UPDATE:

The Indianapolis Colts have named Jeff Saturday their interim coach.

ORIGINAL STORY:

INDIANAPOLIS – A season spiraling out of control will continue without Frank Reich.

The Indianapolis Colts fired their fifth-year head coach Monday morning.

The decision came after one of the worst offensive performances in franchise history – a 26-3 loss at New England Sunday in Foxborough, Mass. – but speculation of Reich’s departure had been mounting as a once-encouraging season began unraveling.

The Colts have lost three straight and fallen to 3-5-1, and Jim Irsay had seen enough. He assumed ownership in 1995 following the passing of his father Robert, and this marks the first time he’s fired a head coach during the season.

The decision comes 15 months after Irsay extended the contracts of Reich and general manager Chris Ballard through the 2026 season. He considered them two pillars of the franchise moving forward.

“You invest in the fact they’re going to mature and become better than they were when they started and you really want to see,’’ he said in August 2021 at training camp. “That’s what continuity does.

“It brings that day where you can reap the growth of a person’s professional tract.’’

Reich’s progression, though, was impeded by the franchise’s inability to adequately address the quarterback position following the August 2019 retirement of Andrew Luck. During Reich’s five seasons, the team had five different starting QBs: Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Ryan was benched after seven starts and replaced by Sam Ehlinger.

Everything has disintegrated this season, and the most damaging aspect has been Reich’s offense. It ranks 32nd in scoring (14.7 points per game) and has scored more than 20 points just once in nine games. In the loss to the Patriots, the offense was limited to 121 total yards, the 9th-fewest in franchise history, and set a club record by going 0-for-14 on third-down conversions.

Afterwards, Reich shouldered the blame.

The offense, he insisted, “starts with me . . . I’m the leader of the offense and that’s my responsibility.’’

Reich’s dismissal is he latest domino to fall. On Oct. 24, the team benched Ryan in favor of Ryan and replaced him with Ehlinger. Last week, Reich fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, and running back Nyheim Hines was traded to Buffalo.

The only remaining logical tile: Reich.

He departs with a 41-33-1 overall record, but the Colts are 3-7-1 in their last 11 games.

The team reached the playoffs as a wild card twice. In 2018, it won a first-round game at Houston 21-7, but fell in round 2 at Kansas City 31-13. In ’20, the Colts dropped a 27-20 first-round game at Buffalo.

When the postscript is written on Reich’s final season, it will highlight the underperformance of his line, which has sabotaged every aspect of the offense. The NFL’s highest-paid unit has contributed to a league-high 35 sacks and a running game that ranks 30th.

The Patriots sacked Ehlinger nine times and harassed him throughout. Before he was benched, Ryan was sacked 24 times.

Mike Chappell and Joe Hopkins will discuss the move in-depth on today’s episode of the Colts Blue Zone Podcast!