The Carolina Panthers were the first team to enter the head coach market in the 2022 season, but they are no longer alone. The Indianapolis Colts fired Frank Reich yesterday in a move that has observers around the league scratching their heads. The Colts are under performing, yes, but most have attributed that to a bad roster and not to the efforts of their former head coach. The head scratching intensity increased when owner Jim Irsay named former Pro Bowl center and current high school head coach Jeff Saturday as interim head coach.
Reich, meanwhile, remains a highly respected coach around the league. He has an impressive resume as both a coach and a player that stretches all the way back to the Buffalo Bills’ Jim Kelly days. Reich has experience playing or coaching in seven Super Bowls, including a victory as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII in 2017.
He has had the privilege to work with such quarterbacks as Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, and Andrew Luck. He has also found success with less talented quarterbacks. He took a late-career Rivers to the playoffs with the 2020 Colts and won the Super Bowl with a season-long combination of Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. His has experience with success and failure behind a wide range of talent. That is in addition to playing with Kelly in Buffalo and being the first quarterback to throw a touchdown pass for the Carolina Panthers.
In short, he has the opposite amount of experience in the NFL as Matt Rhule. That is both in terms of duration and success. Reich is also the only coach on the market with an offensive background, head coaching experience, recent coaching experience, and doesn’t carry the surname Gruden or McAdoo.
He is, on paper, the candidate that David Tepper has described. The only guy I can imagine being more attractive to Tepper would be Mike Tomlin. Since Pittsburgh is more likely to give Tomlin a lifetime contract than to fire him, Reich is at the top of the list for the Panthers. He’ll also be high on the list for other teams, so the Panthers will have to make their case to him as much as he will have to sell himself to them.