BY JEFF FALK
PHILADELPHIA – He possesses the background – the blood lines – if you will. He possesses experience from the other end, as a player. He possesses the people skills, the communication skills.
And he continues to enhance his coaching experience through practice, repetition, execution and an unwavering attention to detail.
Frank Reich seeks to get better every day, as a person, as an offensive coordinator, as a coach.It is an approach that is infectious, one that rubs off on everyone he comes in contact.
Reich also possesses an unteachable ability to perceive information, process it and almost instantaneously pass it on to the men he is charged with coaching.
“All we’re trying to do is build a championship team,” said Reich, matter-of-factly. “That means us coaching our butts off. What we do as coaches, only one thing matters, and that’s getting better as a team. I never think about the next thing. When you’re enjoying it every day, the only thing that matters is that we win. If we win, everyone is happy. It’s a fun process.”
It as particularly bright, sunny and warm Thursday morning in August at the Philadelphia Eagles’ training facility, the Novocare Complex, situated conspicuously across Broad Street from Lincoln Financial Field, and Reich emerges from the locker room and jogs on to the field with his familiar gate. It is officially the 11th day of preseason camp, exactly a week before the preseason opener at Green Bay and 31 days before the start of the regular season at Washington, but on this day the real thing feels much closer.
Reich scans a seemingly productive offensive play for any signs of imperfection, much the same way a bird of prey might survey his territory for a meal. The Lebanon native and Cedar Crest graduate makes a point of fist bumping Zach Ertz, after the tight-end makes a sprawling catch along the sideline. Then after the nearly three-hour session is completed, Reich addresses a gathering of print and television reporters about the state of the offense, the progress of individual players and the philosophical ideology of the organization.
As the Eagles’ offensive coordinator, Reich wears many hats. He didn’t invent the offensive coordinator position, but you can bet he is trying to perfect it.
Reich is a liaison between head coach Doug Pederson and the players, an administrator as well as a facilitator. He is the mentor and father figure for the most important position on the offense – the quarterback – and not just the starter, Carson Wentz, an emerging star.
Reich is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on with the offense. He doesn’t get credit for the things that go right, only the criticism when they don’t go right. It is his job to balance the run with the pass, to groom the offensive line and to make sure the Eagles score more points.
Part cheerleader. Part fan. Part motivational psychologist. Part tutor. Part sounding board. Part voice of reason. Part disciplinarian. All coach, all the time.
“It is a good dynamic now,” said Reich, 55..”Coach Pederson has done a great job of setting the tone and having it be very competitive. You’ve got to compete hard and still be mature enough to take care of each other. Tempers flair a little bit and that’s part of it.”
Reich is in his second-year as Philadephia’s offensive coordinator, under second-year head coach Doug Pederson, with Wentz, a second-year signal-caller at the helm. It is a dynamic that is essential to the Eagles’ success, and one that continues to evolve. The progress of the process will likely determine the fortunes of a club that has both playoff and division aspirations this season.
Reich is in his fourth season overall as an offensive coordinator, having spent the previous two seasons in the position with the San Diego Chargers. The former University of Maryland star and Buffalo Bill began coaching in the NFL in 2006, and has also served as a quarterbacks coach and a wide receiver coach.
Reich seems to have all the makings of a future head coach in the league, but always humbly declines to talk about the prospect of it.
“You’ve got a young quarterback who had a solid first year and you want to see continued growth,” said Reich of Wentz. “That position gets a lot of focus. He gets a lot of focus. I’m confident he’s going to take that step.
‘The one thing about this group and our offense, and the whole organization and the whole team, its all about our team getting better,” said Reich. “For our team to get better, players have to make steps and make progress. Certainly Carson is one of those guys. We feel very good about the guys we have on this offensive unit. We have a belief in and a vision of what we can do this year. When you do that together, there’s a great sense of pride.”
Philadelphia is coming off a 2016 campaign in which it went 7-9. The Eagles won their first three games last season, but then lost nine of their last 13.
The Eagles averaged 23 points per game and 337.4 total yards per outing – 224.1 yards passing and 113.3 receiving. Philadelphia was ranked 22nd in the NFL in total yards.
“It’s very competitive out here all the time,” said Reich. “Every player here deserves to be here. You’ve got to fight and scratch for every rep and every play. You’ve got to prove what you can do every play. We’re looking for receivers who come off the ball and can make plays. It’s very competitive on both sides. I think that’s helping us develop at the receiver position.
“You never want to miss time,” continued Reich. “Sometimes there’s personal things that come up. You love ball. You’re getting a lot of money to play ball.”
During the off-season, the Eagles made a point of adding weapons for the purpose of making Wentz and the offense more explosive. Philadelphia picked up wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, and running back LeGarrette Blount.
And Wentz isn’t the only offensive player the Eagles are looking to progress.
“You don’t want to miss practices, especially when you’re a rookie,” said Reich. “But this is a long season. We’re big believers in mental reps. There’s a lot of studies out there that have shown you can make your nervous system feel like it’s in a game.
“Stacking the days together is important,” Reich continued. “You love these live periods. During the live periods it gives us a chance as an offense to see which backs can break tackles, who have good balance, who can get extra yards, who can get a push. It puts a different tone on our offensive line. They know the backs are going to be running harder. I think it gets the line fired up as well.”
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