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Frank Reich: 'The Backup Role Has Suited Me Well In My Career'

The Indianapolis Colts formally introduced Frank Reich as their new head coach Tuesday in a press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium. Why did a question from Pat McAfee — and Reich’s response — bring down the house?


INDIANAPOLIS —Leave it to Pat McAfee to provide one of the lighter moments of Frank Reich's introductory press conference on Tuesday.

McAfee, the former All-Pro Colts punter, was sitting among the rest of the "Big J" journalists at Lucas Oil Stadium representing Barstool Heartland when he grabbed the reporters' microphone and had a couple questions of his own for the newest head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

"So from coaching Peyton Manning to last year you had Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, now you have Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett. Do you think you just always have an abundance of talent surrounding you at all times? And what will you do with Andrew Luck to make him magical? And also a follow-up to that – do you hate or love Josh McDaniels for what he did?"

The first part of McAfee's question — easy. Andrew Luck is a special quarterback for sure, Reich said, but, as he found out first-hand with the Philadelphia Eagles and backup quarterback Nick Foles, winning championships is about the entire team.

But perhaps nobody was prepared to hear Reich's answer to the second part of McAfee's question, regarding McDaniels:

"I'm going to answer that one just for you, Pat," Reich said. "The backup role has suited me well in my career."

McAfee, of course, was referring to the fact that the Colts had originally agreed to terms to hire McDaniels, the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator, to be their new head coach, an offer he would ultimately decide to turn down one week ago.

General manager Chris Ballard re-opened the coaching search from there, brought in Reich for a lengthy interview and on Sunday the team officially had its new leader.

"We don't always choose what happens to us," Ballard said in his opening remarks at Tuesday's press conference. "But what we get a chance to do is choose how we react to it and I really believe that's what shows what we're made of. I can't be more proud of our organization, the city of Indy and how they've handled this last week and can't be more proud of our new head coach Frank Reich."

A realist, Reich said he embraced the Colts' opening knowing full-well he wasn't the team's first choice. In fact, he had told his agent not to field any calls or texts from other teams during the playoffs so he could focus on the task at hand with the Eagles.

"That's just part of this business," he said. "The ebbs and flows of it are exciting, and if you can't handle it and you can't embrace it, you should really go do something else. So, it's an exciting opportunity to forge together with other men around a common vision and move forward and be thankful for how things come together. Sometimes that's the best way for it to happen."

And as for that "backup role" comment? One might have to agree with Reich's assessment.

A third-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1985, Reich would spend the better part of nine seasons as the team's backup quarterback, mostly behind a Hall of Famer in Jim Kelly.

But when called into duty, Reich stepped up — and then some:

• Filling in for an injured Kelly in the 1989 season, Reich went 3-0 as a starter and helped lead the Bills into the playoffs. He completed 53-of-87 passes for 701 yards with seven touchdowns to two interceptions that year.

• The next season, in 1990, Reich, again, filled in for an injured Kelly, leading the team to two huge wins down the stretch and earning a divisional championship. The Bills would go on to make their first of four Super Bowl appearances that season.

• But Reich's signature moment came in the 1992 Wild Card game against the Houston Oilers. With Kelly out with a knee injury, the Bills found themselves down 35-3 early in the third quarter and staring elimination dead in the face. But Reich would lead his team on a 38-3 run the rest of the way, culminating in a 41-38 overtime victory and advancing to the Divisional Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers (a game Reich also started and won). The 32-point swing was the largest comeback in NFL history.

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