REGGIE HAYES: Frank Reich brings integrity and experience, if no guarantees as Indianapolis Colts’ new coach
I don’t know if Frank Reich will be a great, average or lousy NFL head coach. Until he’s on the job, dealing with all that goes into it, it’s impossible to say with certainty.
Here’s what I do know, as Reich becomes the Indianapolis Colts coach: He has the potential to be a good fit.
If that seems like muted enthusiasm, it is.
Muted enthusiasm is the way to go with the Colts this time around.
The Colts’ failed splash during the Josh McDaniels debacle demands the Colts’ second hire to replace Chuck Pagano be one greeted with modest celebration. Reich enters the scene as second choice. That’s a tough sell for everyone. It might end up a great deal in the end. After all, the more known of the McDaniels situation, the more it looks like the Colts will be better served – with less drama – with Reich as the head coach.
Reich, New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier were interviewed by Colts general manager Chris Ballard over the last few days.
The Colts announced Sunday they have hired Reich.
“We are excited to have Frank Reich as our new head coach,” Ballard said in a released statement. “Frank is a leader of men who will demand excellence from our players on and off the field. I look forward to working with Frank to deliver a championship-caliber team to the city of Indianapolis.”
There is much to be optimistic about with Reich:
* He’s coming off a Super Bowl win
Reich served as offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles in their 41-33 Super Bowl win over the Patriots. While head coach Doug Pederson handled the play-calling for the Eagles, Reich worked with him on game plans and also served to help develop quarterback Carson Wentz and, when Wentz went down, groom Nick Foles to step in and thrive in the playoffs.
Presumably, Reich shares Pederson’s predilection for risk-taking in play calling, which would be a welcome change to the Pagano era in Indianapolis.
* He’s familiar with the Colts when a winning culture filled the building
Reich worked as quarterbacks coach with the Colts when Peyton Manning was still playing. How’s that for strong ties to the glory years?
Reich worked for the Colts as an offensive coaching staff assistant under Tony Dungy, then served as quarterbacks coach and wide receivers coach under Jim Caldwell. He was part of the Colts’ run to the Super Bowl in 2009, leaving when Caldwell was fired after the 2011 season. He joined the Arizona Cardinals as wide receivers coach in 2012, then moved to the same position with the San Diego Chargers in 2013. He has been an offensive coordinator ever since (two years with the Chargers, two years with the Eagles).
Reich broke into the league as a player with the Buffalo Bills when former Colts president Bill Polian was running the Bills.
* His integrity is unquestioned
The Colts cannot repeat the embarrassment of unpredictability they experienced with their pursuit of McDaniels. They need a man who can be taken at his word, who says what he means and means what he says.
I saw a glimpse of that Reich when he visited Fort Wayne for the YMCA’s Good Friday breakfast in 2009. Reich shared his personal story with the audience, one of perseverance and being a man of integrity. He is known as a devout Christian, and he has worked as a motivational speaker and is an ordained minister. None of those things means he’ll be a great head football coach, but it should reflect that he’ll be upfront and honest in dealing with management and players. He seems like the type of person who would be willing to work with those Colts assistant coaches who were recently hired under the expectations McDaniels would be the coach.
* He’s a quarterback at heart
Reich’s most famous NFL moment came when he was forced to fill in for the injured Jim Kelly during the Bills’ 1992 wild card game against the Houston Oilers. Reich led the Bills back from a 35-3 deficit for a 41-38 win. As a college player, he led Maryland back from a 31-0 deficit to beat Miami 42-40 in 1984.
Reich can draw on his experiences as a former quarterback both in dealing with quarterback issues and in play calling. He has been able to observe two of the greatest in NFL history, backing up Kelly and coaching Manning.
Reich could be the perfect head coach to best understand how to use Andrew Luck. Or, since Polian once called Reich the “greatest backup quarterback in NFL history,” he’ll know how to deal with the possibility of no Luck, too.
Ballard, in light of McDaniels’ reversal, said “just because you’re the first choice doesn’t make you the right choice.”
Reich wasn’t the Colts’ first choice. Could he be the right choice? That’s anyone’s guess, but his integrity and background make it easy to support the Colts’ decision to find out.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.