The pressure on Frank Reich to perform is immense, and consistent. It’s not only there on game days, but it’s also present during practices, in film sessions and during his personal interactions with everyone around him.
Yeah, Reich works extremely hard, prepares diligently and processes information instantly – almost as soon as it is presented to him. But the competitive nature of the NFL forces the Lebanon native to be on top of his game, all day, every day.
Sure, he has good days and bad days, but the key to his success is his level-headedness, his even-keeled approach. But when you delve a little deeper, one is left wondering about the source of that drive and the origin of that passion.
Is Frank Reich motivated by his competitve nature? Is it a fear of failure, or a desire to succeed? Could it be that he simply doesn’t want to let others down?
Reich is driven by both internal and external factors – his upbringing, the collection of his experiences, his love of the game and others. And his love of God.
“There are a lot of things that drive me,” said Reich, by phone from the Indianapolis Colts’ training camp. “I’m motivated by a handful of things. The main driver for me is my faith in Christ, just an appreciation of the opportunity to have an impact and live out that faith as a football coach. I want to show gratitude to the Lord for the opportunity he has given me. I want to have an impact, on and off the field.
“The love of God, and other people, is my main driver,” continued Reich. “But part of that is a love of competing, a love of the game of football, a love of the process. The dream isn’t the prize. The dream is the grind, the everyday process and the people you’re in it with. That’s what it really boils down to for me.”
Reich is entering his third season as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and his 13th overall season of coaching in the NFL. Throw in 14 seasons as an NFL player, four years as a college quarterback at Maryland and four years at Cedar Crest High School, and Reich has spent nearly three-quarters of his 58 years on this earth playing football, or preparing to do so.
Reich knows a little more about the game now than he did when he first started, but not as much as he will tomorrow. He has never stopped learning.
“This never gets old,” said Reich, a former pastor and inspirational speaker. “You love being part of a team, of a group of guys who share the same values and beliefs. Our mission as an organization is to inspire, by winning the right way. It’s not just a job. It’s a life mission. In this world, football has a unique platform. I’m glad we can bring joy into people’s lives. We want to win the right way. It’s exciting to do that.”
Reich’s Colts are coming off a 7-9 season in 2019 in which they failed – at least on paper – to take the next logical step in that process. A year prior, in Reich’s initial campaign as head coach, Indianapolis went 10-6 and made a somewhat surprising run to the playoffs, where the Colts knocked off Houston before eventually losing to Kansas City in the AFC divisional round.
Reich’s career record as Indianapolis’ head coach currently stands at 18-16.
In the bottom line business of the NFL, results matter.
“What stands out to me about last year was our deep conviction to the people here and the process,” said Reich. “In some ways, it may have been disappointing, but we feel good about the process. We didn’t get the results we wanted. I thought we performed well at times. We didn’t finish out the year the way we started. But underneath the surface, there were things that were building and growing, things that I think are going to show up this year.
“In 2018, we started 1-5 and had a really strong run at the end,” added Reich. “In 2019, we did the exact opposite. We started 5-2, after changing starting quarterbacks at the beginning of the season (when Andrew Luck suddenly retired), then hobbled home from there.”
It would be easy to say that Reich and the Colts now stand at a crossroads in that process, as they prepare for their September 13th season opener at Jacksonville. But in the NFL, the tests never relent.
Reich and general manager Chris Ballard have combined to assemble one of the most talented and balanced rosters in the NFL. Indianapolis must be considered as one of the favorites to win the South Division, as well as the entire AFC.
“Those are two major issues that need to be dealt with,” said Reich, of how the COVID-19 crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement will affect the upcoming campaign. “It’s life. As a football team, as coaches and players, it’s what we do. Football is important, but there are things that are more important. People are more important. It’s appropriate.
“We hit the pause button after the George Floyd murder, to deal with it as a team,” continued Reich. “The pandemic protocals affect our football team and our families. We tried to figure out, as a team, how we were going to fight it. We have a job to do, as a football team. But we think we can make a difference off the field as well. We’re looking to make incremental improvements in every area. That’s where the power is. If every area of our organization, every person, makes an incremental gain, then we’re going to see a powerful improvement.”
During the off-season, Indianapolis added 38-year-old quarterback Phillip Rivers to the mix. Reich and Rivers developed a certain familiarity and chemistry with one another during their shared three seasons in San Diego from 2013 to 2015, when Reich was the Chargers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
There is hope that Rivers is the final piece to the Colts’ puzzle.
“Phillip Rivers is a future hall-of-famer,” said Reich. “He has elite skills. He’s a great leader, he has a great understanding of the game and he’s a great teammate. It was a unique opportunity for us as an organization. When Phillip became available, given our history together, we felt like we had to take advantage of that opportunity. We still think (last year’s starter) Jacoby (Brisett) can be a starter in this league, but Phillip is a guy who’s an elite player and someone who has a lot of football left in him.”
The constant nature of change in professional football demands flexibility. But 2020 may prove to be the NFL’s most fluid season ever.
“The process demans that you go through the normal installments,” said Reich, of a Colts’ training camp that was not preceded by Organized Team Activities and did not include pre-season games. “You get a lot of work done on the field, and through team meetings and walk throughs. Everyone has had a sense of urgency and we’ve been getting work done knowing time is of the essence. Off the field, we’ve been able to get up to speed mentally. Now we’ve got to make sure we’re physically ready and that we’re in football shape.
“I feel like we’re in great shape,” Reich added. “The challenges of this training camp was that there were no OTAs, so there are less plays to evaluate the team. You want everyone to get great opportunities. As coaches and players, you want to have more time to get better. But everyone’s in the same boat. It’s not a negative.”
A simple exercise in time management and prioritization, as well as focus.