Frank Reich headed back to Philly, and he’s taking 1-1 Colts with him
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The communication between two fast friends continued Monday morning, but likely will lessen as the week unfolds.
This is business. Indianapolis Colts vs. Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, aka The Linc.
For a few days, Frank Reich and Doug Pederson must limit their contact because, again, there’s a game to be contested between a pair of 1-1 teams.
Never mind week 3 on the Colts’ 2018 docket always has lurked in the back of Reich’s mind. It’s his return to Philly, his NFL residence the previous two seasons as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator.
Reich was named the Colts’ head coach Feb. 11, a week after helping Pederson and the Eagles outrun New England 41-33 in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis. Over the past two seasons, Reich and Pederson developed a tight bond.
“Doug and I are very, very close. I mean very close,’’ Reich said Monday afternoon. “I’m as close with Doug as I am with anybody in this profession. I just think the world of him.
“I think he’s a superior, incredible coach and an incredible person. But in this business, we’re at work.’’
Preparation for the Eagles began shortly after the Colts handed Reich his first win as a head coach: 21-9 against the Washington Redskins. It involved him thumbing through an initial scouting report. The cover page featured Pederson’s picture, which was the thrust of one of Reich’s Monday morning texts.
“I just texted him, said it was odd seeing his face as the opponent,’’ Reich said. “Have a lot of respect for Doug and the job he’s done there in Philadelphia. He deserves a lot of credit.’’
Pederson was named Philadelphia’s head coach Jan. 18, 2016. Two days later, he brought Reich in as his offensive coordinator. Roughly three months later, the Eagles used the second overall pick in the draft on quarterback Carson Wentz.
Reich was instrumental in Wentz’s meteoric rise. After an effective rookie season – 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, a 7-9 record as a starter – he led the Eagles to an 11-2 start in 2017. Wentz established himself as an MVP front-runner with 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions before suffering a season-ending knee injury Dec. 10 against the Rams.
Backup Nick Foles stepped in and was the catalyst in the Eagles’ offensive-flavored win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. He was named the game’s MVP after passing for 373 yards and three touchdowns, and catching another TD on the “Philly Special.’’
The Foles-led offense has struggled to start the season, but help is on the way. Wentz will make his season debut Sunday against the Colts.
Pederson told the Philly media there would be no limitations with Wentz.
“He’s cleared, he goes,’’ Pederson said. “I’ve said all along: He’s our guy.
“It’s going to take some time to get back into the rhythm and flow of the game. The speed of the game is different than the speed of practice.’’
Reich has witnessed Wentz at his best, and what makes him tick.
“What you love about Carson is, much like Andrew (Luck), a team-first guy,’’ he said. “An explosive player with the right kind of attitude and the right kind of worth ethic.
“(It was) just fun watching him grow as a player, just in the short two years that we were together there. Truly one of my coaching highlights, a chance to work with him. Just a class act.’’
Reich already has returned to Philadelphia since taking over the Colts. In mid-June, owner Jim Irsay made his private jet available so Reich could attend the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship ring ceremony.
Even so, Sunday at The Linc will be more than just another road trip for Reich.
“I don’t think so,’’ he said, before quickly reconsidering. “Shoot, let me rephrase that. Yeah, it’s special.
“A lot of times in this business usually when you’re going back some place, you’re usually going back to some place you got fired from. This isn’t like that. I have nothing but great memories and tremendous experience in two years there.’’
But at the end of the day, Reich added, “we’re all after the same thing. I owe a lot to that organization because they gave me the opportunity that I have right now to be the head coach here.
“But it’s excited to go back and be able to compete against the defending Super Bowl champions. And that’s what we’re planning on doing.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.