ST. PAUL, Minn. — He's a sentimental favorite, someone for whom a victory Sunday would be gladly shared by so many people from his past, as well as his present.
Once, just once, could Frank Reich get a Super Bowl ring?
His upbeat personality and warm smile have long won people over, going back to his days as the understudy for the Hall-of-Fame-bound starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. It was easy to gravitate to his kind, caring demeanor. It was easy to want something more for him than just being a caddy.
Now, with his green Philadelphia Eagles hat covering hair that has accumulated a lot of gray since those Bills days, it's still easy.
Of course, Reich was never Frank What's-His-Name, even when the Bills were Jim Kelly's team. He had a prominent place on a roster loaded with star power.
Reich got his chances on center stage, too, the most memorable of which was leading the Bills on their miraculous comeback playoff victory against the Houston Oilers while Kelly joined other injured starters on the sidelines. He was seen as an extra coach to help Kelly achieve the greatness his talent allowed him to achieve. And it was always understood that coaching would be his calling once the pads came off.
Sure enough, Reich got those chances as well: as an offensive coaching staff assistant and quarterbacks and receivers coach with the Indianapolis Colts (2008-2011), as a receivers coach with the Arizona Cardinals (2012), as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers (2013-2015), and now as the 56-year-old Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator, a job he landed in 2016 — a year after unsuccessful attempts to become head coach of the Bills and the New York Jets, a team for which he played one season.
Counting four trips as a player with the Bills and one as the Colts' quarterbacks coach in 2009, Super Bowl LII between the Eagles and New England Patriots is Reich's sixth crack at Super Bowl hardware. He's hardly a bystander. Reich merits major credit for helping the Eagles overcome the season-ending knee injury their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, suffered in December on the way to making a strong run to become NFL MVP.
Reich did plenty to get Nick Foles ready to take over as the starter and register a postseason-best passer rating of 122.1.
Typically, Reich refuses to make it about him despite efforts by some in the media to do exactly that.
"Obviously, for all of us, we think we have something special going on with this team," Reich said. "And it starts with our head coach (Doug Pederson) and it goes down to the leadership of our players. In every level, this organization's been a class act to work with. And it's been a vision, starting from the very top of wanting to bring the great city of Philadelphia a championship. It's a great sports town, it's a great city. So, to be able to be on the ground floor of that and be involved at the level that we're involved in, is something very special.
"You don't take anything for granted. I mean, it's hard to get to this game, it's a very competitive league. But when you're around special people like we are this year here with the Eagles, you know you have a chance. And it's great to come into an organization that really invests everything they have into getting to this game and winning this game."
"You appreciate every step that you take to get here, but you know we've got to take that last step."
The last step.
The Bills were only a few feet from taking it in Super Bowl XXV, the distance Scott Norwood's last-second field-goal attempt sailed wide right. They would come up short again a year later ... and again a year after that ... and again a year after that.
0-4 as a player.
0-1 as a coach, thanks to the Colts' loss against the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
Suffice it to say that Reich is well versed on Super Bowl cautionary tales, having witnessed multiple ways that the Bills and the Colts found to come out on the short end.
Before the Eagles traveled here, Pederson made certain during a team meeting to stress what needs to be done to come away with a victory. He asked players with Super Bowl experience, including those who have been on the winning side, to stand and speak to their teammates.
"And they said some really profound things and things that have really resonated with me as well," Reich said. "I think the one biggest one is you get in a big game like this and it's the motto that, 'Football doesn't care who makes the play. You shouldn't come into this game thinking who's going to be the MVP? Just execute the game plan one play at a time. The game twists and turns, you can't predict how it is. You need to be dependable for your teammates and then let's just go win it together. Don't worry about making the big play. It'll come to you.' "
In other words, don't be a hero. Reich will be the first to say that that wasn't his goal at the University of Maryland, when he led the biggest comeback victory in college football against the University of Miami. It also wasn't what was driving him when he led the biggest comeback in NFL history against the Oilers.
When someone asked, if the Eagles fall far behind against the Patriots, would he resort to sharing the tales of those football miracles to help inspire Foles, Reich smiled.
Sorry. He won't bite. The Eagles' amazing ride is about the team, and nothing else. In fact, he'll go as far as to put it on a par with those historic performances.
"The cool thing about these players today is we've built something this year," Reich said. "There's a special chemistry here that the guys really believe in one another and it's a really resilient group. And I think that, even when I think back to those comebacks that I was a part of, you really draw from the strength in that locker room and the coaches.
"So I think right now, more than anything, that's what we're drawing off of."