|Written by Jeff Falk|
| The cerebral Peyton Manning doesn’t require a lot of coaching. But everyone needs someone to bounce things off of now and again. When the Indianapolis quarterback and reigning NFL MVP needs a sounding board, one of the first persons he seeks out is his quarterback coach, Lebanon’s own Frank Reich. The former Cedar Crest stand-out’s first season as Manning’s confidente has landed him in his fifth Super Bowl.
Reich has the perfect makings of an NFL coach – the son of Frank Reich, Sr., who coached Lebanon High School in the 1970s, and a former back-up to Jim Kelly on four Buffalo Bill Super Bowl teams. A 13-year NFL veteran, Reich is recognized as the greatest comeback quarterback in the history of big-time football.
Said to be rocky at the outset, Manning’s relationship with Reich has matured through mutual respect.
“He (Manning) has this insatiable will to win,” Reich told NewOrleans.com on Super Bowl XVIV media day, “and then is able to execute under the pressure of it that few, if any, ever have.”
During Reich’s ten seasons with Buffalo, the Bills appeared in four Super Bowls. Now it appears Manning’s play may be the key to Reich earning his first Super Bowl ring.
“It’s not just one guy, but he (Manning) is certainly the leader amongst them,” said Reich. “Unlike anybody I’ve been around, he knows everything that’s going on, on the field. Everything. It’s impressive.”
An ordained minister and motivational speaker, Reich decided to get back into football prior to the 2008 season and accepted an internship with Indianapolis. When then head coach Tony Dungy retired and was replaced by Jim Caldwell, Reich assumed Caldwell’s old position of quarterbacks coach.
“It’s been a great journey,” said Reich. “When I decided to get back into football, the first call I made was to (Colts’ general manager) Bill Polian and thankfully he just opened the door. He said, ‘Tell me how I can help you.’ I said, ‘If something comes up…’ And right away he offered me an internship with the Colts, to come up and do the player internship. So I did that just to connect it there and then came back and did it a second time.
“I still looked at other places,” Reich continued. “I had to because there was no guarantee I was going to get a job here with the Colts. Then when Coach Dungy retired, the door opened up. And while I was here for the internship, the guy I worked most with was the quarterbacks coach, Jim Caldwell. So when he became the head coach, there was a great opportunity.”
Before retiring in 1998, Reich played two seasons with the Detroit Lions, a year with the New York Jets and a season with the expansion Carolina Panthers.
On Jan. 3, 1993, Reich engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history, during a playoff game in Buffalo against Houston. Trailing 35-6, Reich rallied the Bills to a 41-38 victory in overtime.
Reich had worked similar magic while the quarterback of the Maryland Terrapins in 1984. Maryland trailed 31-0 at Miami before Reich led the Terps to a 42-40 triumph.
That NCAA Division One comeback has since been eclipsed. In 2006, Michigan State defeated Northwestern 41-38 after being down 38-3 in the third quarter.