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The OC Files: Should McVay opt for more experience and hire Frank Reich?

Should McVay hire Frank Reich as his next offensive coordinator?

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NFL: Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The search for the Los Angeles Rams next offensive coordinator continues. While there is speculation that former New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is the front-runner, nothing is official.

Ever since Liam Coen left the Rams to return to Kentucky, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich is also a name that has been brought up. According to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, there has been some interest in bringing on a veteran coach such as Reich.

According to Rodrigue,

“As McVay teetered back and forth with his decision, former Colts head coach Frank Reich was an option in case the Rams needed a play caller who could be an interim head coach. As far as a coordinator position is concerned, many around the league believe Reich would prefer to be a head coach (though he would unmistakably provide veteran savvy and emotional balance for McVay as an OC).”

While Reich has been known as one of the better offensive coaches in the NFL and handled play-calling duties in Indianapolis, the question here is whether or not Reich is a fit. There’s little questioning Reich’s effectiveness as someone who can design an offense. However, there are several schematic differences in what Reich does versus how McVay has done things.

Would hiring Reich be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole?

Simply looking at personnel groupings, it’s well known that the Rams operate in 11 personnel which refers to one running back and one tight end being on the field at a given time. This allows the Rams to run different offensive concepts that all look relatively similar.

In 2021, the Rams were in 11 personnel on 86 percent of their offensive plays which was by far the highest rate in the league. Rarely did the Rams operate in 12 personnel where their rate with two tight ends on the field was just 12 percent.

This is very consistent throughout McVay’s tenure. Going back to the 2018 season, McVay has never called 12 personnel more than 12 percent of the time.

Compare that to Frank Reich and it’s night and day. Under Reich, the Colts ran 12 personnel at a 20 percent rate or higher in all but his first season in 2018. In 2021, the Colts lined up in 12 personnel 23 percent of the time which was higher than the league average of 21 percent and double what the Rams ran. Reich’s Colts have been above the league average in every season.

Multiple things can be true here. Yes, the Rams need to mix it up more on offense and run more 12 personnel. They did this well at the end of the year and it resulted in a more effective run game. The clear example was against the Denver Broncos where the Rams lined up in 12 personnel on 48 percent of their plays.

With that being said, the Rams offense isn’t designed to operate and function in 12 personnel. Much of McVay’s scheme is designed to use the wide receivers in the run game and utilize three wide receivers on the field. Tyler Higbee and Brycen Hopkins are inconsistent as blockers.

It’s not just the personnel differences. The identities of the McVay offense and the Reich offense are completely different.

The Colts offenses over the past few years have been based heavily on RPOs (run-pass options). According to Writer J.J Stankevitz

“The Colts ran 43 with Ryan at quarterback, per Pro Football Focus – the 13th-most in the NFL entering Week 8. Last year, the Colts were 15th in the NFL with 101 RPO plays; with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback in 2019, they were 12th with 92 RPOs. Those have always been a part of Reich’s offense.”

This isn’t something that’s been featured in the McVay offense. Because of this, the Colts are one of the shotgun heavier teams in the NFL. This past season, they were in shotgun on 76 percent of their offensive snaps according to Football Outsiders. That was the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. The Rams meanwhile ranked 30th in shotgun rate at 53.3 percent.

This has been consistent in Reich’s tenure as a play-caller. The Colts have operated in shotgun. The lowest shotgun rate for the Colts under Reich was 64.1 percent in 2021. McVay’s Rams have never been above 60 percent. Outside of last season with Stafford, McVay’s offenses have typically had one of the lowest shotgun rates.

Some difference in philosophy is good. Too much and the Rams would need to build a new offensive identity. That’s difficult to do when a certain skillset of players are already in place. There would almost certainly be a learning curve and that’s not something the Rams have time for in their current window.

As far as run-pass splits go, the Rams and Colts are actually pretty similar. Through the first nine weeks this season, the Rams offense had a 59 percent pass rate compared to the Colts’ 57 percent. In 2020, both teams threw the ball on 56 percent of their offensive plays. In 2018 with Andrew Luck, the Colts threw the ball 64 percent of the time.

Reich is seen as this play-caller that loves to run the ball. However, the splits aren’t that different than McVay. In fact, when Reich had a good quarterback in Luck, the Colts were one of the pass-heaviest teams. The biggest differences are the use of heavier personnel and RPO concepts.

When it comes to Reich as a potential candidate, there are a few things worth considering. The first is that Reich is a veteran coach in the NFL. How much collaboration could there be between what McVay has had success with and what Reich has had success with. A lot of give-and-take would be required.

McVay is an offensive coach himself. It seems unlikely that he would want to deviate too much from what he’s done in the past.

The second thing to consider is that this all comes down to McVay and his mentality going into next season. There’s been a lot of talk about burnout when it comes to McVay. Would he give up play-calling to Reich? Is handing over more of the offensive responsibilities something that he wants to do? It seems unlikely that Reich would even come to Los Angeles if he wasn’t the primary play-caller.

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortenson, Reich could be heading to the Chargers anyway after they fired Joe Lombardi.

These are major question marks as it pertains to the future of the Rams offense.

When it comes to potential candidates for the Rams offensive coordinator position, Frank Reich is a popular name that comes up. There’s no denying Reich’s history or his success as an offensive play-caller. However, in terms of fit, Reich might not be the guy.