The ‘Backup’ Plan in Indy
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - It worked in Philadelphia so why not Indianapolis?
That seems to be the thinking in the Hoosier State after Josh McDaniels left the Colts at the altar and the team was forced to look in another direction at head coach, turning to the offensive coordinator who actually beat McDaniels in Super Bowl LII, Doug Pederson's right-hand man Frank Reich.
Anytime you get burned, it's natural to pivot 180 degrees and instead of swinging for fences, Colts GM Chris Ballard settled down on a 0-2 count and lashed a double into the gap by hiring Reich.
“I thought about it after I got done interviewing him. I go, ‘My Lord, what was I thinking?’ You talk to people. You make your list. You don’t panic," Ballard explained. "You regroup, you persevere and you wind up with the guy you now consider to be “the perfect fit.’’
McDaniels is a highly-regarded offensive mind who hasn't exactly proven to be the most reliable guy in the world. In a position that demands leadership, the New England OC showed virtually none of that during his first head-coaching opportunity in Denver and again flashed a certain level of immaturity by hedging here and leaving a number of assistants and their families in the lurch.
Conversely, the 58-year-old Reich is regarded as a rock-solid guy, a man focused on the faith, family and football, telling his agent not to bother him with potential job inquiries until after the Eagles season was over and his work with Philadelphia was finished.
If all that sounds cliche, maybe it would be if it weren't so true as the outpouring of support for Reich was consistent from those who have worked with him, all the way from his former boss Pederson to the man who gave Reich his start in coaching, Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy.
The Eagles think so highly of Reich, it looks as if they are going to use two people -- receivers coach Mike Groh and running backs mentor Duce Staley -- and possibly a third from outside the organization to replace what he did for the Eagles.
When Pederson was hired in Philadelphia, he was essentially Plan C behind Adam Gase, who instead turned toward the weather and the tax haven that Florida provides, as well as Ben McAdoo, who decided to stay up the turnpike with the Giants.
Two years after "settling" the Eagles have their first Lombardi trophy, McAdoo is already out in New York and Gase has proved to be McDaniels-lite, perhaps offensively savvy but losing the locker room in Miami with a tone-deaf management style.
Reich, on the other hand, just interned under a man who changed the game by somehow being constantly aggressive while avoiding the recklessness that often accompanies that, something Pederson has credited Reich with.
By serving as the OC with the Eagles Reich is also now used to handling a media corps that dwarfs the one in Indy, something that shined through in his introductory press conference with the Colts when Reich was asked about being the second choice of the Colts
"The backup role has suited me well in my career," Reich, the long-time reserve QB in Buffalo behind Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, deadpanned.
“I embrace it. I embrace it. That’s just part of this business. The ebbs and flows of it are exciting. If you can’t handle it and can’t embrace it, you should really go do something else. So it’s an exciting opportunity to forge together with other men around a common vision and move forward and be thankful for how things come together.
“Sometimes that’s the best way for it to happen."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen