Carolina Panthers’ New Head Coach Was Once a Pastor

The Carolina Panthers recently hired Frank Reich as their new head coach. Reich has an extensive football background, but long before his NFL coaching career, he served as a pastor at a church. Here’s more on Reich’s journey from ministry to professional football.

Early Years in the Seminary

In the mid-1980s, Frank Reich attended seminary and was on track to become a pastor. He spent time ministering with the Charismatic Christian organization, Athletes in Action. Reich preached at many churches during this period. He enjoyed connecting with congregants and talking about his faith. However, Reich still felt drawn to football which he had played in both high school and college.

A Winding Path to the NFL

Though Reich didn’t pursue professional football immediately after graduating, he eventually signed with the Buffalo Bills in 1985 as a free agent. He then embarked on a long career as an NFL backup quarterback. Despite this secondary role, Reich excelled at coming off the bench. This included leading the Bills to a huge playoff comeback win in 1993 after starter Jim Kelly was injured.

From Player to Coach

Following his playing days, Reich shifted to coaching in 2006 as an intern with the Colts. He gradually worked his way up to QB coach and then offensive coordinator. Alongside head coach Jim Caldwell, Reich helped the Colts reach Super Bowl XLIV. After Caldwell’s firing in 2012, Reich left to coach with the Cardinals and Chargers before returning to the Eagles in 2016.

Success as a Head Coach

In 2018, Reich landed his first head coaching job with the Indianapolis Colts. He led the team to the playoffs twice in his first four seasons. Known for his leadership, Reich helped develop young quarterback Andrew Luck. Respected by players, “Pastor Frank” often invoked spiritual themes during coaching. Reich compiled an impressive 40-33-1 record before being let go by the Colts in 2022.

Bringing Reich to Carolina

After firing head coach Matt Rhule in 2022, the Carolina Panthers’ new owner David Tepper zeroed in on Reich as a replacement. His proven track record developing quarterbacks appealed, given Carolina’s investment in Sam Darnold. Reich’s upbeat personality and ability to motivate were also desirable. After interviewing Reich, Tepper officially signed him to a four-year contract in late January 2022.

Faith Remains Important to Reich

Though no longer a full-time pastor, Reich’s Christian faith still plays a big role in his life. He starts each day with Bible study and prayer. Reich then leads a weekly Bible study for coaches and players. The lessons learned from his seminary training about relating to people also help Reich’s coaching. He often mixes football with spiritual themes in working with his teams.

Outlook for Reich’s Tenure in Carolina

Reich inherits a Panthers team that finished 2022 with a disappointing 7-10 record. His first tasks will be solidifying the quarterback position and getting more production from star running back Christian McCaffrey. Reports indicate Reich plans to call offensive plays himself. With his strong leadership and offensive scheming, Reich seems capable of turning the Panthers into contenders again if given time.

From Preaching Plays to Calling Them

New Panthers coach Frank Reich has come full circle in his career. The seminary student turned NFL backup quarterback now returns to head coaching. Along this winding path, Reich never lost touch with his faith. He now draws on all those experiences in pursuing his goal of bringing a championship to Carolina. Reich’s story is a testament to following one’s passions.

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