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All-Encompassing Interview with New OC Frank Reich
As we enter the third week of Chargers Camp, we sat down with all three coordinators to get their insight into their unit’s progression. First up is a sit down with new offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
Chargers.com: First off, how has your very first training camp gone as an offensive coordinator?
Reich: It’s been smooth. Being here last year with this great staff and a head coach that is really engaged on all the details has made it a smooth transition. Then obviously the players. They’ve bought into a system that was productive last year, and now we’re just looking for ways to make that better. Of course it starts with the leadership on offense. When you have guys like Philip (Rivers), Nick (Hardwick, Gatesy (Antonio Gates) and so on, each group has a leader which helps too. So it’s a very good situation to step into.
Reich: It’s amazing how unselfish these guys are. They work so hard and they all are very talented football players. So it’s a great situation to be in. We all know that Ryan Mathews is our workhorse. He had a great year last year and we’re looking to build on that. He brings a toughness not only to the position but to the entire team, and I think the guys feed off that. I think the offensive line feeds on just how tough he runs. So he’s kind of the lead dog, but we’re a multiple offense. We get in a lot of formations and a lot of personnel groups. We move things around and change things up to try and take advantage of what our head coach says about finding what our players do best. Mike (McCoy) and Tom (Telesco) have assembled a team, and now it’s our job as an offensive staff to utilize that talent. And when you have guys like Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown, it would be foolish not to utilize that. So how do we use them to complement each other? We want to be complementary in the approach we take, but yet it is competitive. We have three good guys, so that’s why it works.
Reich: Malcom is just amazing to me. It looks like he’s 25 out there. He looks fresh and fast, and he’s a playmaker. He has been his entire career. So anytime you can get a guy who is a proven playmaker on the outside, not only does the offensive coordinator love it but the quarterback loves it too. You have a guy that you can trust, know is dependable and makes plays. Then of course Keenan had an amazing rookie year and we look to him to build off that. We all know last year was no fluke, and now it’s finding ways to continue to get better and maintain that level of excellence he had last year.
Reich: To me, continuity can never be underestimated in the offensive line. And I know everyone knows that and everyone preaches that, but it’s a luxury to have because there is such high turnover and there are always injuries to that position because it’s so physical and demanding. Now every team has some level of continuity, but the higher the degree of continuity you have, the better off we’ll be. But the other thing is we have an offensive line coach who does an unbelievable job of getting those guys prepared. As you know, he moves them around playing different positions in practice so if we do get an injury, it doesn’t seem like we lose much. For a lot of teams it’s big drama, but our mentality is we hate losing guys but it’s not drama. We’ll handle it and move on. And there is already continuity built in because we’ve done it in practice. Joe is so demanding in that way and they do so much extra work that it works.
Reich: You’re right that we do have great depth there. David Johnson was a great addition. He’s a guy who is physical. You can put him at the point of attack, but he also has a good sense in the passing game of spacing and how to run routes. So he’s really added a lot. He has a great attitude, is a hard worker and team player so he’s added to a pack of tight ends with Gates and Ladarius where we all know what they are going to do. And then John Phillips, we think very highly of him as well. He’s got the injury, but he’s close to getting back to full speed. He’s another very smart football player we can utilize in a lot of different ways. He’s tough enough to be a point of attack blocker, but he’s got really good ball skills too. People don’t look at John as primarily a receiver, but he’s got good ball skills, runs good routes and knows how to get open. So it’s a good group, and again like the running backs, we can utilize those guys to complement each other to gain advantages and keep people off balance .
Reich: It’s a very dynamic room first off because of Philip, but also because they are very engaged. They need to be on every little detail. Kellen (Clemens) brings that element in. He’s got a great work ethic and is all ball. He’s a football rat who thinks, eats, sleeps and dreams football. You almost have to be that way as a quarterback, and he brings that element. Brad (Sorensen) has made big strides. I mean really big strides. Physically he is a gifted quarterback and he’s done a great job. And Nick (Sirianni) is a dynamic personality, and he’s as detail oriented a coach as I have seen. He really contributes a lot to the room and to our staff. For me as the coordinator, since I’m still in that room a lot, it’s very important that there’s the right chemistry in that room. And it’s most important for Philip that there’s the right chemistry in that room. And I really feel that the chemistry couldn’t be better.
Reich: Everything is going on all the time. In our business you are always evaluating and you’re always being evaluated, so that’s a healthy dynamic. So as a coach, I’m evaluating players on the field and in meetings. Everything matters. It really is true, and Mike makes that point all the time that you are constantly being evaluated. So it’s about being a pro.
Chargers.com: This is your 23rd NFL season, but first in this type of role. Do you feel like a rookie?
Reich: No, it feels like a natural progression. You’re always learning, and that’s the great thing about this business. You just love learning all the time, and even now that I step into a position that has some “authority” it’s still all about the team. The players, the staff and everyone else here come together, and we take that approach offensively. It’s a team approach and everyone has their roles that they play. Everybody contributes. As a coordinator you have to make some key decisions along the way, and then of course the big thing is calling the plays. But even then there are people who contribute to that, so it’s been good.
Chargers.com: Speaking of calling the plays, how has that been going during training camp?
Reich: It’s been great. You can’t get enough practice at it, so from the time we can start doing that we do it as much as we can just so that Philip gets used to hearing my voice. You’d be surprised how important that is. Not just hearing your voice but the cadence and tone of your voice. The phraseology. You have calls that are pretty verbose at times, so how you phrase a call really matters. And so the more you can do that kind of thing, Philip can get used to how it sounds or he might tell me to phrase it a little different or make subtle changes. So we look for every opportunity, and Mike is great. When you have a head coach that is really into creating as many game-like situations as you can, that helps.
Chargers.com: Do you feel the preseason is more important than usual for you this year since it is your first time calling plays?
Reich: Every phase is important, and the preseason games are the next step. There is a lot of preparation going on now. We have officials and a 40-second clock so it’s as close to a game as we can get it. So I really don’t think it’s going to be that different. And I’ve been in situations like this before as a player calling plays, and last year in the preseason Whiz (Ken Whisenhunt) let me call some. So yeah, I’m looking forward to that. It will be a different operation with the headset I’ll wear. There are some things to it I’ve got to get used to, but the part I look forward to the most is the competitive nature of it. Trying to put guys in the best position to make plays knowing what they can do, want to do and are committed to doing. Then it’s about getting it done
Chargers.com: Finally, all those years ago when you were quarterbacking in Buffalo, did you ever see yourself as an offensive coordinator for an NFL team?
Reich: Yeah, I really did. As a quarterback I think you’re wired to think like that. You’re wired to think you want to be as involved as possible, call the plays and so on and so forth. I grew up in a family of coaches. My dad was a football coach and my mom was a coach. My brother is a head football coach at a Division II school. So I’ve been around coaching all my life and knew that I would want to get into it. I love the camaraderie and team aspect, but I also love the teaching. I think one of the primary roles as a coach is to not only be a motivator but a teacher also. You have to be thorough and detail oriented, so I love that aspect of it. I saw that in my parents growing up and I could sense my desire to reach this level every step of the way in my profession.