Frank Reich is well-known for having quarterbacked the biggest come-from-behind victory in NFL history — in the playoffs, no less — when he led the Buffalo Bills back from a 35-3 third-quarter deficit to a 41-38 victory in the 1992 AFC Wild Card Round.
But Reich could also lay claim to another remarkable comeback, of the slower, personal career kind. He rose from his last three years as a player, with the 1-15 Jets in 1996 and two more seasons with Detroit Lions, to become Peyton Manning's position coach during a season in which Manning and the Colts are now preparing to win their second Super Bowl in four years.
"I'm very biased," the always gentlemanly Reich said during Media Day activities at Sun Life Stadium this morning when asked if Manning from his experience is among pro football's all-time great QBs, "but I don't see how he's not going to go down probably as the greatest ever.
"Just the level of excellence over a sustained period of time, winning 12 games a year for, what is it, seven years? That is crazy. No one's ever done it before. It's a team effort, but the guy's a leader."
And Reich has been one of the big beneficiaries of that leadership. He recalled how Colts GM Bill Polian called him up in 1998 to tell him he was going to draft Manning No. 1 overall and wanted to see if Reich would be Manning's QBs coach.
Reich declined at the time because he wanted to play one more year and was wary of the notorious time commitment required of NFL assistants. But he decided to enter coaching in 2006 as an intern with the Colts, and when then-QBs coach Jim Caldwell got the nod to step into the office of the retiring Tony Dungy, look whose office opened up.
You'll hear all this week about Manning on Manning and many other talking heads on what makes No. 18 so great. Here's some of the things Reich thinks makes Peyton great:
* He demands excellence from himself and everyone around him. "Sometimes I'm sure there's moments where you say, 'I want a little breather for a second.' But there is no breather. ... I've been on other teams where there's idle time. There's not much idle time in the quarterback meetings for the Indianapolis Colts."
* "He's harder on himself, no question, than anybody else is on him."
* "Unlike anybody I've been around, he knows everything that's going on on the field. Everything. Everything. It's impressive."
That awareness has led to Manning's legendary ability to read defenses, to seemingly read minds. Here is an example of that cited by Reich from the AFC Championship Game against the Jets, that crushing, pinpoint 46-yard completion to Austin Collie just over Drew Coleman's outstretched hand, just past Kerry Rhodes' closing move, to set up Indy's comeback TD right after the two-minute warning in the first half.
"Normally, that's the kind of throw you would put on a rope — Peyton's thrown 100 of those this year and they were all on a rope," Reich said. "But he was able to see the technique the corner and the safety were playing. He held on, looked the safety off a little bit longer, and put more air under it. He knew it, he saw it, he processed it, then he executed it in a split-second."
Is Reich's job one of the easiest for either team once Sunday and Super Bowl XLIV finally arrive? It might seem that way, especially because as Reich said of Manning, "Sometimes he might help me coach him up, because he knows himself better than I know him."
But the old quarterback who's the new coach of the best QB in the game said he'll still be doing the best job he absolutely can to facilitate another SB victory for the Colts.
"You as a coach want to create and help maintain the environment for him to process through and put together a plan that that he's formulating in his mind that he's going to carry out on Sunday."