Two years ago, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie saw something most didn’t see when he hired Doug Pederson just a few weeks after firing Chip Kelly.
Pederson, who was the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator under Andy Reid, wasn’t a popular choice. No other NFL team had even requested an interview with him. Just eight years earlier, he was coaching Louisiana high school football.
Lurie cited Pederson’s emotional intelligence, a trait Kelly clearly lacked, upon hiring Pederson. Lurie promised that Pederson would connect with his players and have the sense of the locker room that Kelly never embraced.
Two years later, Pederson is the first Super Bowl champion coach in the franchise’s history.
The NFL being a copycat league, it appears that the Indianapolis Colts are borrowing from Lurie’s playbook.
The Colts have hired Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as their new head coach, less than a week after their initial choice – New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels – stunned them by reneging on the job he had verbally accepted.
McDaniels once left his job as a Patriots assistant coach under Bill Belichick in 2009 to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos, but he was fired after two seasons.
McDaniels, just 32 then, showed signs then that he was overly intense and too immature to gain the respect of his entire locker room. He was once seen berating his offensive linemen during a nationally televised game.
His recent actions of spurning the Colts job just days after the Patriots lost to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, leaving the organization and several assistant coaches high and dry, reveal that McDaniels may still have some growing up ahead of him.
In many ways, the Colts’ decision to hire Reich resembles Lurie’s decision to replace Kelly with Pederson.
Unlike McDaniels, Reich didn’t call plays with the Eagles and doesn’t come with the “genius” reputation. Several teams weren’t knocking down Reich’s door a few weeks ago when several head coaching jobs opened up.
But as a former NFL backup quarterback, much like Pederson, Reich is more known for the relationships he developed with quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles and for having the emotional intelligence needed to tap into his quarterbacks’ strengths.
Reich, who was already a Colts assistant from 2008-2011, has worked under Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona as a wide receivers coach and moved onto become Philip Rivers’ position coach in San Diego for one season before being promoted to offensive coordinator, a job he held for two more seasons.
Having spent his five seasons working with Rivers, Wentz and Foles gives Reich plenty of experience working with talented quarterbacks. With the Colts, he and Andrew Luck should be an ideal pairing.
Reich will surely have more of an inherent understanding of Luck’s strengths and needs than the man he’s replacing — Chuck Pagano, who is a defensive-minded coach with no professional experience coaching any offensive positions.
Luck, an excellent quarterback who just missed the entire season, is the key to the Colts’ success, much like Wentz and Foles were for the Eagles on their Super Bowl run.
Reich might not be regarded right now as an offensive mastermind or genius like Kelly was once considered and McDaniels is still often called, but the same questions were raised about Pederson when he took the Eagles’ job.
Now Pederson’s a Super Bowl champion.
– Geoff Mosher, a longtime Philadelphia sports reporter, is also a host on @975TheFanatic in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffMosherNFL.