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Frank Reich Knows The Life Of A Backup QB


Frank Reich has been there. He's done what Nick Foles is being asked to do. Once upon a time, in an NFL galaxy long ago, Reich was a backup quarterback with the Buffalo Bills for nine seasons. He didn't play much behind Jim Kelly. But when called upon, particularly in the 1992 season when Kelly was injured in the regular-season finale, Reich delivered.

Reich started two playoff games for the Bills that year and won both of them. In the first game, a Wild Card-round game at Houston, Reich engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history. With the Bills trailing the Oilers by 32 points early in the third quarter, Reich led five second-half touchdown drives, throwing four touchdown passes, and led a game-winning field goal drive in overtime to beat Houston, 41-38.

The next week, Reich took the Bills to Pittsburgh and helped Buffalo beat the Steelers. Kelly returned in the AFC Championship Game and took the Bills to Super Bowl XXVII.

So when Carson Wentz suffered a knee injury in Sunday's win over Los Angeles and Reich, who played 14 seasons in the NFL, understood the severity of the injury, a flashback immediately hit him.

"Absolutely. I can't not think of that," Reich said. "(Jeff) Hostetler, when he stepped in (for Phil Simms) and led the Giants to the Super Bowl right around that time period (1990 season), I was on the other side of that (the Giants defeated Buffalo in the Super Bowl that season). Kurt Warner, when he stepped in for Trent Green (with St. Louis and won the Super Bowl in 1999). There are other examples around, not just my own example, and Nick knows that. He's a smart guy.

"What Nick is going to draw on is his own experience. The guy went to the Pro Bowl. We have a backup quarterback who was the MVP of the Pro Bowl (in the 2013 season)."

Reich isn't preaching any of his experiences to Foles, who has had a whirlwind six years in the NFL of his own. Foles knows the business side of things. He understands the ups and downs.

But what Reich can share is that when he replaced Kelly, who operated Buffalo's no-huddle, run-and-gun offense to perfection, there was no talk of changing the system. Reich wanted to keep everything the same, just as the Eagles intend to do with Foles.

"Everybody thought, 'Well, hey, Jim Kelly and the no-huddle offense and now the offense is going to have to change because the franchise quarterback was out and this backup was coming in, who didn't have the same skill set.' I remember as the backup going in and talking to our coaches and saying, 'Don't change anything. This is the offense that I know. This is the offense that I want to run. This is the offense that our players are used to. Let's just keep this thing rolling. We've got the guys in this room to get it done,'" Reich said. "This is our DNA. This is what we've built this upon. Let's just go in there and play ball. That's what I expect."

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