Summer 2024

Frank Reich, former Charlotte pastor & Panthers QB, returns as head coach

Frank Reich has come full circle. The man who in 1995 threw the first touchdown pass in Carolina Panthers history, Reich has now been hired as the team’s next head coach.

Reich previously coached the Indianapolis Colts from 2018-22, leading them to three winning seasons and two playoff appearances in four full years. But after a 3-5-1 start in 2022, he was let go.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

The 61-year-old Reich’s offensive mind and proven track record of developing quarterbacks gave him the edge over interim coach Steve Wilks in the hiring process, as poor quarterback play has hamstrung the Panthers during their five consecutive losing seasons. Reich developed second-year quarterback Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate when he was the offensive coordinator during the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl season in 2017.

He agreed to a four-year contract expected to be finalized on Monday, with his introductory press conference scheduled for Tuesday.

“[Frank Reich is] a great person,” Bill Polian, who was the first-ever general manager of the Panthers, told ESPN. “He’s a really good football coach. He’s a great motivator. He’s a guy that connects very, very well to players. He’s tremendously organized. And he has a great football mind.”

After the Buffalo Bills drafted Reich in the third round in 1985 out of Maryland, he played quarterback for 13 years in the NFL. He spent most of his career as a backup in Buffalo, where in the 1992 playoffs he engineered what was until recently the greatest comeback in NFL history, helping the Bills overcome a 35-3 deficit to defeat the Houston Oilers.

Reich was in Buffalo until 1994, then with the Panthers for the team’s inaugural 1995 season, when he threw the team’s first-ever touchdown. After one season with the New York Jets and two with the Detroit Lions, Reich retired and moved back to Charlotte.

A devout follower of Christ throughout his career, Reich enrolled in the Charlotte campus of Reformed Theological Seminary and earned a master of divinity degree. He served as president of RTS’s Charlotte campus from 2003-06 and later as pastor at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (now Ballantyne Presbyterian), leaving in 2007 to join the Colts’ coaching staff.

Reich continued to be bold in speaking about his faith during his rise through the coaching ranks. In December 2019, Reich joined “Beyond the Game,” where Hall of Fame coach and co-host Tony Dungy asked about his coaching platform.

“The No. 1 goal is to magnify the name of Jesus Christ first and foremost above all things,” Reich said. “Whether it was in ministry or in coaching, no matter what I was going to choose to do, that was going to be my mission in life. … I really thought [ministry] might be it, but at the end of the day, I don’t think that was God’s calling on my life.”

After Reich’s Colts beat the Bills in Buffalo in 2021, Reich reflected on his time as a player in Buffalo, the miracle comeback he helped lead and his favorite hymn, “In Christ Alone.”

“Even though it was almost 30 years ago when I read those words here in this stadium, this week I was reminded Hebrews 13:8 says, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,’” Reich said. “It’s crazy, but we’re here some 30 years later, not living in the past, but rather attempting to press on to what is ahead. So my encouragement is to keep climbing, and to find the strength and power that you need in Jesus Christ.”

As Reich embarks on the next journey God has called him to, he’ll return to a team and to a city where he already has deep roots. He knows his Heavenly Father was faithful then and will surely be faithful in the years ahead.

RELATED STORIES:
Kirk Cousins gets wisdom, faith from Frank Reich after NFL’s greatest comeback
Colts coach Frank Reich encourages those struggling, points to ‘Christ alone’
Colts coach Frank Reich says trusting Lord’s plan key to his coaching success
Frank Reich’s journey from pastor to Indianapolis Colts head coach
Frank Reich Explains Why Christians in Sports Should Consider Theological Education