’t yet reliable, let alone championship-caliber.

While Frank Reich understands that long-term blueprint for the Indianapolis Colts, he’s nonetheless conceding nothing as he wades into his first season as head coach.

The only approach he knows? Win. Now.

“Other guys are being paid to see the rebuilding and to have the patience,’’ Reich told reporters at this week’s owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. “I’m not being paid for that.

“There’s not one ounce of me that’s being patient. There’s not one ounce of me that thinks we are in a rebuilding project. Every ounce of me feels like we are winning this year. We were 4-12 last year. That can turn around with a few breaks, staying healthy, a few more players and we can get it done.’’

It doesn’t take advanced analytics to confirm the Colts were one of the NFL’s bottom-feeders a year ago. Contributing to their 4-12 record was an offense that ranked 31st in yards per game and 30th in points, and a defense that ranked 30th in both yards and points allowed per game. They allowed a league-high 56 sacks while generating just 25, the second-lowest total in the league.

The Colts were 2-7 in games they held a halftime lead, a clear indicator they lacked the wherewithal to close games, or a closer. Here’s a tidbit to keep in mind: with Andrew Luck under center, Indy is 34-4 in games they’ve led at halftime.

Injuries? Luck, Ryan Kelly, Malik Hooker, Jack Mewhort, Henry Anderson, Clayton Geathers, John Simon, Robert Turbin and Erik Swoope missed significant time.

It would be an easy out for Reich to consider the roster he inherited and offer a “Well, we’ll compete every Sunday.’’

That’s not the case.

“For the last 20-some years, there has been a team that has gone from last place to first place in their division, then who knows what happens from there,’’ Reich said. “That’s the way we are wired. We’ve got to go. We’ve got to win this year.’’

Reich isn’t leaning on alternative facts to make his point.

Last year, eight of the 12 teams that advanced to the playoffs failed to do the previous year. Three went from last-to-first, including Reich’s Philadelphia Eagles, who bounced from 7-9 and last in the NFC East in 2016 to 13-3 in ’17 that culminated in a win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Since Luck’s arrive in 2012, 11 teams have taken the worst-to-first approach, including the Luck-led Colts in ’12. Remember 2011? Remember 2-14. Remember Luck being the catalyst to one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history?

This isn’t to suggest the Colts are poised to return to the postseason after falling short in each of the last three seasons. Deficiencies still mar the roster, and it’s folly to believe selective shopping in the veteran free agent market and nine draft picks, including the sixth overall and four of the top 49, can offer a quick fix.

But it’s clear Reich won’t settle for mediocrity.

“I just think there’s got to be that belief and confidence . . . I mean, no one’s playing for second place around here,’’ he said. “We’re not playing just to improve.

“We’re playing for championships. If you want to win the championship, that’s how you’re got to play.’’