KRAVITZ: As a Plan B (Plan E?) selection, Reich might end up being the right man for the Colts’ job

Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator, Frank Reich (L) confers with Eagles coaches in a 2016 game against the Detroit Lions. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
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Bob Kravitz

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - As Plan B’s go, Frank Reich is a very solid and even exciting selection by the cuckolded Indianapolis Colts. Well, we say Plan B, but let’s be honest, he was about a Plan E selection. If Chris Ballard was really that interested in interviewing Reich the first time, he would have made time to interview him during the Eagles’ bye week rather than other candidates who were not under a time crunch (see: Mike Vrabel).

Still, the Colts should have little or no problem selling Reich, a former NFL backup and an assistant coach who spent six years in Indianapolis in various capacities. Of the three candidates they interviewed in the past few days – Dan Campbell, Reich and Leslie Frazier – Reich was the only one who had a chance to appeal to the confused and angry Indianapolis fan base.


For good reason:

He was a long-time NFL backup quarterback and authored the greatest playoff comeback ever when he was with the Buffalo Bills. He stepped into the breech for Jim Kelly and the Bills, and now he’s stepping into the breech for the Colts.

He spent six years in Indy working with Bill Polian, Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, Peyton Manning, Clyde Christensen and others. Reich, who spent several years out of football after his retirement, but returned as a Colts intern/quality control coach in 2006 and 2007, an offensive assistant in 2008, a quarterback coach in 2009-10 and wide receivers coach in 2011. Since then, he’s worked in Arizona, San Diego and, most recently, Philadelphia.

And he’s coming off a remarkable Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots; he doesn’t call the plays in Philadelphia – head coach Doug Pederson takes care of that – but Reich was instrumental in putting together one of the great game plans in Super Bowl history.

“I always ask, does he have both sides of the equation?’ and he does,’’ said Clyde Christensen, who worked with Reich in Indianapolis and now works for the Miami Dolphins. “He’s a fine man, he’s a humble man, and he’s a very fine football coach. He’s worked really hard at it. He hasn’t been a lifer, but he’s worked so hard and he’s done a great job everywhere he’s been. He came to us (in 2006) with such a great attitude just to learn. He was a sponge. And he had and still has such a good way with people. So you’re getting both sides of the equation.’’

Reich also has one very big thing going for him, and it’s this: He’s not Josh Bleepin’ McDaniels. Which will make him massively popular. And if he enjoys success here, he figures to be one of the most popular coaches in the franchise’s history because he’s the guy who wanted the job when McDaniels ultimately did not. Everybody is rooting for this guy to succeed, not only because Colts fans want to win, but because they want to stick it to McDaniels.

It’s abundantly clear Ballard changed philosophical course after striking out with McDaniels. He looked at Campbell, who is an established leader who had some success as an interim head coach with the Miami Dolphins. Reich, who is signing a five-year deal, is a low-key pro who is actually an ordained minister on top of everything else. Frazier is a former Minnesota Vikings head coach and a member of the Tony Dungy coaching tree.

McDaniels was the hot girl at the bar, and Ballard fell head over heels. Can you blame him, though? McDaniels was a shiny object, but he was a shiny object with an impressive pedigree and resume. How do you argue with his record and the fact he owns five Super Bowl rings? There’s a reason he’s been a head coaching candidate many times over, although he’ll never have to worry about that again. The man is good at what he does.

Turned out, though, that McDaniels lacked a moral compass.

I’m not going to sit here and engage in revisionist history. I was all over the McDaniels’ hire. I thought he would be a fabulous head coach here. So I’m not going to sit here, like so many fans, and say, “Well, the Colts are so much better off with Reich.’’ Maybe they will be. Selecting coaches is like the NFL Draft: It’s a crapshoot. But I was on McDaniels from the start, and Reich looks to me like the very best they could do under very difficult circumstances.

That said, we wrote the same thing after Kevin Pritchard traded Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis: Well, they did the best they could do given their situation.

How’d that work out?

So yeah, he’s Plan B, or maybe Plan E, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be the right guy for the job over time. Pederson, the Eagles’ head coach, wasn’t that team’s first choice; Ben McAdoo was. McAdoo was fired this season by the Giants. Pederson won a Super Bowl.

Hollywood has a long history of success with Plan B actors. Tom Selleck turned down the lead in Indiana Jones; Harrison Ford took the role and ran with it. Did you know John Travola was supposed to be Forrest Gump, only to turn it down and get replaced by Tom Hanks?

The pressure now is on Ballard to get this right, to make sure all those pre-McDaniels assistant coaching hires were right, to do a great job filling out his coaching staff, and to get it right in the draft and free agency. Make no mistake, Ballard’s reputation took a body shot this past week, even if you believe, as I do, that it should be enough to take a man at his word. Should they have hired those assistant coaches before the ink was dry on McDaniels’ contract? Probably not. Should they have announced the press conference before McDaniels actually landed in Indianapolis and signed the contract? Ballard said Wednesday, “That’s on me,’’ but again, how was he to know McDaniels would do something so grimy?

After the hiring announcement, Tony Dungy tweeted this: “Frank Reich was with me at the end of my tenure with the Colts. He has a creative offensive mind. He’s a great communicator and a high quality person. The Colts are in great hands. #integrity’’


At least the Colts have a sense of humor about it, tweeting out a picture at 5:25 p.m. Sunday of Reich with pen and paper in hand, signing his contract.


My sources tell me it was not invisible ink.

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