The Cost of Instability: How Much the Colts Owe Frank Reich

Frank Reich

Getty Former head coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts.

Every year on July 1, for a grand total of 25 years, the New York Mets have had the dubious honor of paying former player Bobby Bonilla almost $1.2 million. For those who don’t know, Bonilla has not played professional baseball in 20 years but will receive this check annually from the Mets through 2035.

Though Bonilla’s contract is one of the most infamous in all of sports, the rest of the major sports leagues have had their own Bonilla-esque contracts. In the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder paid a massive $27.4 million check for NBA guard Kemba Walker, without Walker ever touching the court for the team. In the NFL, the Indianapolis Colts have one of the worst contracts left to payout on the books in the entire league.

In 2021. the Colts handed head coach Frank Reich a massive contract extension to stay on as head coach through the 2026 season. Halfway through the 2022 season, the Colts fired Reich and are still on the hook for $36 million.

How the Rest of the NFL Stacks Up

In early December at the most recent NFL owners meeting in Dallas, the NFL’s league office informed owners about the amount of money on the books for fired coaches and front-office executives. NFL insider and ESPN Senior Writer Adam Schefter had the breakdown of the wanton spending.

Along with the Colts owing $36 million to Reich, other teams of note were the Carolina Panthers and the Tennessee Titans. The Panthers fired their head coach Matt Rhule with four years remaining on his contract worth $60 million. For the Titans, they have almost the entirety of former general manager Jon Robinson’s contract still on the books. The Titans gave him a four-year extension in February 2022 before axing him 10 months later.

All-in-all, there were seven NFL franchises who have fired their head coach since the start of the 2021 season. The hefty price tag combined? Over $800 million.

Frank Reich Will be Fine

After his ouster in early November, Reich was nothing but respectful when reflecting on his firing.

In his first comments to the media, Reich said to Fox59’s Mike Chappell that he gave his ‘heart and soul’ to the Colts and that he was “proud of what we did.” Reich went on to tell Chappell he was not bitter about the firing.

One reason for Reich’s positive outlook is that the Colts are paying him through 2026. Contracts for a coaching staff do not count against the cap for an NFL team, which is why these contracts don’t usually make the news. The other key difference in contracts between the coaching staff and players is that the coaching staff’s contract is guaranteed. When Reich signed his contract extension in 2021, he was locked into that money regardless of his performance.

When Colts owner Jim Irsay let Reich go, he signed on to pay Reich $9 million annually through 2026. With a net worth of $3.9 billion according to Forbes, no one is saying that Irsay cannot afford the bill, but when considering that the Colts will be hiring a head coach for the 2023 season, Irsay is going to be locked into paying two head coach salaries. The cost of instability is high.

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