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New Colts coach Frank Reich on coaching roots, Bill Polian, not being the first choice

Former Bills quarterback Frank Reich was introduced as coach of the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday. Here are excerpts from his opening news conference:

Opening Statement:

“Thank you. I want to first acknowledge and thank the Philadelphia Eagles organization, Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson for allowing me to be part of a team and a journey that did something special for the Philadelphia Eagles. But today is a new chapter. Today is a new chapter and I could not be more excited. I just want to thank Mr. Irsay and the entire Irsay family for giving me this opportunity. I really believe we’re going to work together to do something special for this city and for our organization, something that will be remembered for a long time.

This is a great football city and I’m happy to be home to my coaching roots. This is where I got my start, my first coaching job, here with Tony Dungy as an intern and then eventually as a quality control coach and then as the quarterback coach to get my start. What a better way to get started, and there could not be a better way to finish it right here in this great city. I also want to thank Pete Ward and Dan Emerson and I especially want to thank Chris Ballard. The relationship between a head coach and a GM is critically important in any NFL organization. It became very apparent really early on that Chris and I shared a very common philosophy and vision for this team and for this organization. It really began with the idea that every person matters and that every detail matters in building a championship culture. One person at a time, one detail at a time, we will build a championship culture and make this city proud.

Being over at Mr. Irsay’s house the other day to sign the contract, I can’t even tell you – that experience is going to be hard to top. In his home, with his family, my family, the Colts family. It literally felt like a family gathering and that’s what makes us all tick. That’s why we have so much fun out here in the stadium. Hearing Mr. Irsay’s heart was, ‘Frank, help us bring the joy back in to the city of Indianapolis for the great traditions that we have here, all the games that we’ve won – let’s bring that back again.’ That’s what we’re here for, and we’ll do it one person at a time, one detail at a time, one player at a time and one game at a time.

As the head coach, the vision is simple and is clear. Every time that we step on the field to compete, there will be four marks that will mark our team. The first one is that we will be the toughest. We will be the toughest both mentally and physically. What I mean by that is there will be a relentless pursuit to get better every day. A relentless pursuit, relentless every day, to get better and an obsession with finishing strong. An obsession with finishing strong. Growing up in my household with an older sister and younger brother, my dad used to tell us all the time as I was growing up playing football, ‘Frank, it’s not always a question of who is the toughest. It’s a question of who is the toughest the longest.’ We will have a tough football team. Secondly, we will be the most disciplined team. We will have the structure, we will have the system and we will have the processes that cultivate discipline. Why is this so important? Well, there’s a quote that I’ve had on my desk – I’ve had two quotes on my desk since my rookie year in 1985 and one of them reads this: ‘The sweat of discipline and the hard work of repetition always proceeds the thrill of spontaneity in any pursuit of life.’ Discipline is going to be the foundation that’s going to create a lot of joy out on that field, in this city and when we wear the Horseshoe, we’ll be wearing it with a lot of joy and a lot of pride in our hearts, and it is going to be fun to be a part of that. Thirdly, we’re going to be the most prepared team. The second quote that I’ve had on my desk since 1985 simply reads this, and these two quotes have been a life philosophy and a life mission for me: ‘No man becomes suddenly different from his habits and cherished thoughts. No man becomes suddenly different from his habits and cherished thoughts.’ What we’re going to be about as an organization and as a football team is creating and cultivating habits, championship habits and championship thoughts. That’s the vision.

Fourth, we’re going to be the most united team. We’re going to be a close team. It’s going to be built around trust, respect and love – a love of the game. As Chris and I talked about what this team would look like, it was all about we want players that love the game of football, that love to come to work every day and players that love each other and players that have a vision and realize it’s bigger than them. It’s about this city, it’s about this city right here in Indianapolis. There will be a love that will be so contagious that it would bring a closeness and result and produce the championship culture that we all want. What we know is this, that when you have a championship culture, it’s going to result in many victories. That’s the vision.”

It was said at some point that you told your agent that you did not want to engage in any possible interviews about another job until the playoffs were over. Can you confirm that? Why did you take that stance?

“Well the stance that I took with my agent, was basically the words were this: ‘I’m going dark. I’m focused on the task at hand, and that’s to help our team win playoff games and win the Super Bowl.’ That meant no phone calls, no texts. Whether there was any activity or not, I was dark. I was focused on one thing, and after experiencing that and the importance of every detail in the preparation for those games, I wouldn’t change a thing."

What kind of relationship, if any, do you have with Andrew Luck? What did the team tell you about the status of the quarterback and his return?

“I’ve met Andrew. I think I met him one time on the field and then met him last year, I believe it was. I was out at Stanford working somebody out and he was on the field. In typical Andrew, class-act fashion, he’s down there doing his own workout and he sees that we’re down on the other end of the field. We have a lot of mutual friends, he runs down to my end of the field and introduces himself, we talk for a few minutes and go back. That’s the extent of the personal connection I’ve had with Andrew. I can tell you as a former quarterbacking coach, I’ve had the greatest admiration for him as a player. I think to have such a supremely talented player with such strong character and such great humility and such a team-first guy is rare and I couldn’t be more happy about working with the prospect. As far as what I’ve been told, Chris gave the update last week. That’s the update that I got and that’s all I needed.”

Why did you leave the seminary to get into coaching in 2006? As a coaching intern, is that a paid position and did you get into coaching with the dream of one day becoming an NFL head coach?

