INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indianapolis Colts’ unorthodox coaching search resulted in a unique resolution.
The six-week search, complicated and extended by Josh McDaniels’ last-minute decision to walk away from last week’s agreement, brings Frank Reich full circle. He began his NFL coaching career in 2006 as a Colts’ intern.
His latest role with the franchise is exponentially greater: head coach of a team in serious rebuild mode.
But there’s another twist.
Reich, 56, is the first offensive coordinator to win a Super Bowl with one team (the Philadelphia Eagles) and immediately take a head coaching job with another team (the Colts) since – drum roll, please – Mike Shanahan. In the mid-1990s.
Reich was an integral part of the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. He and head coach Doug Pederson authored a game plan that left the favored New England Patriots gasping for air. Riding the hot hand of backup quarterback Nick Foles, Philly outgunned the Patriots 41-33. The Eagles rolled up 538 yards in total offense. Foles passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s everything you want, and more,’’ former long-time Colts’ executive and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian told Indy Sports Central of the Reich hiring. “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 NFL’s head coaching carousel spins annually. The 2017 season created seven vacancies.
Teams often gravitate toward that next young offensive or defensive mind. Who’s the hot offensive coordinator? Who’s defensive philosophy will relocate effectively?
After Atlanta fell to New England in Super Bowl LI after the 2016 season, the San Francisco 49ers hired Falcons’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as their head coach. Two years earlier, the Atlanta Falcons waited for Super Bowl XLIX to unfold – New England 28, Seattle 24 – and then named Falcons’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn their head coach.
Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley capitalized on the Cardinals’ appearance, and loss, to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII to land the head coach gig in Kansas City the next season, and Mike Martz went from offensive coordinator to head coach in St. Louis, succeeding the retiring Dick Vermeil, following the Rams’ win over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Since 1990, though, the path taken by Reich is shared by only two others.
That would be Shanahan and Norv Turner.
Shanahan was the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator in Super Bowl XXIX after the 1994 season – a 49-26 whipping of San Diego – who quickly was named Denver’s head coach in ’95. Turner used Dallas’ back-to-back Super Bowl championships (1992-93) as a springboard to move from the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator to Washington’s head coach in ’94.
And there’s one other tidbit that’s interesting. The Colts hired Ted Marchibroda as their head coach in 1992, a few days after he served as Buffalo’s offensive coordinator in their loss to Washington in Super Bowl XXVI.
Polian offered advice to Reich as he considered re-upping with the Colts, and also talked with Colts owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard.
He’s lavish with praise for Reich. He played a role when Buffalo drafted Reich in the third round of the 1985 draft and when Reich joined the Colts as a coaching intern in 2006.
“He’s very realistic,’’ Polian said. “He goes into things with his eyes wide open. I told him, ‘Look, this is a rebuild situation.’ He knows that.
“By the same token, he’s always optimistic and he’s exceedingly inspirational to the people that are around him.’’