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In Wilbon's World

Reich at Peyton's side

Most media folks are looking for local stories during Super Bowl week as much as they are comments from the principals. And that includes people who played their college football in town, names that are still recognizable from being in the local newspaper years, even decades ago. One such name is Frank Reich, the former University of Maryland QB who succeeded Boomer Esiason in College Park and authored at the time the greatest comeback in college football, when Maryland erased a 31-0 lead here in the Orange Bowl to beat the U, the University of Miami.

When most people ask Reich about his greatest-ever comeback they're asking about the one in which he led the Buffalo Bills, minus an injured Jim Kelly, past Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers in a playoff game. I, on the other hand, covered the comeback to beat Miami. Anyway, Reich is now QBs coach for the Colts, which some might think is the easiest job ever considering Peyton Manning is the pupil here. But there's more than that...

It's Reich's first year coaching. He worked for Bill Polian, the Colts architect, when Polian was boss of the four-time AFC champion Bills. Polian told Reich his rookie season that he'd be a coach someday. So when Reich decided to get back in the game after retirement, "the first call I made was to Bill Polian," Reich said, "and he opened the door." Reich worked as a player intern under Jim Caldwell the previous two seasons, "and pretty quickly when Coach Dungy left (Caldwell) asked me to be the QBs coach."

And of Reich's presence, Manning said today, "Frank has got a lot of football knowledge. Serving as kind of a mentor-type coach, if you will, to Jim Kelly throughout the majority of his career, then when being called upon to play, going in, leading one of the greatest comebacks of all time. I really think at this point in my career, being a veteran, I like having somebody that has played longer than me, who actually played the game and knows what is going on. I think he has used this year to feel his way out as a coach and there is a difference between being a coach and a player. I think our relationship has grown throughout the year. He is a tireless worker. He is a grinder. He is a guy that is going to be over there late at night. He and I text each other all the time, 'Hey check out the Buffalo game, play number 40. That is a look we might see.' I like that. I like a guy that's constantly got football on his mind and thinking about helping me. I am grateful for that kind of effort. I lean on Frank. I ask him a lot of questions and he is very comforting to me."

The coaches on Maryland's staff, starting with head coach Bobby Ross, always thought Reich was one of the smartest players they had ever coached. And if the Colts win, he'll have the Super Bowl ring he was never able to win in those four trips to the big game with the Buffalo Bills.


Michael Wilbon

 |  February 3, 2010; 1:13 PM ET  |  Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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