INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Bill Polian was there at the beginning. Both of them, in fact. So, why not for the third?
An influential cog in the Buffalo Bills’ front office in 1985, Polian was part of the decision to invest a third-round pick in a lanky quarterback out of the University of Maryland. And as the Indianapolis Colts general manager in 2006, he signed off as Tony Dungy brought in a coaching wannabe off the streets to serve on his staff as an offensive intern.
Polian was there – again – when the Colts found themselves in serious bounce-back mode after being unceremoniously dumped by Josh McDaniels last Tuesday. The Colts turned to Frank Reich, who signed a five-year contract to be the head coach McDaniels didn’t want to be.
Good choice, insisted Polian.
“He’s everything you want, and more,’’ Polian told Indy Sports Central Sunday evening. “He’s football. He’s family. He’s as fine a young man as I’ve ever come across. He’s an inspirational leader. He’s a quarterback expert; Andrew Luck is going to love working with him. He’s an outstanding offensive coordinator.
“The Colts got the best of the bargain, that’s for sure.’’
General manager Chris Ballard believe he had the best man for the job when he reached an agreement with McDaniels, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator. That blew up in his face when McDaniels reneged.
As the Colts renewed their coaching search, Polian reached out to owner Jim Irsay and Ballard.
“We talked,’’ he said. “When the situation occurred I reached out to both Jim and Chris to see if there was anything I could help with.
“I told them Frank was the right choice. Absolutely the right choice.’’
Polian also counseled Reich, his long-time friend.
“We talk a lot,’’ Polian said. “In regards to (the Colts), I think he called me because I didn’t want to bother him during the playoff run. But we talked before the playoffs and again right after the Super Bowl.’’
Polian’s overriding advice to Reich: Go in with your eyes wide open.
“As Chris has said and I will repeat and as I told Frank, this is a rebuild situation,’’ Polian said. “It’s not going to change overnight because the personnel situation, particularly on defense – really throughout – is well below the level they had in Philadelphia and even in San Diego.
“This is a rebuild. But with Chris at the helm and Frank at the helm, you couldn’t have two better people to get it done. They will get it done.’’
Reich, 56, is considered an NFL “lifer.’’ He’s spent 25 years in the league as a player and coach. He was an accomplished backup quarterback for 13 seasons and 132 games, including the playoffs. He’s been a coach for the last 12 seasons, adding another 207 games to his resume.
Add ‘em up: that’s 339 games and 14 trips to the playoffs. He was part of seven Super Bowl teams, and two world championships – one as an intern with the Colts in ’06 and the other as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator last Sunday when Philly rolled New England 41-33 in Super Bowl LII.
“He was arguably the best backup quarterback in the game when he played,’’ Polian said.
Reich certainly was the quarterback the Bills needed in the wild-card round of the 1992 postseason. After Buffalo fell into a 35-3 third quarter hole, Reich, who started in place of injured Jim Kelly, orchestrated the greatest comeback in playoff history. The Bills won 41-38 in overtime.
That wasn’t a fluke. At Maryland in 1984, Reich replaced Stan Gelbaugh and rallied the Terps from a 31-0 halftime deficit against the Bernie Kosar-led Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl to a 42-40 victory. At the time, it was the biggest comeback in NCAA history.
“There’s not a lot that scares Frank Reich,’’ Polian said with a laugh.
Reich’s coaching resume mirrors his playing career. He persevered, working his way up the ranks. His first job with the Colts in ’06-‘07 was an intern, followed by a season as an offensive assistant. He spent two seasons as Peyton Manning’s position coach (’09-’10) before moving over to receivers coach in 2011.
“That’s exactly the way he lived his life,’’ Polian said. “He’s done it the right way. He’s paid his dues and he’s done it at every stop and he’s succeeded at every stop.
“This will be no exception.’’
“Frank Reich was with me at the end of my tenure with the Colts,’’ he wrote via Twitter. “He has a creative offensive mind. He’s a great communicator and a high quality person. The Colts are in great hands. #Integrity.’’
According to the Eagles, the Colts’ gain is their loss.
“Lookin’ good Coach! Gonna miss working with you,’’ quarterback Carson Wentz posted on Twitter. “Wish it didn’t have to end but it was an unbelievable two years! Can’t thank you enough!’’
Coach Doug Pederson described Reich as “a tremendous coach and very deserving of this opportunity. He was a valuable member of our staff and we have all benefited from working with him over the last two years.
“As good as he is as a leader and teacher, he’s an even better person. We could not be more excited for him as he takes this next step in his career and we wish him and his family the best.’’
Interest in Nick Sirianni?
According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB, the Colts have sought permission to interview Chargers receivers coach Nick Sirianni for their offensive coordinator position. Reich was the Chargers quarterbacks coach in 2013 and their offensive coordinator in in 2014-15.
Three members of Reich’s staff preceded his arrival: defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, defensive line coach Mike Phair and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.