Can Frank Reich’s knowledge of Eagles offense help Colts pull off an upset Sunday?
No one outside of the Eagles organization knows the team's offense better than Colts coach Frank Reich. How helpful will that knowledge be Sunday when Reich goes up against his former boss, Doug Pederson, at the Linc? Well see.
As Frank Reich is well aware from having spent the last two years in Philadelphia as the Eagles' offensive coordinator, Lincoln Financial Field is not a particularly enjoyable place to play if you're from out of town.
The Eagles have won 12 of their last 13 games at the Linc, and their fans have PhDs in loud and obnoxious.
But Reich, who was named the Colts' head coach in February, a week after he helped the Eagles win their first-ever Super Bowl, is looking forward to his Philly return Sunday with his 1-1 team.
"It's exciting to come back to Philly, knowing the environment is going to be electric just with how things are there, but certainly with Carson [Wentz] coming back,'' he said. "I'm looking forward to that. It'll be a good challenge.''
Reich's familiarity with Doug Pederson's offense could be a benefit to the Colts defense Sunday, though he downplayed that earlier this week when he spoke with the Philadelphia media on a conference call.
"I really don't think it's as much of an advantage as some people might think,'' he said. "I didn't spend hours with our defense trying to explain every nuance of the offense and what coach Pederson and coach [Mike] Groh [the new offensive coordinator] and [offensive line] coach [Jeff] Stoutland are trying to do.
"I talked about some of the players. I talked a little bit about a few philosophical things. But my experience over and over again being in these situations is that it usually is overplayed. You give a couple of nuggets [of information] and then you go play ball.''
Said Pederson: "I'm excited to see Frank again obviously. But we're up on the things that he could make them aware of.''
Reich fully expected to return to the Eagles this season as Pederson's top offensive lieutenant. He initially was passed over for all seven vacant NFL head-coaching jobs.
But two days after the Super Bowl, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels backed out of the Colts job hours after accepting it.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard called Reich and brought him to Indy for an interview. A few days later, the former backup quarterback and Presbyterian minister was named the Colts' new head coach.
"It all just happened kind of fast,'' Reich, 56, said. "I enjoyed the [Super Bowl] celebration after the game. Came back [to Philadelphia] on Monday and got a call from Chris Ballard Tuesday night. I was excited to interview and see what would happened.''
The Colts are a rebuilding team that finished 4-12 last season and haven't been to the playoffs since 2014.
Bill Polian, the former Colts, Bills and Panthers general manager who lobbied Ballard and owner Jim Irsay to hire Reich, told him to go into the job with his "eyes wide open'' and understand that the Colts are in a rebuilding mode.
But Reich, whose team is coming off a 21-9 win over the Redskins, said he doesn't have the luxury of playing the long game.
"Bill's like a football father to me,'' he said of Polian, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years ago. "But when you're a coach, 'rebuild' is not in your vocabulary. It's not in your thinking.
"You're thinking win. You're thinking we've got the players here to win now. And that's the only thing that entered my mind [when he took the Colts job].''
Reich and Pederson have known each other since 1995 when both were on the Carolina Panthers' expansion roster. Pederson ended up getting released before the start of training camp that year, but the two stayed in touch through the years and became friends.
When Pederson needed an offensive coordinator after getting the Eagles' head coaching job in 2016, he called Reich.
Pederson said Reich was an immense help to him both on and off the field during their two years together.
"He's a great man,'' the Eagles coach said. "A great man of faith. He and I really connected on that level. On a spiritual level. He really helped keep me grounded. I owe him a debt of gratitude to what he meant on a personal level.
"From the football side, his demeanor with the quarterbacks, he's got a very sort of calming presence. I don't think I ever saw him get his feathers ruffled at any time. I think that speaks volumes.
"Sometimes you don't have to scream and yell and holler to get your point across. His demeanor carried well with our quarterbacks.''
Najee Goode, the former Eagles linebacker and special teams ace who signed with the Colts in the offseason, said he's been very impressed with Reich as a head coach and sees a lot of similarities between him and Pederson.
"From the way they act — you've got two guys who were around each other for so long and played the same position and had the same experiences as backups in the league – to their philosophies as far as how they want to practice, how they want to play and how aggressive they are,'' he said.
"The cool thing about Frank is, you don't think he's going to say anything. But he always has something to say.''
Reich was asked whether any of Pederson's aggressive play-calling philosophy has rubbed off on him.
"Well, there were a couple of times in the preseason where we went for it on fourth down without flinching, without even thinking about it,'' he said. "That's probably because of my time there.''