“I always believed and wanted to be an NFL head coach. In fact, in 1985 after my rookie season in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, I will never forget this, Bill Polian calls me into his office and says, ‘Frank, this is going to sound a little strange but I want you to play as many years as you can. Then when you’re finished playing, I want you to come coach with me because you’re going to be a head coach in the NFL one day.’ That was in 1985. I grew up in a family of coaches. My dad was a football coach, my mom was a coach, my brother is a head coach of a Division II school – coach of the year. I’ve always envisioned myself. Why? Because I love the comradery. I love the people. I love the competition; I love the competition. So the idea, when I finished playing, I wanted a couple years to spend time with my family. I have three daughters. My wife Linda and I, we talked a lot about our next step. Together, we just decided that this was going to be an opportunity to really build into their lives and during that time was part of the seminary. I wouldn’t trade any day of that experience – the time with the family, the time in seminary has helped shape me to be the coach I am today.”

You were in a situation in Philadelphia where Coach Doug Pederson called the plays. Will you call the plays here in Indy? And if so, what is the challenge in being the head coach and also calling the plays on offense?
“Yes, I will call the plays, but that’s a perfect segue actually from the previous question. I’ve seen it done several different ways, but I’ll call the plays but you can’t even imagine the collaboration that goes into preparing the call sheet, preparing the first 15 (plays), how we’re prioritizing our third-down calls, how we’re prioritizing our red-zone calls, all the situational football. During the course of the game, how the communication goes between the play caller and the rest of the offensive staff, what’s said, how we’re talking to the quarterback. Again, it comes down to there’s got to be one voice, and I’ll be that voice calling it on game day. But it’ll be a collaborative effort.”

You’re in kind of a unique situation where you’re coming in and there’s three assistant coaches already in place hired under the previous guy. How comfortable are you with that setup and what kind of discussions have you had with those coaches, if any?
“Yeah, up front and honest discussions. The good news was before I came in for the interview, knowing that that was the situation, know what had been said, knowing that those contracts were going to be honored; and that’s part of the reason I love this organization – that there’s that kind of integrity. So, it doesn’t still mean as a potential head coach that you’re not doing your due diligence and learning about those coaches and turning over every stone on those coaches and everything just was coming back positive, positive, positive. So, I’m excited. Since I’ve taken the job, I’ve had the chance to talk with Matt (Eberflus) at some length. This is like a home run. Things happen in strange ways. Like Mr. Irsay said – this is a crazy business. This is a crazy business. But I could not be more excited than to have those three coaches and look forward to the other coaches that will be on our staff.”

What did you take from your first experience here with Tony Dungy, Bill Polian and Peyton Manning that you can use now with the Colts?
“Character matters. It matters a lot. It matters a lot. Every detail matters. Exhaustive in preparation. The way we win is just as important as why we’re going to win. Everything about it from top to bottom was authentic. It was real. Tony and then Jim Caldwell, the same way, just the same person every day. Those are examples, and for me to have a chance to learn from those two guys while I was here was an incredible experience.”

How is it coming into this situation knowing that you weren’t the team’s first choice?
“Yeah, I mean that is truly the answer. I embrace it. I embrace it. That’s just part of this business. The ebbs and flows of it are exciting, and if you can’t handle it and you can’t embrace it, you should really go do something else. So, it’s an exciting opportunity to forge together with other men around a common vision and move forward and be thankful for how things come together. Sometimes that’s the best way for it to happen.” 

When you retired from the NFL, did you purposely say you wanted to spend time with your family for 10 years? If not, what was it that pushed you to pursue coaching opportunities?
“Yeah, good question, because I stepped away for a few years. I didn’t know how many years it was going to be. I think it was eight, or something like that, or seven. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was something my wife and I talked long and hard about. And then our path – I went to seminary, got very involved in ministry, did a lot of things in the community, traveled around the country; but I always knew I wanted to coach. I believed that was in the future, and whenever that time was, seventh year or something like that, I just knew I had been away long enough that I better not be away much longer because I don’t want the quote-unquote ‘game to pass you by.’ I don’t want anybody to get that impression, even though it hadn’t. So, I called up Bill Polian again at that point and said I would love to have an opportunity to break in. I’ll scrub the toilets. I’ll do anything you want me to do, and that’s when I came and was an intern and then did quality control work.”

For you to get into coaching, how much did it help to do it under Tony Dungy, a great man of faith? And also, big picture, this is where your coaching career started. To be back now as the head coach, is this one of those things where it feels like it was meant to be?
“Well no doubt. Of course I believe that and feel that it’s been meant to be. And being able to get your start in a career with a Hall of Fame coach and someone who was a role model to me on how to be a man of faith, but yet still understand the passion and the level of competition and forging men together, what a great role model for me to break in as a coach.” 

You knew the reality of the past taking this job. They’ve missed the playoffs the last three years. We’ve heard over and over again that that’s not good enough and that’s not the expectation around here. How much do embrace the expectation to get back to winning the AFC South and making the playoffs every year?
“Yeah, I think as a leader you have to embrace every aspect of it. You have to embrace the victories. You have to embrace the losses. You have to take ownership of it all, responsibility. And so, I wouldn’t want to be any other place and working with any other GM under any other owner right now. To have an opportunity to bring the excitement and joy back to this city, there’s pieces in place here that really get us excited, and I’m just looking for the opportunity to build it one person at a time, one player at a time, one little detail at a time.”

What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge as a first-time head coach?
“I’ll tell you what’s important to me is people, and so anything that would inhibit or obstruct getting good people, that’s the only thing to me that’s a challenge. If we get good people and build good processes, we’ll get where we want to get to. So, that’s what we’re going to be about. That’s what we’re going to be about – getting the right staff in place, the right quality coaches in place and then building it with the players. Thank you.”

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