When you hear the name Frank Reich, one word comes to mind: comeback.
The orchestrator of the greatest comeback in NFL history, as well as one of the greatest in college football, the Chargers’ new quarterback coach has etched his place in the history books.
But as impressive as those moments were in marking major milestones in his career, they hardly define who Frank Reich is.
Reich grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania and got into football at an early age. In fact, his family is a family of football coaches. His father was a high school football coach while his younger brother is now the head football coach at Wingate University. As a youngster, Reich played a number of positions on the field but everyone quickly realized he had a bright future as a quarterback. Heavily recruited coming out of high school, he decided to attend the University of Maryland.
“I grew up only a couple hours away from Maryland,” he said on why he chose to attend the school. “They had a good business school that I was interested in at the time, and they had a pretty good football tradition. So the decision was easy.”
It was as a senior that Reich experienced the highlight of his collegiate career with the first of his two monumental comebacks.
“In 1984 we were losing 31-0 and came back to win the game,” he said of his team’s 42-40 victory over the University of Miami. “It was at the time the greatest comeback in college football history.
Still, believe it or not, that game pales in comparison to the comeback win he had in 1992 with the Buffalo Bills. Reich was drafted in the third round of the 1985 draft and spent the vast majority of his career there as the backup to Jim Kelley. In the AFC Championship game that year, Reich started for an injured Kelly and rallied his team from a 35-3 third quarter deficit to a 41-38 win over the Houston Oilers. To this day, it is still the greatest comeback in NFL history. Ever humble, Reich refuses to take credit for the big win and instead credits the entire team.
“The great thing about a game like that is that it’s not one person,” he said. “It’s something that the whole team shares in. The whole city shared in it too. There was something special about it and that’s what’s great about this sport. To me it’s unlike any other sport because it’s such a team sport. So I would have to say that’s the highlight of my professional career.”
Reich spent the first 10 years of his 14 NFL seasons with the Bills. He then moved on to Carolina for one season, the New York Jets for another one and finished his career with a two-year stint in Detroit. For his career, Reich completed 508 of 932 passes for 6,075 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Overall though, it is his time in Buffalo that he remembers most fondly.
“Going to four Super Bowls in a row really stands out,” he said. “We had a lot of great wins along the road. Even though we never won the Super Bowl, that was just a great team and a great stretch. There are a lot of great memories along the road, and to only games that I played in here or there, but the whole experience of that team. The camaraderie and pool of talent was pretty special.”
Upon retiring after the 1998 season, Reich took some time off before transitioning into coaching.
“I always felt I was wired to be a coach and always wanted to be a coach,” he explained. “Like I said, I come from a family of coaches it was an easy transition for me. I didn’t do it right away. I took some time off because there is a huge time commitment to being a coach and at the time my children were really young. I had just played 14 years and I wanted to take a few years and spend a lot of time with them. But I was always itching to get back.”
Reich eased into coaching by taking a position on his brother’s staff coaching quarterbacks near Charlotte, North Carolina. Shortly thereafter he found his way into the NFL ranks.
“I called up Bill Polian with the Colts because he had told me once I finished playing that he wanted me,” he said. “He kind of offered me a job and said when I’m ready he wanted me to coach. So I called him up and told him I’m ready and that’s when I started.”
Reich’s coaching career started in 2006 as a coaching intern before he was elevated to an offensive assistant in 2008. He stayed in that position before moving over to the Arizona Cardinals where he spent last season as a Wide Receivers coach before joining the Chargers this year as Quarterbacks coach.
Now, he can’t wait to get started here in San Diego as he finds himself in a fortuitous situation.
“I looked at Coach (Mike) McCoy,