To be a coach, one must peer into the future, concoct strategy and develop a plan. But at a moment’s notice, you’ve got to be ready to change the plan, prioritize, become flexible.
Control the things you can control. Embrace the things you can’t control. And possess the wisdom to know the difference.
It’s the same for an NFL coach, except for one important difference. In the bottom-line business that is the NFL, coaches are held accountable for things out of their control, ultimately they are judged by wins and losses.
Lebanon native Frank Reich is entering his fourth season as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts will open their 2021 campaign on Sunday, September 13 when they host Seattle.
“It’s the normal course of business,” said Reich. “You’ve got to lay out the best possible plan. But you’ve got to be ready to adjust and change. That goes for things like injuries and COVID-19. You have to stay positive. You have to be a good citizen. You have to follow the rules. You move forward and try to take everything in a positive light.
“You deal with it with confidence,” continued Reich. “You stay poised. You understand that things are not always fair. But you’re still judged on results. At the end of the day, it’s a results-oriented business. I have a great job. Everybody has to deal with it. You’re working together with a great bunch of guys. You’ve got to take some bad with a lot of good.”
In many ways, this off-season and the training camp leading up to the regular season has been one of the greatest challenges to Reich’s coaching skill set. But what’s the old proverb about iron sharpening iron?
“There are always things to deal with,” said Reich. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another. You never get used to it, even though it’s part of the job. You just have to keep moving forward.
“Our players came into training camp and did a great job,” added Reich. “The guys came in and worked hard. We’re a better team now than when we started. You’re always in process. We feel like we got better. Good teams get better as the season goes on. You move on and continue to get better.’
In his tenure as head coach, no position has tested Reich’s coaching flexibility more than his former one – quarterback. During the off-season, Indianapolis brought in Carson Wentz, with whom Reich had worked during his days as the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
The hope is that Wentz will provide some much needed, long-term stability to the most important position on the field.
“We were able to get Carson in a trade,” said Reich. “We feel really good with where Carson is at. What we’re looking for from the quarterback position is great leadership and great plays. We felt Carson would be a long-term answer. I think he’s made a smooth transition to a new team.”
Wentz represents Indianapolis’ fourth starting quarterback in Reich’s four years as the head coach. In light of that fact, it’s pretty amazing what the Colts have been able to accomplish.
Under Reich, the Colts have an overall record of 29-22 over the last three years. Indianapolis has qualified for the postseason twice, including his first season in 2018, when the Colts defeated Houston in the opening round, after starting the year 1-5.
“We’re very pleased with the kind of team we’ve been able to assemble, just the quality of the players we have,” said Reich, a 59-year-old graduate of Cedar Crest High School. “But ultimately in this business you’re never satisfied.
“We just need to keep getting better,” added Reich. “The first goal is winning a division championship. But the way you get there is not being fixated on the goal, but being fixated on the process, everyday.”
So there is a next level to be attained. That would seem to start with an AFC South Division title, and the prospect of hosting a playoff game.
“Ultimately, the goal is the top of the mountain – winning a championship,” said Reich. “But you’ve got to do it the right way. There are a few check points along the way, one of which is a division championship. If we focus on the daily process that will give us the results we want.”
Improving incrementally originates from the top, and Reich practices what he preaches. If that means the former Cedar Crest star is a better coach today than he was yesterday – but not as good as he’ll be tomorrow – then he’s even better equipped to handle the things that are out of his control.
“I’m just trying to get better everyday,” said Reich. “I try to do my best job. I really enjoy working with these players and for this organization. There’s always room for improvement, but I feel like we’re on the right track.”
The next great challenge to Reich’s ability to adapt is the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a challenge that no one has seemingly been able to master yet.
“Our guys understand that it’s a serious issue,” said Reich. “We talk about taking it seriously. We talk about keeping yourself healthy and those around you healthy. Follow the protocols. Educate yourself about the virus. Do the right things.”
Flexibility is also a measure of one’s character.