INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Reich is ready to embrace being the backup option again.
He spent the majority of his 14-year NFL playing career as a backup quarterback. And he’s the Indianapolis Colts‘ second choice for head coach after Josh McDaniels reneged on his agreement at the very last minute.
“The backup role has suited me well in my career,” Reich said as he drew a roomful of laughs during his introductory news conference at Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday.
Reich replaces Chuck Pagano, who was fired after six seasons, and McDaniels. The Colts announced that McDaniels had agreed to become coach of the Colts early on Feb. 6, only to have him call general manager Chris Ballard later that day to tell him he was remaining as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.
“We don’t always choose what happens to us, but what we get a chance to do is choose how we react to it,” Ballard said. “I really believe that’s what shows what we’re made of. I can’t be more proud of our organization, the city of Indy and how they’ve handled this last week. Can’t be any more proud of our new head coach Frank Reich.”
Ballard had Reich on his initial list of nearly 10 candidates back in December, but Reich didn’t make the general manager’s top-five list.
“I thought about it after I got done interviewing him. I go, ‘My Lord, what was I thinking?’ You talk to people,” Ballard said. “You make your list. You don’t panic.”
Having McDaniels back out of the job ended up helping Reich because he told his agent he wasn’t going to interview for any openings while Philadelphia was still in the playoffs. Reich wanted his focus to be strictly on getting the offensive game plan together so that the Eagles would be prepared for each playoff game. Ballard interviewed Reich on Feb. 9, the day after the Eagles had their Super Bowl celebration in Philadelphia.
“I want to first off acknowledge and thank the Philadelphia Eagles organization for allowing me to be part of a team and a journey that did something special for the Philadelphia Eagles,” Reich said. “But today is a new chapter. Today is a new chapter and I could not be more excited. … My first coaching job, first as an intern and eventually as a quality control coach and then as a quarterback coach to get my start. What better way to get started and there could not be a better way to finish it than right here in this great city.”
Reich spent the past two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Eagles. Philadelphia went from 22nd in offense during Reich’s first season to seventh this past season. The Eagles scored 41 points to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII despite not having starting quarterback Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL on Dec. 10, 2017.
Reich began his coaching career in 2006, eight years after he retired from playing. He spent two seasons as a coaching intern under former Colts head coach Tony Dungy. Reich progressed to being an offensive staff assistant with coach Jim Caldwell in 2008. Then Reich was Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach from 2009-10 before coaching Reggie Wayne and the rest of the wide receivers in 2011. Reich was also offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the Chargers and receivers coach with the Arizona Cardinals.
Reich, who will call plays on offense for the Colts, is taking over an Indianapolis team that finished with a 4-12 record in 2017 and has missed the playoffs three straight years. The Colts will have the No. 3 overall pick in the draft and face the uncertainty of not knowing when quarterback Andrew Luck will return from the right shoulder injury that caused him to miss the entire 2017 season.
“One person at a time, one detail at a time, one player at a time and one game at a time,” Reich said. “As the head coach, the vision is simple and it’s clear, that every time we step on the field to compete, there will be four marks that will mark our team. The first one is that we will be the toughest … both mentally and physically. … Secondly, we will be the most disciplined team. … Thirdly, we’re going to be the most prepared team. … Fourth, we’re going to be the most united team. We’re going to be a close team. It’s going to be built around trust, respect and love.”