INDIANAPOLIS — Josh McDaniels was the hotshot offensive guru whom teams wanted to be their next head coach over the past few years.
The Indianapolis Colts were one of those teams that wanted McDaniels, but they found out that the New England offensive coordinator isn’t ready to take another leap as a head coach again when he changed his mind about them at the very last minute.
There was also Matt Nagy, the young up-and-coming head coach that the Colts interviewed before he decided to go to Chicago, and Mike Vrabel, who had been a coordinator for only one season and spent most of his playing career in New England.
When the six-week coaching search (finally) concluded, Colts general manager Chris Ballard decided against going with a flashy choice. Ballard instead went with a respected and mature coach in 56-year-old Philadelphia offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
An offensive-minded coach appeared to be the direction Ballard was leaning to the more he talked and raved about defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus last week. Eberflus originally agreed to join McDaniels’ staff, but it was evident that he was more of Ballard’s choice for the job as defensive coordinator, as the Colts prepare to make the transition to a 4-3 defense.
New Orleans assistant head coach and tight ends coach Dan Campbell and Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier were the other two candidates the Colts interviewed besides Reich.
Reich was a late arrival into the NFL coaching world. He didn’t start coaching until a decade after he retired from his 14-year NFL playing career. His first opportunity came with the Colts where he went from an offensive assistant to coach the quarterbacks and wide receivers in his four seasons.
Reich spent the past two seasons as Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator after stops in Arizona and San Diego. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson called the plays, but Reich had a significant role in putting together the game plan to help them average 27.9 points a game over the past two seasons, which is the fourth most in the NFL in that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl with backup quarterback Nick Foles starting in place of injured starter Carson Wentz (knee). Reich is the first Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator to become head coach of a different team the following season since Mike Shanahan left San Francisco for Denver in 1995, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Reich is known for when he started in place of the injured Jim Kelly and helped the Bills overcome a 35-3 third-quarter deficit to beat the Houston Oilers, 41-38, in overtime in a playoff game in January 1993. The 32-point rally is the largest in NFL history. But most of Reich’s playing career was spent as a backup. He started only 20 games and threw for 6,075 yards with 40 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
Reich is about to join Dallas’ Jason Garrett, Pederson and New Orleans’ Sean Payton as the fourth head coach who played quarterback in the NFL. Pederson, Payton and Garrett have all been better head coaches than quarterbacks. Payton and Pederson led their teams to Super Bowl titles.
Now the Colts will see if Reich will continue that trend.