The game works a certain way, and Frank Reich knows how it works, even if he will do his best, over the next 4½ months or more, not to think about playing.
The game works like this: An offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach who has never been a head coach before gets a chance to work with a quarterback. The quarterback might be young and need developing, or he might be a talented passer who has not quite put it all together yet, or he might be a solid veteran who had never compiled a truly spectacular season, or he might be just a guy who had never been an NFL starting quarterback before. And under this particular coach's tutelage, the quarterback flourishes. The young prospect develops. The enigma raises his completion percentage and cuts down his interceptions. The reliable vet becomes elite. The John Doe wows the league.
This is how Bill Lazor — the Eagles' quarterbacks coach during Nick Foles' 27-touchdown, two-interception season — came to be hired as the Miami Dolphins' offensive coordinator. This is how Adam Gase — who as the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator coaxed career seasons out of Jay Cutler and Josh McCown — came to be hired as the Miami Dolphins' head coach. This is how Kyle Shanahan — the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator during Matt Ryan's MVP season last year — came to be hired as the San Francisco 49ers' head coach.
This is the game of career advancement for NFL offensive coaches. This is the game that Reich said he will not try to play, even though, as the Eagles' offensive coordinator, he has been and will be coaching Carson Wentz, and he is well aware that Wentz holds more in his hands than just the Eagles' future. To no small degree, Wentz holds Reich's future, too.
"As coaches, we try not to look at it that way because we try not to think it's about us," Reich was saying after practice the other day. "This is about us winning. I want to look at it as us being better on offense and him continuing to grow and us winning more games. The rest of those things, as far as what people think, those are things I try not to get into. I think that can get to be selfish. You know what I mean? You're trying to build your resumé, and all we're trying to do is build a championship team. Sure, that requires us coaching our butts off and making players better, and he's one of those players we want to get better. It's fun. He's awesome to work with. He's a blast."
In any discussion of which Eagles assistant coach might jump from Doug Pederson's staff to another, better job, Jim Schwartz is usually the name that comes up first, for obvious reasons. He's a well-regarded defensive coordinator, and he's been a head coach before, with the Detroit Lions, and Reich's name has been credibly linked to just one head-coaching job: that of the Buffalo Bills, the franchise with which he spent nine of his 13 seasons as a quarterback. In his previous two coaching stops, Reich also had the relative luxury of coaching Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, and it doesn't necessarily take much to look like a genius when one of those two is under center.
Wentz is more than just one of those players whom Reich and the Eagles want to see improve, though. Already, his promising rookie season turned quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo into such a commodity that Jeffrey Lurie reportedly blocked DeFilippo from interviewing to be the New York Jets' offensive coordinator. If Wentz's career trajectory continues its upward arc, if he becomes the franchise QB the Eagles, really, need him to be, there will be plenty of room on his coattails for both DeFilippo and Reich to hitch a ride.
"We know it's the reality of it, but what we do as coaches is there's only one thing that matters, and that's us getting better as a team," Reich said. "You learn in this business: I try never, ever to think about the next job or the next thing on the resumé, Those are normal thoughts, I think, that go through everyone's head, no matter what your profession. So I acknowledge that you're a hundred percent right. I'm just saying when you're in it every day like we are, all that matters is that we win, and when we win, everybody's happy. And for us to win, he's got to get better, and it's good for everybody."
In other words, if Carson Wentz turns out to be as good as everyone believes he can be and the Eagles win games, Frank Reich will end up playing a game that he doesn't want to think about playing while he's playing it. Creating a LinkedIn account would probably be easier, just not quite as much fun in the meantime.