Frank Reich's 'aggressive' fourth-down style is part of analytical approach


INDIANAPOLIS -- At some point Friday -- like he does every Friday -- Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich will meet with his team's two analytics pros, John Park and George Li, to go over the playcall sheet for their game against the Houston Texans on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
The call sheet will include every imaginable scenario to make sure the Colts are prepared for any and everything thrown their way.
First down. Second down. Third down. Fourth down. The expected point total for the game. The type of offense they're facing? They'll even look at the weather conditions if they're playing outdoors.
"Really, they are quite sophisticated, quite complex and run off of literally millions of iterations," Reich said. "So I factor all that in, because that's factored all into the charts and we talk about that. So those go into those calls as well."
What's in the spotlight -- again -- for Reich is his frame of mind when it comes to situational fourth-down calls. You shouldn't expect Reich and his staff to deviate from their aggressive thoughts when it comes to fourth down, even if they're put in the same scenario they were in against the Texans in their Week 4 overtime loss, and even after they went 0-of-3 on fourth down against the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend.
The Colts are only 6-of-14 on fourth-down attempts this season. Their 42.9 percent conversion rate is tied for 27th in the NFL.
"I think what most people -- not everyone -- would agree, who use the analytics, is that what the analytics tell us is that historical coaching philosophy has been a little bit conservative and that there are reasons to consider being more aggressive," Reich said. "Then you have to have maturity and wisdom to interpret the chart the way that you think is best for your team. That's the art of it. That's what the head coach gets paid to do. That's what you take responsibility for. That's what you take accountability for, because no matter what the charts says, it's still my decision at the end of the game. If it turns out that we lost, then that's my responsibility. If it turns out positive -- great, good for our team."
Reich first drew eyes on his aggressive playcalling when the Colts had the ball at fourth-and-4 from their own 43-yard line when quarterback Andrew Luck's throw landed at receiver Chester Rogers' feet, giving Houston a short field to work with to win the game in overtime on Sept. 30.