Indianapolis Colts' Frank Reich, Ryan Kelly prep for yet another change at QB

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INDIANAPOLIS -- It has become a yearly tradition for Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich and center Ryan Kelly.

Week 1 of the season rolls around with Reich and Kelly working closely with a new starting quarterback because things didn't work out with the previous starter for an assortment of reasons.

Retirement -- twice. Poor play. Traded.

Andrew Luck. Jacoby Brissett. Philip Rivers. Carson Wentz.

Reich and Kelly have watched the revolving door at that position more closely than anybody else in the Colts organization over the years.

Now it’s Matt Ryan’s turn to work closely with Reich, who calls the offensive plays, and take the snaps from Kelly.

The Colts acquired Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons in March for two third-round picks in this year’s draft.

“I say the hardest part is, every time I see my family and friends, they ask, ‘What do you think about the new quarterback?’ year after year, and I get tired of talking about it,” Kelly said. “But to have a guy like Matt and have the type of quarterbacks we’ve had through here, it’s been great. I’ve learned a lot from each of them.”

Change is inevitable no matter the sport. But for the Colts, change at quarterback, unfortunately, is about the only consistent thing they’ve endured over the years.

Reich, a former quarterback himself, has not had the same starter in any season since he was hired in 2018.

“I think it challenges you to adapt,” Reich said. “The challenge is always to do what your players do best, and you have to adapt to the different style of quarterback’s leadership.”

Kelly has had to adapt even more than Reich. That’s because the center hasn’t had the same starting quarterback from Week 1 in consecutive seasons since the Colts selected him in the first round of the 2016 draft. Luck is the only quarterback he has had for more than one season -- 2016 and 2018.

It goes beyond just snapping the ball for Kelly. He became close friends with each of the quarterbacks.

"The hardest part is you have no choice but to get emotionally involved with these guys," Kelly said. "They’re the people you become friends with. You have conversations with them -- whether it’s football, life, whatever. You can’t just ignore that. You can’t just leave the building saying it’s football, it’s a business.

"I'm close with everybody on the offensive line, I’m sure as hell going to be close to the quarterback. It’s been tough. I’ve been very blessed to play with a lot of great quarterbacks. I take a little bit from each one of them. I still talk to each and every one of them today."

Reich not only is losing the head coach/playcaller relationship with his quarterback, he's also having to adapt the offensive system around who his starter is.

Take Luck, for example. Reich could call anything in his playbook based off Luck's ability. The same couldn't be said about Rivers.

While talented still, Rivers wasn't as mobile and couldn't throw the ball as far as Luck. So the offense was centered around more quick throws. The Colts had more run-pass-option calls with Wentz last season. Next season the Colts will have more play-action.

"[Ryan has] been with the same team for 14 years prior to this," Reich said. "So just staying in communication with the guys, continuing to have a vision about what our team can be and what is our identity going to be this offseason. You always kind of go through that process of what’s our DNA, who are we, what’s our identity? Those are important questions, and the quarterback is a big part of that in this league as we know.

"There’s an old saying that many of you I’m sure have heard, ‘If you know who you are, you know what to do.’ So this is that time of year where we reestablish who we are and who we want to be. That kind of informs us about how we go through preparing for the season and eventually play out the games.”

Ryan, the NFL MVP in 2016, has been working out with some of the receivers since late March, and his voice has already had a presence during OTAs at the team's facility this week.

"I can already tell you, in three days, in three meetings, including [Wednesday], we've already changed -- I'm just half joking, but we've already changed 10%," Reich said. "He has perspective. 'Hey, can we run that route this way? It's the same concept, but the way we might teach the one route within the concept, I've always liked to do it this way.'

"Most of the time the answer to those questions are, 'Absolutely, let's do it that way.' We see it on film, I look at him doing it on film, we like what it looks like, we like how It feels and those little changes in some ways, keep defenses -- they can't lock into what we're going to do."